Indoor rock climbing is an excellent way for kids to get some needed activity in the dead of winter, though it can be enjoyed year-round. Plan a visit to one of these rock climbing walls in New York City and let kids scale someone else's walls for a change. Major bonus: The sport takes concentration, discipline, and strength; all skills you'll be more than happy to help them build.
New York City boasts more than a dozen indoor bouldering and rock climbing spots in every borough but the Bronx. While a couple of these are only open during the summer, most are year-round destinations. The best part? Kids tend to love the activity, and it isn't too pricey. Try a drop-in program or sign up for one of the many after-school classes or school break camps offered at these rock climbing gyms for kids profiled below.
Find more active fun in our Guide to Sports Centers.
Rock Climbing Walls for Kids in Manhattan
Kids ages 7-12 can join Climb Club which meets several times during the week. Kids learn basic climbing skills and techniques through games, creative challenges, and skill-building activities. Competitive teams are offered for children ages 7-18. Drop-in climbing is also available, and kids ages 5 and under get a break on admission, too.
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The climbing wall at the Field House at Chelsea Piers is 23-feet tall and perfect for ages 5-16. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Piers
Many of us have escorted little ones to birthday parties at this mega-sports spot and seen the 23-foot-high climbing wall designed with kids in mind. Children ages 5-16 can try a Rock-N-Rolls session. In these 90-minute classes, kids receive 45 minutes of rock climbing instruction and 45 minutes of gymnastics instruction. Reservations are required. There are great birthday party options that include the rock wall, too.
This health club offers 5,000 square feet of climbing space for your little one's enjoyment. Children ages 4 and older are welcome to climb. The club suggests mom or dad take an introductory class to learn the essentials of the sport, including belaying (holding the rope to which your child is attached). This allows your child access to the wall whenever the club is open. Birthday party packages are also available.
The Cliffs Harlem is a massive indoor bouldering gym with tons of walls to conquer. Photo by Jody Mercier
The family of climbing gyms around the city opened its sprawling Harlem location in 2021. It offers a variety of programs for kids, including classes, camps, and teams. Keep in mind The Cliffs Harlem is strictly a bouldering gym, so there are no ropes or harnesses used.
This uptown duo is dedicated to the art of bouldering, meaning ropes and harnesses are not used. Climbers ages 5 and older are welcome to scale the walls at the East Side location, while ages 8 and up can visit the West Harlem spot. Both sites offer after-school, weekend classes, and competitive team options. Birthday party packages are available. Steep Rock Bouldering is in the process of merging with Brooklyn's VITAL Climbing Gym and soon will operate under that brand.
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The Brooklyn Bouldering Project, formerly Brooklyn Boulders, offers options for all ability levels, including after-school and weekend classes for kids. Photo courtesy of the gym
Rock Climbing Walls in Brooklyn for Kids
Formerly known as Brooklyn Boulders, this long-time Brooklyn Climbing Gym was recently acquired by a new ownership group. While updates to its programs are unclear, one thing you can expect is the same state-of-the-art climbing gym that's occupied the space for years. Read our review of the original location.
GP81 – Greenpoint, Brooklyn
This new community-built, training-focused bouldering gym is currently limited to ages 13 and up, but it may be a good option for local teens who are serious about climbing.
MetroRock Brooklyn uses auto-belays to make it easy for kids to get climbing fast. Photo courtesy of MetroRock Brooklyn
MetroRock Climbing, which has three locations in Massachusetts and Vermont, has now opened a massive spot in Bushwick. Kids can come in and climb anytime, thanks to its auto-belays. After-school programs, birthday parties, and climbing teams are also available.
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VITAL Climbing Gym offers youth classes, camps, competitive teams, and plenty of birthday party options, too. Photo by Jullia Wolfson
This bouldering gym (so no harnesses or belays) offers youth classes, camps, teams, and birthday party packages. Kids must be at least 6 for the classes and camps and at least 8 for the teams. The gym also offers aerial silks classes for those 13 and older.
The Cliffs at Gowanus brings a brand new climbing gym to Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of the venue
The Cliffs open its fourth NYC location in Gowanus this month. With three floors of climbing and bouldering walls, some that reach up to 45 feet, rock climbers of every skill level will be able to have fun. The Cliffs Gowanus promises a wide range of youth programs for kids of all skill levels and ages, including camps. Stay tuned!
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Learn the ropes at The Cliffs LIC. Photo courtesy of The Cliffs LIC
Rock Climbing Walls in Queens & Staten Island
The Cliffs – Long Island City, Queens
This LIC facility offers introductory classes for children and adults and multiple teams for kids, whether they want a competitive or recreational experience. Camp opportunities during school breaks enable kids to hone skills, and birthday party packages are available.
A climbing mecca, Brooklyn Boulders allows children as young as 5 to scale its regular walls. There are after-school and weekend classes, so kids can master the basics. There are also teen programs and party-perfect space rentals for all ages, including adults. It also offers a summer camp.
SkyZ Extreme – Charleston, Staten Island
Under new ownership, this Staten Island climbing gym uses the sport to challenge people to test their limits and be their best. In addition to rock climbing, circus arts and general fitness classes are offered. Birthday party packages are available.
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Kids can climb outdoors in warmer months at The Cliffs at Dumbo. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
Seasonal Rock Climbing Walls in NYC for Kids
The Cliffs opened this seasonal climbing spot in the summer of 2016 under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Parkgoers can try their bouldering skills on these manmade cliffs, which organizers say make up the largest outdoor bouldering area in North America. Multiple climbing walls are available, including a beginner's area that's best for kids. Dumbo Boulders is open spring through fall.
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The climbing wall at Governors Island is not only challenging but also has a beautiful view. Photo courtesy of Governors Island
The Climbing Challenge at Governors Island debuted in 2017 as part of Adventures at GI, a trio of attractions that also includes a zip line and maze. It's a 25-foot structure with three different paths to choose from, and it's aimed primarily at kids.
More Nearby Options
There are also child-sized rock climbing walls at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and the New York Hall of Science in Queens that are included with museum admission. Brooklyn play space Fairytale Island has a small wall, as does Bounce 'N Play in Astoria, Queens, and there is a tiny one at Chelsea Playground on Staten Island. For another outdoor option, visit the Pier 25 playground or the brand new Battery Playscape.
A version of this article was published in February 2018; it is updated annually.