For the next entry in our series of reader-submitted reviews of indoor play options, Dawn Santucci visits the Ball Factory in Naperville. It an Indoor play facility that includes a multilevel play structure, three large slides, a ball blaster room featuring guns and foam balls, a riding toys area, an interactive/digital floor where kids can pop “balloons” and more. Make sure to wear or bring socks! Read on for more info and Dawn’s take on the Ball Factory.
Q. Name of the Indoor Play Place:
Ball Factory Indoor Play and Café located at 864 Route 59 in Naperville. It is in a strip mall on the east side of 59 just north of Ogden. The phone number is 630-445-8365.
Q. Is there ample parking? Can you park close?
Because it is located in a strip mall the parking is not private to the facility. How close of a spot you get will depend on how busy it is (or how lucky you get). But, the parking lot is no bigger than the average lot, so you would never park really far away.
Q. How much does it cost?
Weekdays are priced lower than weekends (Sat/Sun), and younger kids priced lower than older. Prices are as follows: Newborns free. Crawlers free with a paid sibling (at full price and only 1 crawler per 1 sibling). 6 months to 4 years old $9 weekdays/$11 weekends. Kids 5-12 year old $12 weekdays/$14 weekends. Age 13+ free. Multiple visit play passes are available to purchase and there are often deals on Groupon; both of these will save you some money. They also offer a discounted rate after 3 p.m.during the week, and free admission to the first child at the door at opening.
Q. When is it open?
Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Q. When is the best time to go? When it is the least crowded?
It gets very busy on weekends and days off school. To avoid crowds go during the week.
Q. Was it crowded when you went? About how many kids were there when you visited?
The first time I went was shortly after they opened and it was not crowded at all. It was a weeknight, but it was during Thanksgiving break and the kids were off school the following day. This last time we went on a Friday, but the kids were off school and it was very crowded. We arrived at noon. It did seem to calm down a bit after 1 and a little more after 2, but it was still quite busy when we left at 3. I could not even venture to make a guess as to how many people were there. There were A LOT of people, yet I did not feel like running from the place screaming (I am not a crowd person).
Q. Are there public bathrooms? Is there a changing table?
Yes and given the number of people present they were surprisingly clean. They have a stall with a child toilet as well as a child sink. They do have a changing table in the big stall (bonus it has a leather pad on it!). There is another changing table in the private nursing room.
Q. Is there a private space to nurse?
They have one designated room. It contains a rocker and changing table. While it is great that such a room is available (and I did use it the first time I went when my son was 4 months old) I noticed in the three hours I was there this time that it was almost always occupied. It is great that it is being used (and that such a room is available), but with the kind of crowd that I experienced and the number of mothers with young babies I can only imagine there is quite a bit of competition for the room, and the chances of it being available when your little one is ready to eat might be
Q. What was your child’s favorite part of the play area? Least favorite?
My daughter (7) loves the slides, the climbing/soft play area, and the riding vehicles (and the gelato!). She loves everything there, really. We were both very disappointed to see that on our second visit the ball pit was gone. This was what she was looking forward to the most.
Q. What was your favorite part? Least favorite?
I am very appreciative of the entirely separate toddler area. There is nothing I do not like. The only thing that annoyed me the second time around involved the ball blaster room. While a great room and a lot of fun for the kids (I love the space mural!) 1) with high crowds kids stake their claim at the guns and never seem to leave. My nephew asked a kid who had been at a gun a while if he could have a turn and the kid said no! They have large bins to collect the balls. There were kids sitting at guns with 4-5 bins completely full. They were not going anywhere soon. None of the three older kids I was there with ever got a turn shooting a gun. And 2) it does sting a little to be shot with the gun from close range and I was in there chasing my toddler who was having fun throwing the balls around, and there were kids who were purposely shooting me and my toddler from very close range. I thought it was quite disrespectful.
Q. Is it clean?
Q. Was the staff friendly and attentive?
Front desk staff was very friendly at check in and when we ordered food. I only noticed two additional staff monitoring the play areas, which seemed low for the number of people there. And while I would not describe them as friendly, the woman monitoring the toddler area was apparently paying close attention because I witnessed a few things to suggest she was.
Q. Are you allowed to bring in outside food and drink? Is there a designated snack area? Is food sold there?
Outside food is not allowed. There is a designated food area and it’s quite large, although with big crowds it can still be hard to find a table at peak eating times. Food is sold there. They actually have a pretty large menu for such a place, and while I cannot speak to the quality of the food, it looked good and was reasonably priced. The only thing we tried (both times) was the gelato, and it was delicious!
Q. What ages to you feel this play area is best for?
It’s geared for children up to age 12. My 10-year old-nephew said he was bored after a couple hours, but my 7-year-old daughter did not want to leave after three hours and is asking when we will go back. My 18-month-old child also loved it.
Q. Is there a designated area for babies/toddlers?
There is, and it is awesome! I have been to a lot of places and this is my favorite toddler area. It is entirely enclosed and they get a mini version of what the older kids get (a soft play area to climb with their own slides). There are so many things to keep their attention. My 18 month old loved it. They are strict about it being for children 4 and under (and I really appreciate that strictness), but at times with the large crowd I found myself wishing the upper age limit was lower. At its busiest the toddler area was completely filled with 3 and 4 year olds. This intimated my toddler son and made it hard for him to explore and play freely. The other thing I noticed is that some of things that were available the first time we went were no longer there. They used to have bouncy chairs and exersaucers, as well as really fun swing. All of these things were no longer there.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to say about your family’s experience?
I liked that they have a large coat room with lots of hangers and lots of bins for shoes. They even offer FREE lockers!
More Info from Dawn:
The Ball Factory is an Indoor play facility that includes a multilevel play structure, 3 large slides, a ball blaster room (guns and foam balls), a riding toys area, and an interactive/digital floor where kids can pop “balloons.” Note: There used to be a large ball pit. It was empty when we were there. I do not know if there are plans to fill it again. There is also a very large and totally segregated toddler area. Socks are required to play. They are available for purchase if you forget. They have a full service café that sells coffee and treats as well as sandwiches and other hot items. There are plenty of comfortable couches spread throughout the facility for easy viewing of all areas. Parents are allowed up in the soft play area and on the slides. It is a great place to burn lots of energy and is a pretty good value for the price. It is a fun place and we will go back, but I would definitely be mindful about crowd potential and will try to limit it to weekdays only (when kids are not off school). It is clear that whoever designed the place really thought it through and it’s been almost a year and a half since our first visit and the place was in surprisingly good condition. I have noticed with other places that it does not take long for kids to destroy the walls, toys, and equipment. My family would highly recommend the Ball Factory!
About the Author: Dawn lives in St. Charles with her husband and two children.