Maryland’s best indoor play areas on the cheap

IndoorPlayBuildingMuseumW Photo Credit Kevin Allen 16
Free/cheap places to play insdie National Building Museum

IndoorPlayBuildingMuseumW Photo Credit Kevin Allen 16

Updated 2023

Indoor play areas for kids are great for burning off energy. The opportunity for kids to exercise and energize can be hard to come by when it’s too cold or hot outside to play, or it has been raining for days. Fortunately, the Baltimore/Annapolis area has numerous community centers, mall playgrounds, gyms and museums that offer indoor play for free, or at least a low cost.

At Annapolis Mall, a dozen toddlers climbed and crawled around an aquatic themed “playground” with a whale tail slide, a mini submarine and plenty of interactive toys.

Parents and caregivers sat back and watched as their little ones ran and played within the warmth of the indoors.

“It’s hard to find a place to play when it’s cold out, but this is really convenient. It’s free and it gives them a chance to burn off some energy,” said Katie Pinkham, of Riva, who was watching her two boys, Henry, 18 months, and Thomas, 4.

The Northeast Community Center in Chesapeake Beach also offers dozens of free indoor play activities for kids in the winter months.

“Kids want to get moving, even when it’s cold outside,” says Paul Lundberg, recreation assistant coordinator. “We try to provide a lot of fitness opportunities for families, from free structured classes to open play.”

Here are several places where kids can run and climb indoors without breaking the bank. Be sure to check times and prices before headig out as they may have changed.

Mall and store play spaces

Arundel Mills, HanoverIndoorPlayArundelMillsW
A Maryland-themed play area at Arundel Mills includes replicas of the Thomas Point Lighthouse, a Maryland blue crab and an Oriole singing in a birdbath. Kids can climb and slide on a replica oak tree or play near a patch of Black-Eyed Susans. Afterwards, head to the Bass Pro Shop to spy some stuffed critters or look for local fish in the 23,000-gallon aquarium with a waterfall.
Located between Best Buy and Medieval Times
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: Free
7000 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover

Ikea, College Park
Parents can drop off kids for an hour of supervised play at Ikea’s Småland Play Area in College Park. The enclosed space has climbing apparatus, a ball pit, art stations and numerous toys. Kids must be 37-45 inches tall and potty-trained to play. Stay to eat at the store’s in-house restaurant where kids meals are just 99 cents.
Store Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Hours: Smaland opens at 10:30 a.m., but arrive early for this popular attraction as it fills to capacity quickly. It closes 30 minutes before the stores closes each night.
Cost: Free
10100 Baltimore Ave., College Park

Mall in Columbia
At the health and wellness themed play area at Columbia Mall, kids can crawl through a water bottle, play in an interactive ambulance driven by a turtle, cross a bookworm bridge or slide down a healthy pile of veggies. Family Fun Day is every Thursday at 10 am year-round on the Lower Level in the Lord & Taylor Court. Join for songs and entertainment with Miss Julie and friends.
Located in front of JC Penney
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Free
10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia

Marley Station Mall, Glen Burnie
The play area in Marley Station Mall has a classic storybook theme with a jumbo apple, stone bridge with Humpty Dumpty and life-size crayons. Kids can practice their balancing skills on an enormous ruler or run around the vast carpeted area. Check out the mall’s Marley Minis page on the website for frequent events, such as live singers and character appearances.
Located in front of Sears
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Free
7900 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie

Westfield Annapolis
The 1,200-square-foot aquatic themed play area includes a mini lighthouse slide, a submarine to crawl through, a whale tail slide and walls of interactive bubbles. Just steps away is the free Kids Club which includes activities like arts and crafts and games for kids to play while Mom and Dad shop.
Located in front of Pottery Barn
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: Free. Kids Club for $5 up to 3 hours, ages 3-9 years, 10 a.m. -9 p.m.
2002 Annapolis Mall, Annapolis

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