This time of year is rough: Everyone is dying to get out and run around after a long, cooped-up winter, but the seasonal rain, the mud, the wind, a freezing day, even — God forbid — snow can really get in the way. On more than one occasion, the city’s (and suburbs’) indoor kid gyms and active-play centers have saved us: Not only can you find spots geared toward everyone from toddlers on up through teens, but without fail, these sorts of places are always good for at least a couple of hours of serious energy-burning, nap-inducing activity. And while many local spots offer regular weekly classes, every indoor play place on this list also has time dedicated for drop-in open play … meaning no commitment or preregistration necessary.
Fusion Tumbling and Fitness, Fishtown
This second-story studio (pictured above, on right) is simple but awesome: A big, sun-drenched, open space with floor mats and tumbling equipment and even a small inflatable bounce house for open-play time. The bread and butter of the place are its classes (tumbling and gymnastics from babies on up through teens), but four days a week, there’s time designated to supervised open play for little ones aged one to five and open gym time for kids aged 6 and up. Members pay $5 for open play time; non-members pay $10, with $5 for siblings.
Kids at Play, East Falls
A relatively new addition to the line-up here, Kids at Play (pictured above, on left) is a seriously impressive indoor “multi-sensory” playground with a focus on the healthy development (through play) of toddlers through 12-year-olds. It’s a very cool place: There’s a zip line, a ball pit, an archery zone (it’s safe), slides, swings, a Velcro wall, a ball pit, and more. One thing that sets this gym apart a bit is that in addition to being a kickass playspace, the place is also geared toward kids who benefit from occupational, speech or physical therapy, and offers services and classes geared toward meeting related developmental goals, as well as classes of all kinds (toddler yoga, sensory regulation, dance) for everyone. Happily, there is a ton of designated drop-in open play time, six days a week for non-members, including some time on Sundays. $15 for the first kid, and $10 for each additional child.
Bounce U, Langhorne, Horsham, Exton, Collegeville, Cherry Hill, NJ and Blackwood.
Definitely less of a gym and more of a giant inflatable wonderland, Bounce U. is also a parental rite of passage. (Haven’t been to a Bounce U. birthday party yet? You will.) It’s also a total kid-pleaser: Kids who are at least 34 inches tall can pull on some socks and then bounce, climb and slide themselves into giddy exhaustion, and while reservations are recommended (you can make ‘em online) they’re not necessary. There’s an all-ages open-bounce (hours vary depending on the location — check the site of your Bounce U. of choice), as well as a sensory-sensitive bounce time dedicated to kids with special needs, plus a pre-teen time, preschool playdates, and even family bounce times.
Philly InMovement, Queen Village
This adorable kids’ gym — staffed with friendly employees and featuring a preschooler-friendly rock wall, balance beams, tumbling blocks, trampolines and more entertaining diversions — is probably best known for its classes, after-school programs and camps. But the drop-in open gym option rocks for toddlers and pre-K ages (they also offer an open gym for older kids, from kindergarteners through sixth graders), and they offer it most days of the week (including the occasional weekend). You can check the dates/times here : No reservations needed. There’s a 15-kid cap, and it’s first come, first served, so you won’t want to dilly dally on getting there. The open gym for littles is $12 cash for 45 minutes, $15 credit for 45 minutes (though you can buy a package card that discounts each visit a bit); open gym for the older kids is $10 per hour and $8 for each sibling.
We Rock the Spectrum, Northeast Philly
This newcomer (it opened in November) is part of a franchise that focuses on providing a place for kids of all ability levels to get active and have fun: The large gym area is packed with multi-sensory equipment that is designed to help kids with sensory processing disorders. That said, all of that equipment — trampolines, a rope wall, a rock wall, all sorts of swings, slides, crash mats, climbing structures — appeals to every kid, and all are welcomed. And it’s open play time almost all the time for infants on up — 7 days a week. You’ll just want to call ahead or check the Facebook page before you go to make sure there’s not a special event scheduled. It’s $12 per kid, and $10 for each sibling; there are also membership cards that offer a deal to frequent players.
Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Northeast Philly, Glen Mills, Oaks, Levittown, Chalfont and Moorestown
Designated toddler time several days a week (along with designated hours for kids with sensory special needs) mean that even your littles can enjoy the massive room filled with wall-to-wall trampolines, which are divided by age group. They pull on the jumping socks, and then can jump on the trampolines or into the foam pit. Check out your preferred location’s schedule for special events, toddler times and fitness classes for adults. It’s seriously fun for kids … and their grown-ups.
Get Air, King of Prussia
A foam pit, a slackline, a fidget ladder, trampolines as far as the eye can see: This place is less a gym than a collection of things designed to thrill and exhaust your children. Much of the place is geared toward bigger kids (including the trampoline “ninja course”), but there’s also a “kiddie court” designed for kids 46 inches and under, and every Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon is toddler time. You can drop in, but they recommend that you hop online and reserve your space before you go. Sessions start at one hour, and it’s $10/hour for littles and $15/hour for bigger kids.
Oasis Family Fun Center, Glen Mills
This giant (20,000 square-foot) fun center has a whole bunch of stuff to entertain children (laser maze, arcade, cafe) … but you’ll want to go for the sprawling “soft” playground with slides, tunnels, climbing platforms and mazes: It’s aimed at kids up to 12, and there’s also a segment of it that’s designed for kids 3 and younger, so everyone’s happy. There’s also a rock wall, a “ballocity” area that’s like a big soft playground with foam balls and various launching apparati, and trampoline basketball for kids 4 and older. A pass for access to it all, it’s $25 a kid, or you can get a combo pass for $7 to $10 per kid for access to the playground and ballocity area.
Photo credit, photo on left: Kids at Play, East Falls