Editors' pick

Great Kids Village

A giant indoor playground for kids, complete with a real fire truck.
Monday 3-7 p.m.
Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
(Columbia)
$15 ages 9 months to 10 years, $7.50 for additional siblings, free for age 10 and older
410-497-7529
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Editorial Review

A playground for winter days

It's cold. It's gray. The park is deserted. And Starbucks has too many things for your 2-year-old to knock over. What's a pent-up mama with an energetic toddler or two to do?

On a day when you've run out of finger paint, cookie dough and ideas, escape to Great Kids Village in Columbia.

Let the kids run around in the 24,000-square-foot warehouse-like space with 20 themed "rooms" divided by waist-high walls. Cinderblock walls and unflattering lighting give it a drab feeling, but your toddler won't notice. She'll be too busy exploring.

Would-be princesses can pretend to be Snow White or Cinderella in the "Dress Up and Dance Room," which has a big mirror reminiscent of a dance studio. In the "Space Room," kids can climb over and under a big plastic rock. No one will miss the real fire truck parked in one of the rooms, right next to the tractor with a small slide down the back. Another room doubles as a sandbox, overflowing with shovels, trucks and buckets.

"There's something for everyone here," said Breinny Mosella of Severn, who comes to Great Kids Village once a week with daughter Sophia, 3, and a couple of her mom friends and their kids.

The moms agreed that the low walls and enclosed play spaces make it easy to keep track of a crowd of youngsters.

"For the winter, it's something nice to do," said Rachel Richardson, who came from Annapolis with her two boys, ages 4 and 6, and a friend's kids. "We do a lot of running around, so this is a little quieter."

And indeed, some moms brought their books and read as their kids played.

Great Kids Village seems best suited for kids ages 3 to 6. The weekends are the busiest, when the space hosts a lot of birthday parties, but you can call ahead to get a sense of the crowd size.

A cafe offers hot dogs, chicken tenders, soda and packaged ice cream; outside food is not permitted. No gourmet coffee here either, but with ample room for kids to roam and plenty to keep them occupied, it's a good setup for parents to chat with one another on their own play date.

- Moira E. McLaughlin (Jan. 14, 2011)