The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Indoor Playgrounds (with Air Conditioning!)

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Parents know that the best thing you can do with kids is find them someplace you can launch them like rocks from a trebuchet so they can ricochet off objects and other kids until inertia slows them to a stop.

I sincerely hope that everyone knows I meant that figuratively. Do not put small children in the trebuchet you for whatever reason own.

Here's the issue... it's hot. The average temperature of Houston in the summer is infinity degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is like being wrapped in towels straight from a pot of boiling hot dog water. The only solution is to find places indoors for your kids to run around. Here are the ten best in Houston.

10. McDonald's Find locations with Play Places

Sadly, the fast food/jungle gym combination is in the decline. Only Chick-Fil-A seems to still consider them standard add-ons, and that's a mixed bag at best. On the one hand the company seasons their food with the tears of bullied gay children, but on the other they give out cow hats and are apparently the only fast food restaurant that cleans their playground equipment with any real stringency.

I still prefer McDonald's myself for a good play stop, especially now that they offer stuff like apple slices for snacks. Their play places, especially the ones built in the last decade or so, are generally cool and most of all free to use. Speaking of big corporate managed play pens...

9. IKEA 7810 Katy Freeway

Yes, ball pits are full of disease. You know what? They're also awesome and IKEA's playroom has one of the best in town. You can use the kid's area to occupy your offspring while you do the furniture shopping, or just head on over there for a few hours of balltastic goodness. If you visit on Tuesdays, your kids can also eat for free in the restaurant upstairs, and while IKEA's restaurant is never going to win a culinary award it's at least better than most fast food.

8. Main Event 1125 Magnolia Ave

It involves a trip down to Webster, but Main Event is definitely one of the places you can spend an afternoon in the air conditioning with your kids as they tackle the many attractions. They offer laser tag, bowling (With kiddie bumpers) and a glow in the dark miniature golf course! It can get expensive, though, as each attraction costs money. However, they do run frequent specials and discounts, so if you've got the time to plan out a trip around them you can get away with spending not much less than your average trip to the museum.

7. Planet Wow 10601 South Sam Houston Pkwy W

If bouncy castles are your thing then Planet Wow can be a wonderful time. Your best bet for peak fun is to book a party there, but they are more than happy to let you in provided someone doesn't already have the arenas booked. There are two play areas full of bouncy goodness, and $10 gets you into either of them for an hour and a half. $3 off kids tickets if you go on a school day. You have to keep an eye on the website if you want to just drop in because weekends fill up fast with private events, but if you notice a hole in their calendar jump on it because it's a great time at a pretty good price.

6. Wonderwild

707 N Shepherd Dr #500

In the same vein as Planet Wow is Wonderwild. It's definitely more centrally located, but is a little less friendly towards open play if you're only time with your kids is on the weekends. Even the expensive memberships you can buy are good only Monday through Friday. That said, if you have the option of a weekday out then Wonderwild is definitely the better choice. They have a lot more play options including a good sized bouncer, a train, small ball pit, and more. The same price that you'd pay at Planet Wow lets you enjoy all of them from open till close.

5. Monkey Bizness 9750 West Sam Houston Pkwy N

If possible, Monkey Bizness has even more restrictive open play options than Planet Wow and Wonderwild. It's strictly from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, but luckily an open play date is good until close. They offer a really, really nice play set up of bouncers, air hockey, and more, and it's one of the cheaper options to boot. Kids can get in for as low as $5 if you get there early, and parents are absolutely free. It's one of the best options for a stay-at-home parent on a budget, and the staff is super nice. Germaphobes that may have been turned off from the first two entries will also be pleased to know it's consistently super clean.

4. Stomping Grounds

15415 Southwest Fwy

It's all the way out in Sugarland, but Stomping Grounds is one of the few indoor play facilities that has weekends hours, being open until 8 p.m. on Monday through Saturdays, and until 7 p.m. on Sundays. It's also super affordable. Kids pay as low as $4.25 and parents are free. There's 2,000 sq ft of play area for kids to climb and slide through, and they boast probably the best food options on this list with their café selection offering salads, paninis, and coffee. It can get insane on the weekends, and their toddler section is kind of a joke. If you have older kids that want to hurl themselves through mazes like rabid monkeys, though, it is absolutely tops.

3. Memorial City Mall 303 Memorial City Way

Personally, my go to indoor playground is the set up in the Memorial City Mall. It's easily the best of all the mall playgrounds in Houston, with a huge tree house, two slides, a sea serpent to climb, tunnels to hide in, and a very friendly atmosphere. The playground is gated and manned by a security guard, so there's no danger of your kids wandering off into the mall, and the whole setup is surrounded by very comfortable seating so you can relax while they run wild. It's also totally free, and open during mall hours.

Being in the mall, you also have the option to go ride the carousel for $2 (Parents are free as long as they're not on an animal), the train that circles the mall for $4, and you can take soda and popcorn breaks at the nearby Target for $1 each.

2. Children's Museum of Houston 1500 Binz St

I was honestly not going to include the Children's Museum on this list. It's the only option where you're likely to have to pay to park, there's zero chance your child won't drag you out into the sun (Which is the purpose of this guide), and the open air tricycle area upstairs is hotter than a cookie sheet right out of the oven. Still, they have probably the best toddler-aged playroom in the city upstairs, and the activities in the museum itself are always a good way to expend some energy while getting a little extra learning in. Also, there are catapults, and may lightning strike me if I ever fail to endorse a place that allows my daughter to use a catapult.

1. Jumping World USA

14147 Northwest Freeway

Though they have a kid's court and moonwalks, Jumping World is really for older children and teens. And those kids will have the time of their lives! I grew up with a trampoline, and this is the perfect way to go Super Mario without all that pesky falling down and almost dying involved. The open floor is enormous and kids will instantly be in sheer Heaven the moment they step out onto the trampolines. There's even a dodgeball league you can join. You have to pay by the hour, unfortunately, but the odds of you being able to take more than an hour of hardcore jump action are pretty slim. Jumping World is just incredible.

If your kids are gamers, check out our Top 10 Places for Video Games in Houston. We've got a wonderful guide for comic fans as well.

Jef With One F is a recovering rock star taking it one day at a time. You can read about his adventures in The Bible Spelled Backwards or connect with him on Facebook.

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