Indoor rock climbing is a great way for kids to get some needed activity in the dead of winter or year-round. Why not let them bounce off someone else’s walls for a change, right? Plus, it takes concentration, discipline, and strength, all qualities we're happy to expose them to.
New York City boasts more than half a dozen indoor boulders, at least one in almost every borough, plus a brand-new outdoor, seasonal spot. The best part? Kids tend to love the activity and it isn't too pricey. Try it out in a drop-in program, or sign up for one of the many after-school classes or break camps offered at the eight rock climbing facilities profiled below.
Find more active fun in our Kids' Sports Centers Guide.
Aviator Sports and Events Center – Marine Park, Brooklyn
Floyd Bennett Field, 3159 Flatbush Avenue
This massive airplane-hanger-turned-sports-center boasts a 35-foot-high wall in the Main Street area of the complex. Children ages 5 and older can climb on a first-come, first-served basis. Hours vary, so call before heading out. Aviator also offers rock climbing birthday parties.
Brooklyn Boulders offers options for all ability levels, including after-school and weekend classes for kids. Photo by Mommy Poppins.
Brooklyn Boulders – Gowanus, Brooklyn, and Long Island City, Queens
575 Degraw Street, near Third Avenue
23-10 41st Avenue
A climbing mecca, Brooklyn Boulders has a separate wall for kids and allows children as young as 4 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. The Queens location even offers camps. If your climber has a competitive streak, consider having them try out at either location for the Brooklyn Beasts climbing team.
The Cliffs – Long Island City, Queens
11-11 44th Drive
This LIC facility offers introductory classes for children and adults and multiple team experiences 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.
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Kids can climb outdoors in warmer months at DUMBO Boulders. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala.
DUMBO Boulders – Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn
Main Street section of the park
This seasonal climbing post was opened by the Cliffs in Long Island City in summer 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 better for kids. DUMBO Boulders is open spring through fall, though we are still waiting to hear whether or not they'll return for the 2017 summer season.
The Field House at Chelsea Piers – Chelsea
23rd Street and Hudson River Park
Many of us have escorted little ones to birthday parties here and seen the 23-foot-high climbing wall designed with kids in mind. Children ages 5 to 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. If your child already has sufficient skills, drop in for an open, youth-only climbing session. There are great birthday party options that include the rock wall, too.
Manhattan Plaza Health Club – Midtown West
482 West 43rd Street near 10th Avenue
This health club offers 5,000 square feet of climbing space for your little one's enjoyment. There are no classes or groups for kids, but 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. Visit the website for pricing.
Rock 'Em Not Sock 'Em – Staten Island
3801 Victory Boulevard
This new Staten Island gym uses rock climbing as a vehicle to promote an anti-bullying platform, believing that in teaching kids to work together in conquering a climbing wall they are also learning to solve problems in other parts of their lives. There are multiple climbing options, including traditional bouldering and a ropes course. Day passes or memberships are available. Rock 'Em Not Sock 'Em also offers birthday party packages.
Steep Rock Bouldering – East Harlem
1506 Lexington Avenue
This spot 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. The on-site School of Rock engages kids ages 5-8 in the sport, teaching them the basics. Kids can progress to a variety of advanced after-school clubs and competitive teams. Birthday party packages are available.
More Nearby Options
There are also child-size rock climbing walls at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and the New York Hall of Science in Queens that are free with museum admission. New Brooklyn kids play space Curiosity on Court has a small wall, and there is a tiny one at Chelsea Playground on Staten Island with pay-to-play sessions. The Rock Club in New Rochelle might be closest for those in the Bronx, and you might also check out the new HudsonPlay in Jersey City with rock climbing, obstacle courses and more gym play for kids.
A version of this article first published in January 2011 but has since been updated.
Top photo: The 23-foot wall at Chelsea Piers is ideal for children ages 5 to 16.