Tag Archives: Pump It Up

Let’s Get this Party Started

The Birthday Party.  It seems to be a perennial topic among parents of young kids — what kind of bash to throw, where to host it, how many guests to invite.  In fact, I’ve written about the very subject before and also find it comes up often in conversations with friends as well on my neighborhood parents’ list serv.

As mentioned last week, my kids just celebrated their birthdays, so I’ve recently done some more research on party ideas and venues in the area.  As noted in my last post about parties, hosting at home isn’t really an option for us (or one I want to deal with, anyway).  So, I’ve come up with even more recommendations for ways to celebrate kids’ birthdays in the DC area.

If you’ve been to any of these places and have any feedback to add, please do so in the comments section.  And, of course, if you have suggestions for other party venues, feel free to share those as well.


Pump It Up
This seems to be the new “it” venue for preschool-age and older birthday parties. Two large rooms filled with inflatable slides, bounce houses, climbing walls, and obstacle courses, is like a kid’s wildest dream come true.  Loud pop music plays in the background while partygoers jump, slide, climb, and crawl like someone has deemed them mayors of Fun Town and given them a key to the city. We went to our first birthday party here a few months ago, and within five minutes Owen asked if he could have his party there, too.  Without even thinking, I said, “Definitely.”  Luckily, the package is pretty reasonable, especially considering I got a two-in-one deal since my kids celebrated together, their birthdays being just two weeks apart.  The classic 90-minute party on a weekend is $295 for up to 25 guests ($10 each for every guest beyond that) and includes an hour of playtime (30 minutes in each room), then 30 minutes of pizza and cake in the party room.  Two pizzas and a bottle of soda are also included, and you can pay extra for more.  The best part is that it’s minimal work for parents.  Book the party, then all you have to do is send invites, let the staff know how many pizzas you need, bring a cake and goody bags (or pay extra to have them provided), then show up and have a blast.  The closest locations to DC are both in Maryland — Lanham and Elkridge.  The Elkridge venue offers two-hour parties at a slightly higher rate, and both offer weekday parties at much lower rates if you can plan on a day off from school.  For more information about Pump It Up and their birthday party packages, see the website.

Nature Centers
Many local parks have nature centers that welcome children to celebrate their birthdays with a nod to the great outdoors. And with some of the park’s most intriguing residents.  Naturalist-led hikes or scavenger hunts and nature-inspired crafts are part of the party fun, but it’s the other guests of honor (besides the b-day kid) that are usually the biggest hits. Frogs, turtles, bugs, snakes, and rabbits are among the creatures that might make an appearance during the birthday bash.  And most times, party guests get a chance to hold, or at least touch, them as they learn about the animal and its habitat.  Rates vary by venue, but party packages range from $150 – $200, offering the special programs and use of facilities for 2 – 3 hours.  While they provide the entertainment, the food and other supplies is generally up to you.  I looked into a nature center party for the kids awhile back, but there seemed to be a 3-year-old age minimum for most (Sasha is only 2).  If you’re interested in a nature-themed party, check out these places:
Brookside Nature Center in Wheaton
Watkins Nature Center in Upper Marlboro
Meadowside Nature Center in Rockville
Gulf Branch Nature Center in Arlington
Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington

Old Maryland Farm
When we went to a birthday party at this educational farm at Watkins Regional Park last spring, the kids thought that checking out and feeding all the animals and birds shortly after we arrived was awesome.  Little did they know the

Party pony rider at Old Maryland Farm

highlights would keep coming as every party guest got to take a pony ride, followed by a tractor-pulled hayride through the woods of the park.  They definitely have the fun part down at Old Maryland Farm.  Besides the farm-style thrills, they offer a facility for celebrating that includes several tables and seating for guests.  You bring the food, drinks, decorations, and other party supplies.  Call 301.218.6770 for more information, including  rates (around $150-200) and party times. UPDATE: Pony rides are no longer offered for parties at Old Maryland Farm, but hayrides and visits with the animals still make it a really fun way to celebrate.

White Oak Duck Pin Lanes
The small pins and balls of duck pin are perfect for little bowlers, and the party packages at White Oak in Silver Spring are pretty ideal, too. Along with one hour of bowling (with bumpers to help out beginner bowlers), you get shoe rental for all guests, one hour in a party room, and food and drinks for $13/party guest.  There is also a non-food package available for $10/guest.  There is an eight person minimum, and you are only allowed to bring cake and ice cream, no other food or drinks.  Table decorations and pinatas are also permitted.  Read more about the venue and their parties on the White Oak website.

