by Erica Barker
Alexandria, VA – Sorry parents, but it’s that tough time of year again where keeping your kids busy becomes a slightly more difficult with the cold weather. Luckily, our local area has a great array of indoor play spaces and activities to entertain your little ones and keep them from going stir crazy in the winter months. Here are a few of my favorite, low-cost entertainment options for when you don’t feel like freezing outside.
For those indoor days, I recommend checking out two of Alexandria’s recreation centers that feature soft playrooms and other activities. The Chinquapin Recreation Center offers a large, soft playroom with a giant ball pit the size of a small swimming pool. The soft playroom is great for kids ages five and younger and has plenty of obstacles to climb, run, and play.
The Charles Houston Recreation Center has two great options for indoor play. On Saturday, the Rec Center sets up its gym with bounce houses, gymnastic mats, soft play obstacles, and tons of toys. They also have a smaller soft playroom that’s better suited for younger kids. All for the low cost of $5. Don’t forget to wear socks!
Chinquapin Recreation Center, 3210 King Street, Alexandria VA, 22302; Charles Houston Recreation Center, 901 Wythe Street, Alexandria VA, 22314.
When you get tired of indoor playrooms, head into D.C. and spend a morning at one of the 17 Smithsonian museums and galleries, plus the National Zoo. My favorite for younger kids is the American History Museum. This museum has a special kids’ play area, but you may find you don’t even need to venture there, as the museum’s exhibits are great for kids. The first floor is especially entertaining, with full-sized trains, buses, and cars to look at (and nothing breakable within reach!). This museum is stroller friendly and has lockers when you first come in to store your bulky winter gear.
My pro tip: If you get there shortly before 10 a.m. when it opens, there’s often metered street parking right in front of the building. National Museum of American History, 1300 Constitution Ave NW, in the District.
Here are my indoor picks for your upcoming weekends:
January 11: Check out Ice & Lights, the new Winter Village at Cameron Run in Alexandria. There you can go ice skating and walk through the village that has lights and other festive items. It’s a great place to take pictures. Strollers are welcome and recommended for little ones who tire easily.
January 18: Start your morning early and head to Scramble! right when it opens at 9 a.m. Located just outside of Old Town at 5412 Eisenhower Avenue, this huge indoor play space features different play stations for all age groups, with a convenient café area where parents can supervise with a coffee.
January 25: Enjoy one of the many free and interactive storytimes at Alexandria’s libraries. There are storytimes starting at 11 a.m. at both the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library and the James M. Duncan Jr. Branch Library.
February 2: Another unique indoor play spot for kids is the Springfield Town Center. Located a short drive from Alexandria, the mall has a free indoor play area that’s great for toddlers. In addition, there are a few paid activities throughout the mall, including a moving train. You can also check out Dave and Busters to play a little toddler-friendly skee-ball.
Erica Barker is the founder of littleoldtown.com, where she shares fun activities in the Alexandria area for parents and kids and she enjoys exploring the local area while keeping her kids entertained