Maryland’s best indoor play areas on the cheap

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IndoorPlayBuildingMuseumW Photo Credit Kevin Allen 16

Updated January 2018

By Katie Riley

The opportunity for kids to exercise and energize can be hard to come by when it's too cold or hot outside to play. 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
simon.com/mall/arundel-mills

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
888-888-4532 or ikea.com/us/en/store/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.
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
410-730-3300 or themallincolumbia.com

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
410-760-8900 or marleystation.com

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 a fee up to 2 hours.
2002 Annapolis Mall, Annapolis
410-266-5432 or westfield.com/annapolis

Click next below for more indoor fun in Maryland.


Community center fun

Marilyn Praisner Community Center, Burtonsville
Three times a week, kids 4 and younger can play ball, race around on bikes or scooters, or play with other toys at the Praisner Community Center's Open Gym. Parents supervise the Open Gym, which anyone can attend. Visitors must bring identification.
Open Gym Hours: Mon., Thurs., and Fri. 10:30 a.m.-noon.
Cost: Free
14906 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville,
240-777-4971 or montgomerycountymd.gov/rec/, click on "where to go."

Northeast Community and North Beach Recreation centers
Calvert County offers indoor play almost every day of the week at the Northeast Community Center or the North Beach Recreation Center. Both facilities maintain preschool rooms stocked with toys and games; a game room with foosball, table tennis and a pool table; and a full gymnasium. Parent/child playgroups run weekly and drop-ins are welcome.
Calvert County also holds frequent winter fitness programs for kids.
Northeast Community Center
Hours: playgroup, Tues./Thurs., 10-11:30 a.m. Call for fitness class times.
4075 Gordon Stinnett Ave., Chesapeake Beach
North Beach Recreation Center
Hours: playgroup, Mon./Fri., 9:30-11 a.m. Call for fitness class times.
Cost: Free
co.cal.md.us, click on services, recreation and parks and community centers

Click Next below for museums with open play


Open play at area museums

Chesapeake Children's Museum, Annapolis
Kids can climb aboard a 10-foot boat and "pier" to don a lifejacket or catch plush fish and crabs in the museum. Or they can check out an authentic dentist's chair with instruments or the doctor's area with a human body Stuffee. The Express Yourself art station offers a variety of self-serve art materials. Young engineers can build endless creations at the train table and blocks stations.
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: $5
25 Silopanna Road, Annapolis
410-990-1993 or theccm.org

IndoorPlayBuildngMuseum5WNational Building Museum, Washington, D.C.
The construction play space at the National Building Museum has a Building Zone with an exploratory room designed for kids ages 2 to 6 that features blocks of every kind. Kids can drive bulldozers and trucks in the construction zone, build a tower or brick wall, curl up in the book nook or try on some construction gear.
Older kids can check out the Play, Work, Build exhibit where they can build small-scale structures, participate in virtual block play or use supersized foam blocks to exercise their muscles and mind.
Hours: Building Zone open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Museum open until 5 p.m.
Cost: $7 for ages 3-17; $10 adults.
401 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.
nbm.org

Robinson Nature Center, Columbia
Kids play for free on Wednesdays at the Robinson Nature Center in Columbia, when admission is waived. Visit the Discovery Room for hands-on fun with rocks, fossils and branches. Little ones can try on costumes, host a puppet show, check out the multiple aquariums, or build with blocks and Lincoln logs. At the Life of the Forest exhibit, kids can experience the sights and sounds of the forest.
Hours: Wed.-Sat, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.
Cost: $5 Adults, $3 for ages 3-17.
6692 Cedar Lane, Columbia
410-313-0400 or howardcountymd.gov/Robinson

Other places to be active indoors

Play N Learn Playground Superstore, ColumbiaIndoorPlayPlayLearnW
This indoor store sells play sets with twisty slides, climbing walls and swings and hosts open play every day with tickets required on weekends. The indoor facility with safe rubber flooring has swingsets, basketball goals, trampolines, air hockey and foosball tables best suited to entertain ages 2-8. There are also baby swings for the really young ones. Shoppers can let their kids test out equipment on a complimentary basis, but families looking for dedicated playtime can pay $8 for two hours.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; call for weekend times.
Cost: $8; weekdays are walk-in but online tickets required for weekends.
New location: 9033 Red Branch Road,
 Columbia
410-992-0992 or here

Skate Zone, Crofton
The Skate Zone in Crofton hosts a ton of fun events, from its winter Blizzard Blast when it snows indoors, to its Summer Sprouts where kids 10 and younger can bring ride-on toys, small scooters and bikes to ride inside the rink. Admission includes skate rental and a small drink.
Hours: Mon., 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $5
1082 Route 3 South, Crofton
410-721-7155 or sk8zone.com

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