Tiny Chefs
Is your child the next Julia or Wolfgang? Or maybe they like to assume sous chef in your kitchen?  If so, then this party is right up their galley. Tiny Chefs will literally help you cook up a birthday celebration for your kid.  An instructor will come to your home and guide guests through an entire meal preparation, starting with chef hat decorating. You choose an entrée and dessert or appetizer from their menu, and they’ll bring all the supplies to prepare the meal with the kids.  While the food cooks, the group will decorate their own placemats and have fun as they await their meal.  The grand finale of the of the bash is getting to enjoy their efforts.  Parties are tailored to kids in two age groups: 4-8 and 9-14.  Pricing starts at $35/child with a minimum of eight children and a max of 15.  For more information, visit the Tiny Chefs website.

Synetic Family Theatre
Young theatre buffs will love a party at Synetic Family Theatre. Three kinds of party packages are available:  Package A includes a performance along with an autographed poster and birthday wishes from the actors (if you live nearby, you can do the cake at home).  Cost is just the ticket prices, which are reduced to $10 for groups of 10 or more.  Package B includes a performance then a celebration in the studio around the corner; you bring cake and refreshments.  The rate is $100 plus cost of theatre tickets.  Package C is a combo of Packages A & B, plus a 20-minute drama workshop and theatre games.  Rates start at $160 plus the cost of theatre tickets. More details are available on the Synetic Family Theatre website.

Bowie Baysox
Take the birthday kid out to the ball game!  The Nationals don’t offer a set party package, but the local minor league team, Bowie Baysox, does.  Two options are available:  The Grand Slam Birthday Bash, which includes 10 tickets (additional tix are $22/each), space on the birthday deck, a one-hour food buffet, access to games at in the kids’ park, and special treats for the guest of honor. Cost is $239.  The Bullpen Buddies Bash includes 10 tickets (additional tix are $10), game tickets for the kids’ park, and special treats for the birthday honoree.  Cost is $159.

Rock Climbing
A couple of companies in the area offer rock climbing birthday parties.  Kids ages 6 and up can reach new heights at Sportrock, which has locations in Alexandria and Sterling.  They offer a package that includes 90 minutes of climbing time and 45 minutes in a party room to celebrate.  A minimum of eight and a max of 20 can participate, and the cost is $25/guest.  Earth Treks in Columbia and Rockville also hosts parties for kids of all ages and abilities.  Rates start at $225 for up to 10 kids (parties can include up to 30, and rates adjust accordingly) and include a private climbing area plus two hours of climbing. A table and table cloth are provided to serve refreshments buffet style, but you bring the food and drinks.  Kids receive a Certificate for Incredible Climbing and two Earth Treks stickers, and favor bags with more goodies are also available for purchase.

Trapeze School New York in Washington, DC
This one is a splurge, but it comes with big time — and big top – fun.  As the name indicates, the flying trapeze is the main attraction, but party guests can enjoy even more circus-style fun — juggling, stilts, acrobatics, and more. Located in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood adjacent to the new Yards Park, the Trapeze School hosts parties for children ages 5 and up.  Rates start at $550 for 10 guests.  You supply the food and drinks; while the school does not offer catering, they do provide space to set up a celebration area.  Like I said, it’s not cheap, but it does sound like a huge thrill. For more information, call the Trapeze School office at 410-459-6839.


Filed under All ages, Birthday Parties

Indoor Playgrounds


I’ve learned a thing or two in mynearly five 11 12 14 many years of parenting and hanging out with my kids, and this is an important one: Know where to go for indoor play.

I’m not talking about museums or art centers, where kids have to contain their energy and use their minds more than their bodies (which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not the point here). I’m talking about places where they can be physical and active and, in some cases, literally bounce off the walls.

It’s essential for those days when the weather is not conducive to outdoor fun, the kids seem to have an exorbitant amount of energy to burn, and the house needs to stay clean for some important reason like guests coming to dinner or, you know, sanity.

Here are some places to keep in mind for those very occasions or any time your child could use some fun out of the sun. And, as always, please feel free to add any good ones I haven’t covered!

The St. James
The Super, Awesome, and Amazing (that’s what it’s called) 30,000 square foot activity center in the St. Jame sports complex is filled with all kinds of climbing structures, trampolines, and obstacle courses. Kids can don harnesses and clip onto wires to climb, rappel, and navigate walkways 20 feet above the ground. They can bounce, flip, and execute acrobatic moves. They can swing from bars and on large platforms and crawl through tunnels. Essentially, every element in the space is conducive to active fun, and there is something for kids from toddler to tween ages to enjoy. Admission is $15 Monday – Thursday before 3pm. After 3pm and on Friday & Saturday, they are $23/hour. CertifiKid has a deal on passes for $13-17.

