Name: Kids Town Play & Party, an indoor play spot that features about a dozen themed play areas with toys, costumes and more.
Location: 1141 E. Butterfield Road in Wheaton, next to Fox Bowl, at the intersection of Bradford and Butterfield. It’s located in a strip mall about a mile to the east of the intersection of Butterfield and Naperville Road. While the strip mall has some vacancies and looks a bit run down on the outside, you’ll find that Kids Town is very modern, open and clean inside.
Hours as of February 2017: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Please call ahead to 630-260-8545 to make sure these hours are current before your visit.)
Price as of February 2017: Daily admission features an unlimited time of playing. The cost is $12 per child for those 1 and older and $6 per child under 1. Adults and additional siblings under the age of 1 are free. Kids Town offers punch cards and annual memberships, and sometimes offers specials through Groupon. You can bring your own lunch or snacks. Note that everyone is required to wear socks.
Amenities: Kids Town offers free wireless Internet access. There are few different areas where parents can sit and relax – one features couches, a television and magazines. The front desk sells snacks (like Bunny Grahams) and beverages. There is a Keurig coffee machine for adults, too. Kids Town hosts semi-private and private parties. It designates itself as a “Peanut-Free Zone,” and you’re asked not to bring anything containing peanuts into the facility.
Good For: Toddlers through young school-age children. There is a special, padded area with age-appropriate toys for babies. Kids Town says it is designed for children up to 7 years old, but there is no age limit.
Our Experience: My daughter gave up naps relatively early — right when she hit 3 years old — but it’s hard to arrange afternoon playdates or sign up for park district classes when everyone else’s kid (or the younger siblings) are napping. I found Kids Town about two years ago, and we’re still regular afternoon visitors, even though it’s nearly a 30-minute drive from our house.
For those of you who might remember the now-closed Kids Play World in St. Charles, Kids Town is based on a similar idea. But it is much larger and more open. Like at least four times larger. It has about a dozen themed play areas and rooms. For instance, the “library” features lots of puzzles and books. The veterinarian’s office has stuffed animals, accessories to diagnose their ailments and a big fish tank with live fish. There’s a jail; a fire station with a cute radio dispatch station; a dance floor; a “princess” room with stuff for a tea party; a kitchen; a train room; a construction room … You get the idea. There are of course lots of toys and costumes that fit the themes. There are also a few mini cars that kids push with their feet and a puppet theater.
Kids Town also has a large, two-level padded piece of gym equipment that kids can climb up and around and through and slide down. It’s hard to describe, but it’s neat and my daughter loves it.
Parents can relax or read in a lounge area that features couches, magazines and a television. The lounge area is right in the midst of the play area — there are certainly places your kid could play where you couldn’t see from the lounge area, but they’ll likely be running by every few moments. I like to take my laptop to the tables in the lunch area to work, but because that area is off to the side, I do get up pretty often to make sure I know what my daughter is up to.
You can bring your own lunch or snacks to eat in the lunch area; you are just requested not to bring anything with peanuts. You can also buy pizza from a restaurant called Stella’s next door.
The Takeaway: Despite the longish drive, my daughter and I are always happy when we visit Kids Town. I get to work on my laptop or even just sit down and space out a bit! If we don’t meet friends there, she almost always finds a playmate to hang with. Because of the space, it never feels crowded. And I love all the imaginative play she engages in while we’re there.
The facility is always super clean; at the front desk, they advertise they use some kind of eco-friendly cleaning products. The staff is good about regularly picking up the toys, too.
Kids Town hosts birthday parties – either private or semi-private. The owner told me recently that he hosted a party for adults featuring a karaoke machine. It was a group of friends who wanted to hang out, but by having it at Kids Town, they knew their kids would also be safe and happy.
I know the knock on places like Kids Town is that they are expensive, and if you have more than one child, the cost does add up. But if you do go, plan on staying for an extended visit — bring your lunch or hearty snacks; make sure you have enough diapers for the little ones. In my family, we always end up leaving Kids Town feeling the money spent was worth it — my daughter is usually tuckered out, I’m relaxed from seeing her have so much fun without me having to entertain her. Now if I could only get the Kids Town staff to come regularly pick up the toys off my living room floor ..