This is a guest post written by Pam Choc.
Although Salem’s winter weather is tame compared to my former stomping ground of Montana, there are still many days when I feel the need to hibernate in the warm and dry indoors. Unfortunately, my toddler doesn’t seem to share my vision of peaceful relaxation–his energy level doesn’t seem to fluctuate with the seasons. (If you’re a parent of a toddler, you know the intense energy level that I’m referring to.)
Fortunately, there are several indoor play areas in Salem where I can take refuge from the rain and my little boy can play with the intensity that only summer usually allows.
Northwest Kids Club
This indoor play area is located on Commercial Street in South Salem. With 7,000 square feet of indoor fun (including a baby area, a princess room, a play kitchen/store area, play structure, bounce house, train room, and bikes/push toys), you really can’t go wrong with a busy toddler or child under 8 years old. They have an eating area if you want to bring your lunch–it’s a no nut zone, so leave the pb & j at home.
Kids can run and play without disturbing other customers in the Broadway Coffeehouse play room, and as a bonus for adults, the Broadway Coffeehouse serves some of the best coffee in Salem (Stumptown Coffee Roasters, located in Portland). The play room doesn’t have very many toys (only a magnet table and a few wall toys…think Doctor’s office), so it’s always best to bring your own. Access to the playroom is free when you buy your coffee, and they take their coffee SERIOUSLY. I would be happy with the instant coffee of the 1970’s as long as my son is content, but their hand roasted coffee and artistic lattes give me a taste of luxury during my day. They also sell some kid’s drinks (apple/orange juice), apples, and pastries from Great Harvest Bakery. Get a cup with a lid since the kids’ area is on the third floor–it is unlikely that you will reach the play room with a toddler pulling on the same arm that is carrying the bag of toys and a cup of coffee that is not protected with a lid. Don’t ask me how I know that.
A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village
This children’s museum is a fabulous place to spend a few hours indoors while playing and learning together. They have several rotating exhibits (right now it is the veterinary clinic…pure genius!), but they always have the general store, the China room, the bubble room, the photographic wall room, and the train room among others. When the weather is nice, the outside play area can keep the kids entertained for hours, but it is definitely to be avoided in the rain because you will never spend “just 5 minutes” outside. The “Gilbert House” (as it is called by locals) is conveniently located close to the Riverfront Carousel and Riverfront Park (which has a really nice outdoor playground and summertime splash park). Family memberships at the museum are $70 per year, and membership includes admission to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry–a WONDERFUL Portland museum) among many other children’s museums throughout the country.
The Kroc Center has nice indoor water slides and a leisure pool. For older kids, they have a rock wall and gym for kids to burn off the extra energy. It is located in Northeast Salem, and day passes for children are only $5.00.
Salem Public Library
Not only does the library offer story time and a variety of shows for children, it also has a Discovery Room full of hands-on activities. The theme of the room changes every couple of months, there are many interactive and creative activities for children covering a wide variety of subjects such as literature, science, math, drama, drawing, and other creative play. The Discovery Room is staffed by volunteers and doesn’t always have regular hours, so it may be best to call first to make sure it’s open when you plan to go there.
This coffeehouse in South Salem caters specifically to parents with children. They offer various seating areas for adults to chat while the kids play with the train table, doll house, or a variety of other toys. The coffee is Caffe Vita Roasters out of Seattle, and it’s quite good. They have a variety of snacks (including some healthy and organic options) and sandwiches (including vegetarian options). Their motto is quite appropriate: “The kids will never know just how good the coffee is.”