OK, so I finally tried to get to one of the Open Gym times with the kids yesterday afternoon so they could bounce off someone else’s walls instead of mine, but I struck out with the first: JumpWorks in Manassas has open bounce time regularly scheduled from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Mondays, but when I called they said they would be closing at 1:30 p.m. (This is why I stress that you need to call before you go to any of the open gym times listed.) They also said they were going to be rescheduling their open bounce times (currently Mondays and Fridays), and that the info would be posted on the Web site when it changed.
So after hearing the other choices, the kids decided on Planet Play at the Springfield Mall so they could check out the PlayTower, a “multi-level indoor playground … (that includes a) puffy Moon Bounce, two great slides, trolley pull, climbing towers, punching bags and net crawl.”
Finding the mall was easy enough, but I didn’t realize that the Planet PlayTower and Carousel weren’t in the same location as the Planet Play “store,” where the arcade, bumper cars, laser tag and party rooms are located. When we arrived, we looked for Planet Play (located in the mini food court next to the Macy’s garage) and were greeted by a dark storefront with a sign that said, “Open 4-8 p.m.”
We found a store map and determined the PlayTower is in the wing with the main food court, between Macy’s and Target. When we finally arrived at our destination, their little necks craned up to view the top of the structure and their little eyes widened in awe. At the entrance, a woman (I’m guessing here) who looked like she’d be more at home bouncing at a DC nightclub cheerfully gave me directions on what I needed to do to get my kids into Playtime Nirvana: get cash from the adjacent ATM, give her the $20 so she could give me change, take the dollars and feed it into the nearby token machine ($2 per token; entrance was $4 per kid so 2 tokens), then give her the tokens.
Do not ask me why you have to go through that whole rigamarole, but I guarantee you that you will not be questioning this woman. She’s nice, she’s friendly, she’s good with the kids–some of the parents are on very friendly terms with her, it seemed–but she is a bald, heavyset, tall (again, I’m guessing because she was sitting the whole time) woman who looked like she could pound you into the tiled floor with one meaty fist. Plus, she might really be a man. I think that was the most disconcerting part. But again, I must say, she was nothing but nice and cheerful the whole two hours we were there, even as more and more kids poured into those mesh-covered towers. She wouldn’t let any kids exit unless she saw their parents were around, but she exuded an air of concern rather than irritability about it.
My 11-year-old, who was too old to go in since the cutoff age is 10, wants to go back at a time when the gameroom is open, so we might make another trip out there. I liked the fact that the place was filled with diverse kids, much like Briar Patch Park along Sterling Boulevard, and that I felt the 4-year-old and 6-year-old were pretty safe in that play structure, even with bigger kids in there, because SHE was watching. All in all, I knew it was a success when the youngest one said happily afterward, “No one hit me, no one pushed me, no one hurt me!” That’s more than can be said of other indoor play areas we’ve visited.