It’s hot–really hot. Yet somehow your toddler only wants to wear fleece pajama pants and go to the park at high noon. Good luck winning the wardrobe battle, but try suggesting one of these air conditioned alternatives to your impervious little lizard.
Photo: larkin.family via Flickr
Based on the quality of nap that follows an hour or two at this northern Virginia “bounce house,” this might be the best $10 you’ll spend all summer. Kids will love the variety of moonbounce structures, including slides, mazes, obstacle courses, and a giant “basketball court” filled with different-sized balls. Even crawling babies can have fun on the structures reserved for the tiniest tykes. You can go ahead and enjoy a cup of coffee in the café (which also stocks healthy and not-so-healthy snacks). Don’t forget to bring socks!
Photo: Shelby Settles Harper
ImagiNATIONS Activity Center at the National Museum of the American Indian
Head to the National Mall and cool off at the less-trafficked National Museum of the American Indian. Its wide-open activity space enables kids to organically explore Native culture and lifestyle–little ones can weave a huge basket, surf a virtual river in a tippy kayak, or sit inside a full-size tipi. A library has books by Native authors, and a craft room provides a creative place for kids to take home handmade art. Crawling babies can explore the carpeted floor. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head down to the Mitsitam Café and snack on some cheesy fry bread or heirloom bean and corn succotash.
Fourth St. at Independence Ave., SW (National Mall)
Photo: Westfield Annapolis Mall
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 two hours, $7 per child; an additional $7 per child for a third hour).
2002 Annapolis Mall (Annapolis, Md)
Photo: Magic Ground
This two-story indoor playground will get your kids climbing, sliding, crawling, and jumping—and, okay, they might be tempted to go play some video games, too. Other rooms and spaces offer dress up, coloring, and pretend play activities. There’s a café on-site but eating options abound in the area (and you can even tack on a trip to the nearby Target). Prepare for crowds on the weekends and watch for older kids throwing balls in the ball pit.
Photo: Dulles Town Center
Dulles Town Center
Batter up! This Nationals-themed soft playground is also recently-renovated, and your littlest baseball fans will get 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. (Sterling, Va)
Where do you take your kids to cool off when the mercury rises? Tell us in the comments section.