If your kid has explored every indoor jungle gym, ball pit and slide in the area, it’s time to change-up your playtime routine. Good news—there are plenty of amazing indoor play areas located in the most unsuspecting place…the mall! From play areas with fun local themes to one with a sailing ship, these six favorites are worth the drive (and are sure to guarantee quiet car rides home and peaceful afternoon naps).
photo: Springfield Town Center
Springfield Town Center
If your kid has dreams of sliding down a giant banana, this is the peel deal. Recently moved from the second floor food court to the first floor of the mall, the fruit and vegetable-themed soft playground might convince your tykes that broccoli is cool. You can even teach them how to spell “broccoli” on the giant chalkboard. And, good luck pulling them away from the touch screen computer games.
6500 Springfield Mall (Springfield, VA)
photo: Arundel Mills
Located between Best Buy and the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, this Maryland-themed soft playground will give your kids a chance to crawl through replicas of Thomas Point Lighthouse and a towering oak tree. Take a seat on one of the perimeter benches and get your iPhone ready to snap a picture of your little one “swimming” in the birdbath with the giant Oriole.
7000 Arundel Mills Cir. (Hanover, MD)
photo courtesy of Dulles Town Center
Dulles Town Center
Batter up! This Nationals-themed soft playground is just what your little base runner. A visit here will give your littlest baseball fans a thrill out of sliding down a giant baseball bat or clambering over an oversized glove. Make time to check out the adjacent Island Carousel—the gold accents and low-watt bulbs just scream “photo-op”.
21100 Dulles Town Cir. (Dulles, VA)
photo: Caitlin H via Yelp
While most indoor mall play areas have a height cut-off of 42 inches, this colonial Virginia-themed space allows children up to 48 inches to romp about. Keep that in mind if your wee one tends to get railroaded by older kids (or if your tall pre-schooler always feels left out of the fun!). The mini-Monticello and sailing ship are quaint, and two toddler nooks feature wall-mounted mirrors, puzzle-like manipulatives, and even a giant piano keyboard. No shame in excessive tweeting—there’s a charging station for you to juice up your phone, too.
2700 Potomac Mills Cir. (Woodbridge, VA)
photo: Nicholas Wang via flickr
The Mall in Columbia
This “health and wellness”-themed soft playground has great natural light thanks to a skylight overhead. Located next to JCPenney, the space has the typical collection of climbing and small slide structures, plus a few wall-mounted puzzles. Start a chorus of siren sounds as your little one “rides” the pretend ambulance, and—we dare you—get down on your hands and knees to chase your kids through the water bottle tunnel.
10300 Little Patuxent Pkwy. (Columbia, MD)
photo: Westfield Annapolis‘ website
The ocean-themed Westfield play space near Pottery Barn boasts a blue whale slide and other sea creatures for climbing. A towering lighthouse is fun to crawl through, but note that it can obstruct your view if you’d prefer to keep an eye on your seafarer at all times. Wall-mounted puzzles keep little hands busy. Extra perks: a nearby Starbucks and child care (up to three hours, $5/hour).
2002 Annapolis Mall (Annapolis, MD)
Photo: Sokha A. via Yelp
Quite possibly the most popular area of the mall, this third floor, National Geographic/Save-the-Planet themed play area features animal climbing structures, plus a recycling truck, honey comb hut,and log cabin. Beat the crowds by coming early in the day or just before closing. FYI: There is a ride-on train that picks up and drops off in front of the play area; it’s super enticing for kids, so you might want to have $3 on hand in case kiddo wants a ride.
1961 Chain Bridge Rd. (McLean, VA)
— Katie Brown and Ayren Jackson-Cannady
featured photo: Chris_Parfitt via flickr