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Indoor Places to Play for Free

This week in St. Louis the weather is either going to be cold or rainy or both. Not being able to get your little ones to the park to run off that extra energy can be a real drain on an at-home mommy. Of course most working moms haven’t seen a weekday playground visit since, oh…September.

indoor places to play in St louis

Your options during these cold and dark winter months are:

  1. Hunker down on the couch with yet another Disney movie (which I’m sure you’ve watched 20 times already).
  2. Play board games until your eyes bleed.
  3. Demand they learn to play with their own toys while you hide in your room.
  4. Go to an indoor play venue.

St. Louis has plenty of indoor places to play that are tons of fun. But the pizza-gocart-lazer tag game centers are also a ton of money and best saved for a special occasion.

• Do you know when the next Free Friday is at the Magic House? I do! •

Where can you go on an ordinary, bad weather, just get me out of the house now, sort of days?

Totally Free: Mall Playgrounds

Most malls have a decent indoor playgrounds good for little kids. They have padded floors, soft stuff to climb on, over and through and plenty of seating for weary moms. The one’s I’ve seen are set up with just one entrance, making it easy to relax while small ones frolic.

The one at the West County Mall is strategically placed next to a Starbucks and Cinnabon, so consider yourself warned. It’s next to the JCPenny, Build-a-Bear and according to what I’ve heard…the future Lego store.  (Blogger update: the Lego Store ended up down the hall a bit, so you can avoid the Siren call of those magical bricks…or just walk down there, they have a free play table!)

Chesterfield’s play area is also located next to Sears. They have the giant two-story carousel in the middle of the mall if you want to pay for some entertainment. St. Louis’ only American Girl store is also in this mall. They also seem to have a train running through the mall last time I visited…not sure what the hours are on that, so keep your eyes peeled!

South County Mall has one next to Sears, though honestly, I haven’t been there in a while. Mid River’s lists one on their map next to Sears as well.

Sorta Free: Fast Food Joints, Book Stores and Toy Stores

McDonald’s come to mind when you think of indoor playlands. Sure, some moms are grossed out when they think of Micky D’s, but I’ve had pretty good luck. The playlands are free, but you should really buy lunch or a snack if you’re going to use them. The one in Des Peres on Manchester (near West County Mall) is especially nice because they don’t allow food in the playroom.

Chick-fil-a in Arnold, Chesterfield and Sunset Hills has a nice playroom, similar to a McDonald’s but a little smaller. The room is glassed in, with just a bench for mom’s inside.

Barnes and Nobles (at least the one’s I’ve been in lately) have a kid’s corner in the children’s book section. Some have great train tables. Bonus: free wi-fi for mom. Plus, you can still feel like a proper customer while just getting a magazine or paperback for the kid, instead of artery clogging fries.

Frisco Train store in Valley Park has the biggest public train table we’ve seen. Your kids will love pushing trains around while you take a break and enjoy the free wi-fi. You can either pick up some train accessories (or a whole set) to take home or leave a donation in the potbelly stove.

Toys R Us usually has a train table set up for kids to test, but I don’t know that I’d try to spend the afternoon here. You could get away with a few minute of fun here on your way to grab Play-Doh supplies.

Free with Membership: Your Gym or Community Center

Do you belong to a gym? Great! Most have a kid’s room to watch the little ones while mommy works out. A good gym includes babysitting with the cost of membership, but some may pay extra. The Fenton Rec Center has an indoor jungle gym (like a playland, but without food) for kids under 10 that’s free for members or a couple bucks for visitors.

If your gym is also a community center then it most likely has an indoor pool with…ta da…a water play area. Of course this means suiting up, but sometimes moms can’t get away with sitting on the sidelines.