With colder temperatures, less hours of daylight and fewer trips to local parks, this is an ideal time to ‘re-post’ about all the wonderful, indoor play spaces in and around Ann Arbor. I have also added a little bit more about our experiences and some advice, at these unique locations.
Hands-on Museum: Ideal when you don’t want to drive far or only have a short time to play, the museum has a huge preschool play area. Most days they are open from 10 AM to 5 PM, but on Tuesdays, they open at 9 AM, and on Thursdays the museum stays open until 8 PM. The cost is $12.50 dollars for adult and children (under 2 years is FREE). However, a yearly, family membership is only $75 and covers parents, children, AND grandparents! The Parking can be a challenge, with some street parking, or plan to park in a garage, and walk a few blocks. I also suggest bringing an extra set of clothing, because it is hard to avoid the enticing water play at both the top of the first floor and in the preschool room. You will find that the museum is quieter in the late afternoon, and busiest on weekends!
Metropolitan EHS: Located at 7025 E. Michigan Avenue, the speech and sensory center’s new location continues to offer an OPEN PLAY SPACE Mondays through Fridays, from 9:30 to 12:30 PM. The play space is open to all children, but recommended for ages 0 – 10. The play space looks just as it did as My Urban Toddler. All the imaginative play rooms are the same: grocery, kitchen, puzzle room, schoolhouse, fire truck, theatre, and a baby crawl space. As toddlers and even now, as preschoolers, my boys could EASILY play there for 2 hours. There is plenty of food in the kitchen, grocery carts, kitchen supplies, etc. to avoid toddler tantrums over wanting the same toys. Don’t forget to pack socks for you and your little ones! I also made sure to feed the boys a snack beforehand, although there is a snack bar still at the front of the play space. There are also birthday party packages offered, on the weekends.
Botanical Gardens: Located off Dixboro Rd., the Botanical Gardens is a fun place to visit, in the cold months ahead, too! There is a huge conservatory, available to the public, free of admission. Parking is $1.60 per a hour. At the front desk, you can ask for a scavenger hunt, designed for you and your little ones to explore the conservatory together! My boys enjoy the large gold fish, sausage trees, pineapples, microscopes, and collection of cacti. If the weather is warm enough, there are always the hiking trails too!
Winter Hours (Labor Day – Mid May)
Monday, Tuesday 10 am to 4:30 pm
Wednesday 10 am to 8 pm
Thursday – Sunday 10 am to 4:30 pm
Kidopolis: Located at 509 State Circle, in Ann Arbor, Kidopolis is a great place to go for imaginative play for toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary-age children! They are open Thursdays and Fridays, from 10 AM to 3 PM, and Saturdays 4 PM to 8 PM. Admission is $7 per a child and $5 or each additional sibling. Admission also includes a snack! They also offer birthday party packages and a group rate (5 or more children). Kidopolis is in an awesome location, with Costco and Briarwood Mall nearby (kids play AND fit in an errand in one morning!). Don’t forget to bring socks!
Tiny Town Play Lounge: Located in Northville at 15444 Haggerty Rd. (tucked away in a shopping complex so look closely for the sign!), they open at 9:30 AM and close at 5:30 PM on weekdays. They open at 9:30 AM on Saturday but their closing time varies and they are closed entirely on Sundays for private parties. Cost is $7 per a child, and they do have a punch card. Again, you need socks in order to play in their clean and creative play space. There is a large ball pit, trampoline, music theater, small climbing structure, and some rooms designed for imaginative play. This play area is AWESOME! Only a 23 minute drive from the Northeast side of Ann Arbor, there is TONS for your little ones to do. I could barely pull the boys away after 2 hours of play!
Chelsea Treehouse: Located in Chelsea (close to US-23), this massive playhouse offers slides, climbing, and even a ball room. There are play spaces sectioned off for infants as well as areas more conducive for toddler age kids. They are open from 10 AM to 5 PM (on Wednesdays until 7:30 PM) on weekdays and 10 AM to 3 PM on weekends. The cost is $7 for children over the age of 1. Again, remember to bring socks and provide your children with a snack before entering the Treehouse. Otherwise, you may buy bagels, fruit, and full meals at their snack bar. I recommend avoiding Chelsea Treehouse on the weekends, as there tends to be several birthday parties taking place throughout the morning and afternoon, and it can get very crowded! Be on the look out for Groupon deals too!
