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Cheap Thrills: 30+ Drop-in Play Spaces for NJ Kids That Cost $15 or Less

When it’s too cold for the playground, and another playdate at home seems dull (or, to be honest, too stressful), taking your kid to a warm indoor play space is a welcome respite for the whole family. 

New Jersey has no shortage of indoor playgrounds from North Jersey to South Jersey, plenty of which offer drop-in hours. Still, many of these hot spots require long-term memberships or pricey entrance fees that often run $20 to $25 per child for a single drop-in.

When you just need someplace clean, fun and warm for your kids to play—that's not your living room—we found more than 30 indoor gems, all for $15 per child or significantly less, and some that are absolutely free! Your kids still get out of the house to experience a play space where everything seems new to them, and you don't have to clean up after, or empty your wallet! 

And don't forget your nearby shopping mall, where you'll often find low-key indoor playgrounds where kids can work out the wiggles while you shop. 

Find more indoor fun spots in our local NJ guide, or try these at-home boredom busters for days when you just want to stay in. If you find yourself with a full day to fill and you're up for a little more adventure, plan a winter day trip.

Free Indoor Play Places for Philly Area Kids

Any time of year, Philly parents might be wondering where to go for a fun escape from the cooler weather or hot sun. Thankfully, Philadelphia is home to tons of museums and playgrounds, but did you know that there are also plenty of family-friendly spots for free indoor fun? We've rounded up some great indoor venues below, and also some other spots that parents will enjoy as well. Did we mention they're all free?

Long Island Attractions Free for Toddlers and Babies Under 2

Looking for places to stay and play with your little one without breaking the bank? There are destinations on Long Island that offer fun for all without a hefty price tag. Check out this list of local hot spots where babies ages 2 and younger are FREE.

Now, what to do with all the extra cash? Peep our list of top mommy-and-me baby classes on Long Island and also check out our indoor activities or baby age guides for some ideas.

11 NJ Play Cafes with Fun for Kids and Perks for Parents

Once you become a parent, it’s all about the kids. That’s what "they" always say, right? Well, for the most part, that’s absolutely true—but, every once in a while, parents get a pass for fun (or at the very least, some time to fuel up for the rest of the day), too. The founders of some of our most-loved New Jersey indoor play spaces certainly seem to think so, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the parental perks they’ve been brewing up!

From free Wi-Fi to seating that’s both comfortable and functional; and coffee that rivals cups from your favorite java joint to snacks and sips that go way beyond basic vending machine munchies; these premiere places put in the work to earn their stripes in the play cafe category—and have even become day trip–worthy in their own right.

Read on for 11 of the best spots catering to kids and their caretakers. At the end of the day, if the little ones love it, it’s well worth the cost of admission; if mom and dad get something out of it, too, then that’s grounds for repeat returns.

Enjoy These Long Island Cafes With Kids' Play Spaces

A place for children to play and parents to connect with other moms and dads.

That’s exactly what Long Island play cafes offer. Enjoy these fun, safe venues for your child’s next play date: They'll have fun and explore, and you'll relax with a snack, catch up with your peers, or just relish some me time. Of course, parents are required to keep an eye on their children at all times.

For more seasonal fun ideas, check out our guide to indoor play spaces and our roundup of sensory play spaces on Long Island. And don’t forget our Winter Fun Guide for a host of ideas sure to keep your kids happily occupied during the winter months.

Hudson Valley Indoor Play Places Worth the Trip

When it’s raining or freezing or simply a day that ends in Y, a good indoor play place can be a godsend for entertaining kids. We’ve already taken a look at some of the top indoor play places in Westchester, and now we’re going to turn our attention to the rest of the Lower Hudson Valley. These play spaces are all worth a trip across the bridge. 

Looking for more places to have fun when the weather's not cooperating? Check out our Guide to Indoor Fun & Play Spaces for Westchester Kids, and be sure to sign up for our newsletters!  

Indoor Play Spots for NYC Toddlers with Weekend Hours

Indoor play spots are an essential resource for NYC families with young children (and limited square feet) as temperatures begin a steady decline into winter. Unfortunately, so many of the city's indoor play spots are limited to weekday hours. That's great for caregivers Monday through Friday, but mom and dad are left out in the cold, scrambling to fill up those chilly fall, rainy spring or snowy winter weekends with their preschoolers in other ways.

Luckily, we've uncovered over two dozen fantastic play spaces that get it, and are keeping weekend, drop-in play hours for kids, no membership required. All include playthings sized just right for the little ones, including for babies in many instances. They are stroller-friendly and equipped with changing stations, making them no-fuss options for the toddler squad.

The Best Escape Rooms on LI for Tweens and Teens

If you’re looking to keep your tween or teen entertained for an hour or two in a way that doesn’t involve electronics, we have two words for you: Escape rooms.

Escape rooms are one of the hottest crazes to hit Long Island in recent years, popping up throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. Originally targeted to adults, many LI escape rooms are now perfect for tweens and teens, whether it’s for a birthday party, a school or camp field trip, Saturday afternoon play date, or a family night out.

Not familiar with this new form of interactive entertainment? A group of people are "locked" in a room for an hour (per state law, doors cannot technically be locked), and have to work together to figure out the clues that will get them out. And when we say room, we’re talking elaborately decorated spaces with specific themes that can be funny, scary, or cerebral, and everything in between.

We’ve put together a list of some of Long Island's most popular escape room venues for kids. Check individual websites for details since prices vary, as do the number of rooms available, how many people each holds, difficulty levels, and age restrictions. Themes occasionally change also. Try one or more. Each offers a unique way for kids to use their imaginations, develop team-building and problem-solving skills, and most of all, have a blast.

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