Got a kid who loves to spider-climb every tree at the park? Or a fearless kid looking for a (50-foot) tall challenge?
At Chicago’s very own Brooklyn Boulders (BKB) outpost, altitude is everything. Kids (and moms and dads, too!) can learn to boulder, auth-belay, top rope, and lead climb in a bright, colorful, kid-friendly 25,000-square-foot indoor rock climbing facility. It’s one of the most effective ways to harness kids’ natural energy into a fun activity that hones critical thinking skills. Get ready to slay your fear of heights and experience the thrill of climbing as you reach up to 50 feet towards the sky.
Climbing requires focus and concentration to succeed, two skillsets that are valuable not just on the wall but also in school. As kids climb, they’ll need to make decision after decision. Should I place my foot here or here? Should I reach a little higher? A little to the left? Climbing is like solving a puzzle, and critical problem-solving and decision-making skills are key. Climbing also offers a safe space for kids to escape the dreaded comfort zone (in a totally safe yet thrilling environment) as they learn to take chances, overcome nerves and set higher goals with each and every climb.
photo: Nikki Salgado
Belay like a boss
As soon as you step into the BKB space, you’ll meet a colorful bouldering wall, the shortest climbing wall in the space. Markers on the wall help guide your climb by indicating which steps to take based on your skill level. First-timers will use this wall to get the hang of free climbing. . . minus ropes and harnesses. Mats here meet any falls with cushioned comfort.
Brooklyn Boulders Chicago’s airy, spacious south room boasts 50-foot-tall walls covered in high-reaching, rock climbing surfaces. This is as close to the mountains as you’ll get in the city. Safety harnesses are required here in this adventurous room designed for rappelling and belaying.
photo: credit Brennan Salgado
A climbing facility…and a coworking space
A second level serves as a gym: you’ll find a variety of workout equipment and a wide array of fitness classes, from yoga to weightlifting.
photo: credit Amy Bizzarri
This level is also home to an “Active Collaborative Workspace” set up with built-in desks, a lounge/small meeting area and free wifi so you can squeeze in a bit of work while your kids are literally climbing the walls. Sit on an exercise ball at your desk and you’ll get a workout in, too.
photo: credit Amy Bizzarri
BKB strives to help kids build confidence as they climb. Staffed at a 1:5 ratio, the youth programs give climbing kids the attention they need to succeed. Programs are open to all levels, from scaredy-cat beginners to kids with extensive climbing experience under their belt.
Choose from after-school and weekend programs, Summer Adventure Camp, or day-long BKB Adventure Days that coordinate with CPS’s holiday schedule. BKB’s Teen Academy is an afterschool program for kids 11-15 looking to explore climbing while making friends and can be booked for a single day or on a recurring basis.
Kids who love to climb can introduce their friends to their passion by hosting a two-hour birthday party event. BKB’s staff will lead your group of 5-20 climbers through the facility and coach attendees on conquering challenges together. You can even bring your own food, drink and cake.
Learn the ropes
New to climbing? BBC offers Learn the Ropes workshops for kids and adults that have never experienced a wall climb. During a two-hour workshop, you’ll receive hands-on practice as you learn the rope techniques and movements needed to scale BKB’s tallest walls. You’ll also learn how to properly fit your harness, tie knots correctly and use equipment to manage the rope for another climber (AKA belaying).
photo: credit Amy Bizzarii
Competitive climbing. . . for kids
If your kids are looking to join a team like no other, the BKB Beasts Climbing Team was created for young climbers who want to progress and also experience the joys of competitive climbing. Open to kids ages 7-17, the team is divided into small groups by skill levels with a coach to climber ratio of 1:3, making this a team experience that is also focused on the individual.
Know before you go
Remember to wear comfortable clothes that won’t restrict your movement. BKB will fit you with special climbing shoes onsite. Water, snacks and bars are available at a small, in-facility retail shop. Lockers are available but you’ll need to bring your own lock.
Brooklyn Boulders Chicago
100 S. Morgan St., West Loop
— Amy Bizzarri