Fresh Ideas: Four Great Places to Take the Kids When It’s Gross Outside

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Kroc Center

It’s safe to assume at this point that most of us know the biggies when it comes to cold-weather outings with kids — the Please Touch Museum, Nest, Smith Memorial Playground, the Franklin Institute, the Zoo, InMovement, Skyzone, and etc, etc. We love all of these spots … but this post is all about taking the road less traveled, about highlighting some of the less-feted (but no less worthy) kid-friendly destinations that also happen to be some of our own favorite haunts when the weather sucks. 

The Kroc Center
A big-time favorite in our house, the gorgeous state-of-the-art fitness and community center located on Wissakhickon Avenue offers more than a space to work out and affordable family memberships: It has what is honestly the coolest indoor family pool I have ever seen. There’s a generously sized shallow end for littles, a lazy river, a giant slide, a mini slide and a big bucket that periodically dumps water on elated children beneath it. (There’s also a lap pool in the adjoining room for people who want to really swim.)  Many Sunday afternoons at our house have been saved by a family trip to the Kroc. And because the place is run by the Salvation Army, there is also a number of community programs for kids and grown-ups, lessons, volunteer opportunities, rentable spaces and more.

The Malls and IKEA.
IKEA is South Philly offers a free and supervised play space for kids who are between 37 and 52 inches tall and potty-trained. They’re welcome to play there for an hour at a time — and we’ve also been known to let a kid or two loose in the upstairs displays, where the mini-furniture and toy displays are always a draw. There’s also the occasional storytime, or free food for kiddos. Then there’s King of Prussia Mall, where there are two sizable free (but alas, unsupervised) play zones — one at the Court, and one at the Plaza — complete with tunnels, slides, and foam climbing structures. And at Cherry Hill Mall, there’s a ton of space for a toddler to roam, to run around and look at all the fountains. (Seriously, they love it.) The mall also has carts that look like little cars, so little ones can cruise.

Fireman’s Hall
We’ve written about this small museum housed in a restored firehouse in Old City before, but it bears noting again as a great (if sometimes overlooked) destination for toddlers and kids. There are displays of old fireman tools and trucks and an interactive kid’s area upstairs — and the docents are past and present firefighters, which can be really exciting for the kids. Check the site for its hours (it’s not open every single day); admission is technically free, though the museum asks for a donation of your choosing. (Family memberships are just $30, and get you a 10 percent discount in the gift shop, a Fireman’s shoulder patch, and an invite to the annual kids’ Christmas party.) Finally: I always like to point out that the place is quite close to Franklin Fountain, which is kid-pleasing finale to the outing if ever there was one.

The Free Library (central branch or local branches) 
Does this one seem obvious? I will admit with no small about of shame that I sometimes forget that in addition to the baby, toddler and kiddo storytimes (which are totally worth the trip), the library is just a cool place to hang. Books! Comfy, cozy, quiet(ish), kid-friendly, free, sprawling spaces, kind librarians, toys … and books and books and books.

And if you want more indoor play spots? Check out Wee’s giant list of ideas in the city and ‘burbs here, you guys.


Photo credit: The Salvation Army Kroc Center of Philadelphia

  • Katie (Taylor) Levinson

    it’s hard to tell from the website- do you have to be a member to go to the Kroc center or can you just pay by the day?

    • christy

      Hey Katie!
      Alas, you have to be a member (or a guest of a member) to go. (But for what it’s worth, I will add that I found the family membership fees here to be v. reasonable!)

  • Katie (Taylor) Levinson

    Thanks! do you remember about how much? I can look it up if not

    • christy

      I would call and ask — I don’t think they post rates on site. I think ours is somewhere around $40/$50 a month for the family.

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