Most Diverse: LIFE The Place To Be, Ardsley
LIFE The Place To Be calls itself “a modern industrial event space on the cutting edge of special event venues.” But since we were there to check out the play area we stuck to that part of the facility. We found a decent-sized playquad on one side, and an array of arcade games (filling up 3,000 square feet) on the other. Our younger panelists loved the playquad’s orange slide, which featured three revolutions and was so fast it kicked up actual sparks on the way down. “It only happens to big kids,” Aidan boasted to little brother Christian.
After a spirited game our panelists called “Climbing Monsters,” Christian did end up making some pyrotechnics, too. “Now I got electric!” he beamed. Lulu, our senior panelist at 10, preferred the video games. “I shot some animals and drove a car,” she said coolly.
Additional fun-time features include four mini AMF bowling alleys, a rock climbing wall, and laser tag.
Most Cerebral: Great Play, Scarsdale
Featuring interactive wall projections that change with the games—a packed stadium and a starry sky, to name a couple—Great Play, in the basement of the Midway Shopping Center, takes the play space concept to new levels of sophistication, infusing frolic with occupational- and physical-therapy principles.
Charlotte took a motor skills class and loved the spinning wheel that landed on a certain color, sending the kids scrambling to find beanbags and balls around the room sharing that color. “It’s like an Easter egg hunt!” she gushed.
Gavin took a sports class. Not a big fan of jock activity, he probably would’ve preferred the imagination-fueled spaceship voyage featured in Charlotte’s class, but gamely picked up soccer pointers from the patient “coaches” and was pleased to see his kick garner 15 mph on the radar gun.
Most Athletic: The Play Place, Elmsford
Play Place has a pair of super-fast parallel slides and an inviting tangle of tunnels and ramps. There’s also a swirly slide; Gavin invoked a Harry Potter reference when he said going down it felt like “apparating.” “You disappear and reappear in another place,” he explained.
Several parents got a kick out of the slides, too. “Terrifying,” said one woman in neck-to-ankle Love Pink sweats.
What sets Play Place apart? The mini soccer field and two kid-sized tennis courts, giving the children a friendly introduction to the sports. According to its website, Play Place considers these smaller multipurpose sports fields “the perfect learning environment that is much more effective and rewarding. We ensure that kids feel successful right from the start.” Still, Charlotte preferred the playquad. “Looks like Charlotte made a friend,” said Gavin as his little sis chatted with another girl.
“I like your shirt,” the girl said, pointing to Minnie Mouse on Charlotte’s chest.
“She definitely made a friend,” said Gavin.
Most Vertical: Bounce U, Elmsford
Bounce U, which specializes in “perfect party ideas” also features programs, classes, and open bounce time, which is where we came in. We found two large rooms filled with inflatable fun, featuring one enormous Thunderdome-esque blow-up equipped for basketball, volleyball, football, dodgeball, and, yes, Twister. There’s a blow-up boxing ring and giant gloves for the combatants—Eliana gave the boys as good as she got—and a slick inflated slope kids try to climb, then pin a Velcro flag on as high as they can before slipping back to Earth.
Our panelists liked the five-level climbing web the most; it offered a sweet payoff for those who make it to the top. “We get to go down the long bouncy slide!” said Ryan.
Most Horizontal: Leapin’ Lizards, Port Chester
Before there were any of these places, there was Leapin’ Lizards, which bills itself as “THE play and party place for kids in Westchester.”
It’s essentially one giant playquad spread across a cavernous loft space, full of tunnels, slides (corkscrew and straight), and an enormous ball pit. Imagine the greatest McDonald’s PlayPlace in the world, without the week-old McNuggets underfoot. “Leapin’ Lizards is a good name,” said Gavin. “You do a lot of leaping.”
The kids made up a game called “Monster Party”—it’s always monsters with these guys—and later visited the arcade tucked into the corner, trading in win tickets for rubber lizards and spiders.
“My favorite thing was everything!” said Leo.