Funtastic Play Centers: Located at 43337 Joy Rd., in Canton, the play center is open from 10 to 7 PM, Monday through Friday. Funtastic facilities feature an innovative mixture of custom designed soft play and self-contained modular equipment that encourages children’s freedom of movement, exploration, and creativity in a playful and carefree setting. They have created a separate and comfortable space for parents to relax and enjoy refreshments and snacks in an adjacent area overlooking the play area. Cost is $8 a child. I took my boys here, when they were 3 years-old, and they had a blast! Similar to Chelsea Treehouse, but on a smaller scale, they played for a couple of hours, with a few friends. Don’t forget your socks. You can bring snacks and eat them at the tables provided, along the side of the play space.
Gym America: Located at 5555 Hines Drive, this state-of-the-art facility is a young child’s dream…a great place to climb, jump, and tumble freely! The gymnastics center offers Toddler Open Gym twice a week: Mondays and Fridays at 9:45 AM. Cost is $5 for 1 hour of free play. Gym America has a punch card as well, with the 11th visit FREE. Toddler Open Gym tends to be more crowded on Fridays and less busy on Monday mornings. It can be difficult to keep track of multiple children, as they may wander off in different directions, so my advice is to dress them in bright clothing! 🙂
Champion Gym: Located at 7240 Jackson Rd., the gym offers Open Gym/Toddler Time four mornings at week: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. From 9 to 10 AM, the cost is $7 per a child. Toddler Time is for children, ages 18 mos. to 5 years. Open Gym is offered Saturday evenings, 5 to 6:30 PM, for ages 6 and up. Cost is $10 per a child for Open Gym.
2 42 Community Center: Open 7 days a week, from 8 AM to late evening, 242 Community Center (Wagner Rd.) is NOW open! Free of charge, this large play space has a foam pit, climbing structures for different ages, slides, a cafe with drinks and snacks, tables, and much more! Looking forward to checking out this exciting new play space, this winter!
Barnes and Noble: Located at Huron Parkway and Washtenaw, my boys and I love to spend a rainy morning playing with the Thomas Train set and reading new books! They have delicious muffins offered at the Cafe downstairs too! We often go here when we have only a short time of play left in our morning, in between errands or other scheduled activities! Be sure to sign your child open for their Kids Club, as they receive free treats, from the cafe, around their birthdays!
Briarwood Mall: Located at the corner of State St. and Eisenhower, Briarwood Mall is open from 10 AM to 9 PM (CLICK HERE for special holiday hours). Park outside of Von Maur, and you will find the kiddie play space, just outside the Von Maur entrance. Although packed on the weekends and weekday, late afternons, the play space is a great stop for your little ones to burn off some energy, in the winter months…FREE play too! We have enjoyed a bit of play, before or after trips to Costco, or before a dinner out. WARNING: be sure to keep a close eye on your children, as there is not a gate to keep the little ones in the play space. My boys are also drawn toward the riding, electronic vehicles, adjacent to the play space…the vehicles do run on quarters.
Ann Arbor Library Storytimes: Ann Arbor Libraries AND the neighboring cities offer storytime daily. Ann Arbor Libraries have two different storytimes: one for babies (ages 0 – 2) and another for preschoolers (ages 2 – 5). Click on the link for a list of days, times, and locations. The baby storytimes include 15 minutes of song and stories, followed by free play. The preschool storytimes include 30 minutes of stories (3), songs, rhyme, and movement. Several of the branches will also bring out toys after preschool storytime (Malletts Creek, on Tuesday mornings, DOES NOT).
Additional FUN Features at each library:
Malletts Creek (Packard Rd.): low table with rotating toys, large fish tank, several computers
Westgate (Maple Rd.): LARGE playspace for children, beehive to climb in and read a book, touchscreen computers, many toys that are always out for play
Downtown (5th Ave.): low table with rotating toys, di-cut machine (awesome!), LARGE games such as chess, connect four, etc.; several computers, large fish tank, rotating craft table…SO MANY books!
Pittsfield (Oak Valley Drive): plastic ball machine, several computers, separate room for stories with a closet of toys
Traverwood (Traver): several computers, wooden puzzles, closet of toys