Who knew that diving into an ocean of 80,000 balls would be so fun?
My daughter did.
She’d been begging me for months to take her to Ocean Adventures Indoor Playground, aka “The Place with the Ball Pit.” Then, on one recent Sunday afternoon, we went, and discovered that her anticipation had been happily justified.
Ocean Adventures is an indoor immersive playground geared toward children ages 12 and under, although older kids can play, as long as they agree to the Safe Play Pledge. Adults are welcome to play, too. Just no roughhousing, okay?
Play sessions here last two hours, and you can choose from Low Tide (Tuesday-Thursday, $5 per session), or High Tide (Friday-Sunday, $6 per session). Since we were planning on going during the busier High Tide, I bought tickets online beforehand for my daughter and her friend in order to guarantee their spots, as there are a limited number available per session.
Limiting the number of participants helps make the chaos of an indoor children’s playground more manageable, as does having several staff members in the play area who ensure that everyone is abiding by the Safe Play Pledge. But the staff members aren’t there just to police the playground; they engage with the children and model fun – yet safe – behavior themselves.
Sometimes you’ll even catch a glimpse of owner Billy Garrigan in the playground. Billy is the former owner of All Aboard Ice Cream, where you can eat ice cream on a vintage train car, and kids can take rides on a mini train. While All Aboard is still operating under a new owner, it was Billy’s vision that made it a family-friendly destination, and he brings that same passion to Ocean Adventures, as well.
All ages are welcome in the main play area at Ocean Adventures. In addition to the massive ball pit, kids can crawl through tunnels, navigate obstacle courses,
see how many balls they can toss into the hoops on the walls,
and play peek-a-boo through the woven floor on the second story.
They can whirl down the spiral slide,
or “splash” directly into the ocean of balls from the short slides,
or the long (26-foot) slides.
If your little one has just started toddling and you feel like the main play area would be too overwhelming, then head on over to the Little Squirts play area, which is geared towards children ages 3 and under. There’s even padded seating around the Little Squirts area so that you can keep a close eye on your wee fishy.
For those of you leery of bringing your kid to a place where lots of kids – some sweaty, some sneezy – all share the same equipment, here’s some information that will ease your mind. Ocean Adventures closes for one hour between each session to clean play surfaces, and every week, all of the balls in the pit are sanitized in a commercial cleaning machine. Feel better?
But, wait. I sense you have another concern. With so much activity going on at Ocean Adventures, you’re wondering how you’ll be able to keep track of your little ones. There’s no need to worry, thanks to KidCheck which matches children with their parents. You can complete the information for KidCheck online before you go, or do so when you arrive. Identification information is then printed out and secured to your child’s wrist, and a copy of that information is given to you in a receipt form. When your session is over, a staff member will check to make sure your receipt matches your child’s bracelet before you leave.
You do need to remain on site with your child for the duration of your session, too. Save your solo Target run for another day. Instead, grab one of your friends and let your kids play while you and your friend have a (mostly) uninterrupted adult conversation in the viewing area, which is what my friend Julie and I did.
Of course, if you are a really cool parent, you can participate in Ocean Adventures play-together environment and jump into the ball pit right along with your child. Just remember to bring a pair of socks.
If you’re an even cooler parent, you’ll buy your kid a snack or beverage,
or even a refreshing shaved ice from the Surf Shack.
If you’re the coolest parent ever, you’ll leave Ocean Adventures with not only your child, but one of these adorable mermaids and other plush ocean creatures.
Or, you can leave with a free souvenir: a photo of you and your child taken in the Beachside Photo Booth. Here, an oversized Adirondack chair sits on Joplin Beach (who knew?), and makes for a fun tropical scene – in the middle of the Ozarks.
The photo booth is located next to the party rooms, and because there were a lot of people standing in that area, we never saw it on the day we visited.
In fact, I never even knew it existed until I saw some photos posted on Ocean Adventures’ Facebook page a few days later (and then, when I was putting this post together, I noticed the Adirondack chair in the corner of the photo I took of the Little Squirts area).
I guess we’ll have to go back.
And, next time, I’ll bring some socks so I can take a dip in the “ocean” with my daughter.
Do you want to book a birthday party at Ocean Adventures Indoor Playground? Click here.
Ocean Adventures Indoor Playground is located at 2630 S. Duquesne Road. Click here to visit its website.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.