Flight Trampoline Park
The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are… yep, you guessed it, trampolines. Everywhere. There are small squares, longer rectangles, trampolines on inclines in dodge ball and basketball areas. You can jump onto them from platforms, and also from square to square. You can jump just to see how high you can go, do flips, land on your bum and bounce back to your feet, or jump-dance to the blaring pop music. Flight rates vary by time: $11 for 30 minutes, $15 for an hour, $25 for two hours. Kid Flights (jumpers 46″ and under, ages 0-6) are $10 for an hour, $17 for two hours. There is also an upstairs arcade if you want to do some gaming, and they offer party packages. You can purchase tickets and fill out waivers in advance online, which I recommend doing to avoid a wait in line and ensure you get the time slot you want.

PG Sports & Learning Complex
The Gymnastics Center at the PG Sports and Learning Complex is a Mecca of bouncy fun. Whether your child is a Mary Lou Retton in the making or just a kid who likes to jump, climb, tumble, and swing, this place has it covered. Soft mats, balance beams, trampolines, a rope swing and foam pit, and soft climbing apparatus will tire out even the most energized kids. Staff is on hand to help use equipment, but parents are expected to supervise. Walkers through age 12 are welcome to join open play sessions that take place on Tuesdays from 11:30am – 12:30pm. Cost is $7/child. Gymnastics classes are also offered — find more info on the website. (Note:  Hours might vary depending on the season, especially in summer. Be sure to call ahead to confirm Open Gym is on.)

This indoor rock climbing center in Laurel is all the rage lately. Themed walls offer extra incentive to get to get to the top. Scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a spider web, conquer Mt. Rushmore, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas. Walk-ins are welcome, but booking climb time is recommended. Admission for climbers is $25/ages 6 and up, $12/ages 2-5, free for 2 and under (also free to spectate), and this gives you a few hours’ block to climb. A short orientation covering safety and belaying is offered. Parent supervision is required for all children 12 and under.

My Gym
My Gym has over 10 locations in the DC-metro area. Like other children’s play gyms, they offer all the requisite equipment for some good tumbling and energy-burning play. Classes and programs are available for kids up to 12 years old, but their Free Play sessions would probably best be enjoyed by the younger set. Free Play is offered by age at different times depending on the location, so find a My Gym near you to check the schedule.

Dynamite Gymnastics Center
Adults can’t resist having a blast alongside their kids at Dynamite Gymnastics Center in Rockville (I know this firsthand from an awesome birthday party experience). The huge space filled with tumbling mats, trampolines, a rope swing, balance beam, launching ramps, and more equipment that entices little ones and grown ups alike to bounce around. Open play is offered several times throughout most days, but changes by month. Cost is $8/child, $12/adult for 50 minutes; $12/child, $17/adult for 90 minutes, 12-session passes are $75/50 minutes, $120/90 minutes. Note: Parents only need to pay for open gym if they plan to participate.

With locations all over the country, Gymboree is a popular play spots for really little ones. Babies as young as mere months to kids aged 5 can enjoy a variety of activities that focus on different development skills and yield a good time. All Gymboree locations in the area offer Open Gym Time a few times a week, but with a catch — you have to be an enrolled member. So if you are a member or are interested in classes, check out schedules and rates for individual locations. You can take a free trial class to see if you want to sign up; information is available on the website. And for more info about the DC location, see this KFDC post.

Pump it Up
Take the kids to this bouncy nirvana, and you will be guaranteed cool parent status forever. Giant rooms filled wall-to-wall with interactive inflatables produce smiles and giggles like you’ve never seen or heard. Pump it Up is a well known birthday party venue, but they offer pop-in playtime during the week as well. Kids ages 2 and up (that includes the kid in all of us grown-ups) will love the slides, bounces areas, climbing walls, and obstacle courses (all soft and air-filled). There are several locations in Maryland, the closest to DC in Lanham, and one in Manassas, too. Check calendars on individual location websites for pop-in play times and prices, as they vary from place to place.

This Indoor Adventure Park dedicated to ages 5-105 calls itself a “gamechanger.” And with ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, zip lines, and more under one soaring roof, guests are often in full agreement. There are three locations in Rockville, Herndon, and Potomac Mills, and hours vary by day, so be sure to check before you go. (Note: Hours are extended during breaks from school!) Admission starts at $21.50/1 hour.

