In the past two years, there has been an absolute explosion of indoor kid-friendly play places. It is a gold mine for parents… but the endless choices are, at least to me, a bit overwhelming. I hope you find this review helpful when you’re trying to make up your mind on a cold or rainy afternoon coming soon to a town near you. Included in this review are the newest option, “Monkey Joes” of Ashburn, tried and true “Chuck E Cheese“, the original-indoor-posh-playspace of Ashburn, “Chibis“, “Sport Bounce of Loudoun“, and a surprise at the end.
Monkey Joes, Ashburn, VA
Today, Jimmy and I tried out Monkey Joes of Ashburn for the first time– and loved it! Its a fabulous combination of all of the aformentioned options; guess thats the luck of the latecomer! There are token-machines and ticket-spittting games like Chuck E Cheese, 5 large and awesome bounce houses (our favorite being a giant Pirate Ship- you know me, of course I had to try it too!), and an enclosed baby/toddler play area plus adult comfy area, like Chibis. The very soft baby/toddler area is great- it has a moving (and still soft) train ride, several climbing options, and walls full of engaging activities little ones. It even has a free mock-up of one of the more popular video game, designed for tots, so cute. The ‘adult’ area was, of course, my favorite – it offers 2 public computers, a large TV tuned to (not too loud) news, and comfortable adult-friendly chairs. There is also coffee for sale!. Unlike Sport Bounces “adult lounge”, it is open and in the middle of the facility, so you can actually keep an eye on your kids. Also unlike Sport Bounce, it doesn’t have 2 very comfortable and inviting looking chairs that actually yell at you to insert money every 10 seconds (they are massage chairs… but you can’t sit in them unless you pay, or want to be yelled at to insert money. Ugh. Once, suffering from back pain, and frustrated, I resorted to unplugging one of the chairs.) So if you want a nice combination of indoor playspace plus games/tokens/prizes (though not nearly to the level of Chuck E Cheese), Monkey Joes is a fabulous option.
First, we played some of the games. The offering is paltry compared to Chuck E Cheese, and they are more expensive (2 – 4 tokens per game, unlike 1 for all Chuck E Cheese games). The games also have much shorter play time. For example, there is a skee-ball-esque game in which you have to try to throw balls into a milk jug. You get 4 balls, that’s it, for 2 tokens (50 cents). At Chuck E Cheese, you get 10 balls for Skee Ball, and also 10 for basketball- for 25 cents token. However, the tickets are generous. There is also a game thats entire job seems to be handing out ticket jackpots. After playing games for about 30 minutes total, we scored over 300 tickets. Note: do not play the ‘claw’ or ‘prize’ games (of which there are 3). You won’t win anything. All we got was a single tootsie roll after shelling out at least 6 tokens.
|Jimmy showing off his tickets from the “smack the weasel” game @ Monkey Joes.|
|Monkey Joes Pirate Ship outside view|
|Jimmy on his favorite ride, the monster truck that goes ‘way up’, and lasts for at least 2 minutes.|
|Another ride-on truck, this time with a friend!|
Chibis, Ashburn, VA
Chibis is also a lot of fun, for kids under 3. The website says ‘6 and under,’ but I think any child over the age of 4.5 would become bored quickly. It is relatively small compared with the other facilities, and not as many play options. However, there are definite draws: there is a HUGE baby play area, which is kept extremely clean. There is also a massive indoor McDonalds-type playground (but nicer and cleaner than Mcdonalds!) Additionally, they have a play kitchen, a quiet-play area with doll houses and trains, and a few other random climbing toys next to the large playground. Jimmy loves the trains in the ‘quiet play’ area, but honestly, we could do that at home, or even Toys R Us! I always find myself thinking “you are not burning enough of your “crazy toddler” energy in here! Go run around! Mommy wants you to actually NAP later!” The adult area and snack bar is also very nice, and clean. The food is cheap healthy (unlike every other aforementioned location), and there is gourmet COFFEE! They also have a nice adult sitting area/eating area. However, just like Sport Bounce, it is not in view of most play areas.. which just doesn’t work if your kid is under 3. I usually just sit in the play kitchen area…thankfully there are some adult sized chairs and a sofa. Another bonus: although the entry fee is a bit pricey, 10 or 11 bucks, once you pay, that’s it! No enticing video games or ride-ons.
|View of playground and ‘play kitchen’ adult sitting area at Chibis|
Sport Bounce of Loudoun – Ashburn VA
We went to Sport Bounce once, for a birthday party. It is jam packed with massive bouncing apparatus. The slide pictured below is amazing, scary even for a 32 year old woman. I screamed (loudly) the entire way down.
|Our self-made ‘choo choo train’ at Claude Moore Rec Centers “Open Play”|
One bonus about Claude Moore is that there is a very nice, very little known, toddler friendly playground in the back. It has a nice, clean, covered picnic area as well. Perfect for fall or winter days when it warms up in the afternoon— just in time for “Open Play” to end!. You can’t see it from the road, which I believe explains why we hardly have company. It is connected to the pre-school, so every once in awhile, you will be joined by a small class. However, the playground is open to the public, even during preschool hours. Double bonus: it’s free.
|Jimmy being eaten by a cute caterpillar at Claude Moore Rec Centers playground.|
So when the inevitable cold rains and chilly weather makes its unwelcome presence this year (I am VERY MUCH an outdoor/summer girl), I will be taking Jimmy to Monkey Joes (unless of course it is between 8-12 pm on a Friday.). I will be saving Chuck E Cheese for ‘special occasions’, when I have a few extra bucks in my pocket. Chibis will be reserved for those inevitable days where I didn’t get any sleep and am too exhausted to join in the fun. It’s quiet (at least it is after 1pm), relatively calm, comfortable, and they sell gourmet coffee. If they open any new facilities (although I don’t know how many more the local economy can take! I mean really!), we will be trying those out as well.
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