The trampoline park with locations in Columbia, Gaithersburg, and Manassas beckons with bouncy fun for all ages. Jam-packed with trampolines, kids (and adults) can go boing with carefree zeal or bounce with a purpose. Jump and dunk basketballs, flip for fun, or play a game of bouncy dodgeball. Open jump times vary by location, and there are special session for little ones as well as fitness classes for adults, so be sure to check schedules before you go.

JW Tumbles
The children’s gym in Arlington offers play experiences for kids from just a few months to 9 years old. A variety of equipment, from soft mats and bouncy balls to small ladders and climbing ropes, challenges different ages and levels in a stimulating environment. Open Gym is offered at various times during the week, depending on the JW Tumbles location. See the website to find one near you, along with open gym times and rates.

Sport Bounce of Loudon
At the Ashburn, VA, indoor gym kids can bounce off the walls — inflated ones, anyway. Essentially, it’s a really large room practically stuffed with moon bounces, lofty air-filled slides, and other inflated means for kids to burn energy. There’s also a small ride-on train, a hurricane simulator, and a separate smaller room with soft toys and hoola hoops for little ones. Open Gym sessions are offered Monday through Friday, though times vary by day. Most are an hour and a half long, a perfect stretch to bounce off some energy. Admission is $10/ages 2 and up, $6/8-23 months. Children must be 18 months to use any of the inflatables.

SportRock Climbing Centers
Kids can reach new heights at facilities in Alexandria and Sterling. With open belay and open climb hours on weekends and weekdays, it’s a great way to stay active when the elements aren’t cooperating (or even when they are). Both locations offer thousands of feet of climbing space, that include 30-foot overhangs, a bouldering stalactite, and challenging scaling spaces (plus areas for beginners, too). SportRock also offers classes for those who want to take their climbing to the next level. Rates vary depending on what you want to do, so check the website for details.

The Barracks Row space is ideal for infants to children 5 years old to spend a couple of hours, according to a KFDC reader with kids those ages (see comments below… in fact, most of this comes from her, though I have been in there to check it out). They have a floating balloon; an small infant & toddler playground set with slide, maze, ladders to climb; a water table area, where kids can pull levers that spout water, plus cups to fill and pour out (and water shoes and smocks to help the kids stay dry). Another room has beautiful wooden & other toys for playing — moving cars, planes, pretend foods, and a little soft block area for infants. Admission is $20 per child, and they also offer a membership.

Badlands Play Space (UPDATE: This has closed)
The brand new facility in Rockville, MD, is a one-stop shop for adventures that take place inside. Nature-inspired and full of interactive pursuits for children 2-13 years old, it’s a place where kids can exercise both their bodies and minds in a variety of ways. A mountain of faux boulders and “grassy” hillside are the centerpiece of the space with a green turf-covered floor. Kids can climb up rocks to the peak or ascend using ropes, then whiz down slides. They can run up slopes, then roll down them or slide through a tunnel. Little spelunkers can crawl through a cave and emerge on the opposite side. In another small play area on the other side, they can walk across a footbridge, hop among tree stumps, and balance on “fallen” tree branches. And when they tire of all the active fun, there are opportunities to tinker, get creative, explore exhibits, and even relax. Admission is $20/child and $12.50/toddler, $5/adult per day, and they offer memberships and monthly rates which make for big discounts! Hours are 9am – 6pm Tuesday through Sunday.

A few more to check out:
* Summit Ropes Indoor Adventures in Sterling
* Launch Trampoline Park in PG County, Rockville, Columbia, & Herndon (click on locations for admission deals)
* Hyper Kidz in Columbia (get deal)

And a couple of recommendations from KFDC readers:

Chinquapin Park Recreation Center in Alexandria has a soft playroom designed for ages 5 and younger. It’s apparently loaded with soft toys and is a good place for playgroups to meet and children to play under adult supervision. Open 9am – half an hour before closing (check schedule, as times vary by day). Admission is $5 per half-hour.

Per a KFDC reader, the Alexandria Coliseum “has 3 bounce houses for bigger kids and a few smaller ones for your tiny kids. Best thing about the place, you buy a pass for the day so you can leave for lunch and come back — without paying again — for the afternoon.” Locations are in Woodbridge and Annandale, and most Open Jump sessions in their bouncy areas are in the afternoons on weekdays ($6), but all day on weekends ($9).



Filed under All ages, Class, DC, Maryland, Play, Virginia