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[The List]: Indoor Playgrounds of Shanghai

Grab your socks, lots of indoor playgrounds have been sprouting up across our city. Here are 11 that are worth checking out while the summer heat lingers.
Last updated: 2017-08-22

As we learned two weeks ago, malls aren’t just for shopping anymore. Part of this shift from retail has included opening more indoor play areas for families, so the little ones can get their non-screen-related funtime in no matter what the weather is (or how poor the air quality is). It's a great time to be a kid in Shanghai. But just how fun are these indoor playgrounds?

We sent our shortest editor out to explore playgrounds across the land, on a mission to find the steepest slides and the deepest ball pits, assess how much they cost and how long they'd hold your kiddo's attention. We found 11 playgrounds that are worth checking out, all clean, safe, and super-duper fun.

Joypolis Wonder Forest (Putuo)


Best for: Ages 3-12
Costs: Mon-Fri 100rmb (1 adult, 1 child), Sat-Sun 120rmb 1 adult free
Hours: 10am-9.30pm
Attention Span: 4-5 hours

Joypolis Wonder Forest is on the 4th floor of Global Harbor, and it's pretty big, with two different playgrounds and lots of dragons and lots of wildlife decor (tigers, toucans, trees). Located next to Sega Joypolis, this one's got a lot going on and different sections that will keep kids of all ages occupied. Trampolines, slides, puzzles, virtual games —you could easily spend half a day here. It's in an enclosed area, with security at the gate and friendly attendants, and you can go everywhere with your kids except for the actual jungle gyms. It feels super safe (unless your kid is afraid of dragons) and the price is right.

Highlight: Towards the back, they have a sloped trampoline for optimal air time. Kids were really going to town on this thing.

Action and Fun (Pudong)


Best for: Ages 3-14
Costs: 100rmb for two hours (1 adult, 1 child)
Hours: Mon 5-9.30pm, Tue-Thu 1-9.30pm, Fri-Sun 10am-9.30pm
Attention Span: up to 1-2 hours

Speaking of wondrous forests, Action and Fun in block 1 of the slightly overwhelming Life Hub in Jinqiao, is its own little wonder mountain town. It's a bit smaller, the main attraction being two large slides, but points for creativity! Kind of like the Natural History Museum of playing, there's lots of learning stuff, like constellations on the ceiling and a fossil puzzle on the ground. There's a race track for competitive biking, a fake air balloon kids can get into, and Xbox and Wii games (though the games are out of commission for the "next two weeks" due to "maintenance" so maybe don't count on this element). Parents can go everywhere their kids go in this one, so they're always an arm's length away.

Highlight: While the slides are pretty awesome, the track with tricycles for racing takes the cake.

Amazon Kingdom (Expo Area)


Best for: Ages 5 and up (to 1.6m)
Costs: 130rmb per person
Hours: Mon-Fri 1pm-9pm, Sat-Sun 10.30am-9pm
Attention Span: up to 1-2 hours

Part of a chain, Amazon Kingdom is the climbing kid's dream, standing tall and proud at The River Mall. Kids strap on a harness and helmet to climb through a maze of net and ropes, followed by a guide. Parents can spectate from the sidelines. Amazon Kingdom has several locations, but this one appears to be the biggest and has Robotech right next door, which is the same thing but less jungle-y and more robot-y. That one's for ages 4 and up, it costs 140rmb, from the same company (there's no discount if you go to both). This playground's not an all day thing, you could probably could spend about an hour or so.

Highlight: The climbing! I mean look at that thing! I would have gotten in there if they let me.

Kerry Adventure Zone (Pudong)


Best for: All ages
Costs: A day pass for 380rmb (1 adult, 1 child) ends August 31
Membership: 7300rmb (1 adult, 1 child) half year, 10,380rmb full year
Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-10pm
Attention Span: 5-6 hours

Tucked into the Kerry Hotel, there's a playground that blows the others out of the water. In the front of the park, there's a small jungle gym and a mini play town for younger kids. The back of the park is for older kids, with a four-floor jungle gym with nets, bridges, cannons that shoot foam balls, and some seriously daring slides. Those suckers looked like they were 90 degree drops at the start; one is for kids 7 and up, one for 5 and up, then there's a third, less threatening slide for everyone. And unlike most of the others, parents can go into this jungle gym with their kids, if they absolutely must.

Based on the playground alone this would have been top of the list's exclusive, only open for a day pass through the summer vacation (until August 31). After that it's reserved for guests of the Kerry Hotel (100rmb day pass) and members (membership costs listed above). They also run promotions, if you eat at The Cook, you may be be able to pay a fee to use the playground (call ahead).

Highlight: The sick drops on those slides.

Mini Mars (Jing'an)


Best for: Ages 1-7
Costs: 108rmb a day (covers two adults, one child)
Hours: Daily, 9.30am-8pm
Attention Span: up to 3-4 hours

Not in a mall, Mini Mars stands on its own, right off Changde Lu. It’s a popular spot; at 9.45am on a Wednesday, right after the park opened its doors, there was already a line of strollers outside. This is a nice, very clean space with lots to do for younger kids. There's a tv-room with a big flat screen, a nice playground, a slide that leads straight into a ball bit, a play kitchen, and a sand box. Also, a lot of people work here, there's supervision in the play area from friendly staff, though you still need to be in there with your child. It's got a very pleasant vibe and it's a place you could easily spend a few hours.

Highlight: There's a life-sized two-story doll house kids can crawl inside of. It's a neon, modern-looking thing with smaller doll houses inside of it. Super meta.

NBA Playzone (Huangpu)


Best for: Ages 3-9
Costs: 239rmb for one adult, one child (+50rmb for every additional person)
Hours: Daily, 10am-8pm
Attention Span: up to 4-5 hours

The NBA Playzone has got a jungle gym, a small indoor basketball court, a few arcade games, a separate play area for toddlers, and a decent snack bar. Taking up a corner of Hubin Dao, it's huge. Only about a year old, all the equipment is shiny and clean. Parents can't go in the play area here, but the jungle gym is pretty open so you'll always have eyes on your offspring. You can easily spend half the day here, there's lots to do between the large jungle gym and digital games. It's a bit pricier during the summer holiday; after August, weekday tickets will costs 188rmb (for adult and child) and 239rmb on weekends.

Highlight: The main jungle gym itself is big and has got a lot to it from slides to ball pit to nets for climbing.

HABA (Changning)


Best for: Ages 6 months to 7 years
Costs: 198rmb (1 adult, 1 child) for 2 hours
Hours: Daily, 10am-9pm
Attention Span: probably 1-2 hours

HABA’s a bit pricer, but it's quiet, well-lit (a real rarity for indoor playgrounds) and has got space to run around in. I spoke with a mom who frequents HABA, and both her kids (5 and 7) enjoy the space. It’s kind of hidden on the 3rd floor of Takashimaya but takes up the entire corner, in an enclosed space that’s bright and clean. There’s no traditional jungle gym here, but there’s a trampoline, a little rock climbing wall, and a big pirate ship with a slide. Parents can go into the enclosed play area with their kids or sit on the sidelines.

Highlight: According to 5-year old Roman: the trampoline.

Expo Planet (Changning)


Best for: Ages 7 months and up (to 1.3m)
Costs: 80rmb (1 adult, 1 child) for a day pass
Hours: Daily, 10am-9.30pm
Attention Span: up to 3-4 hours

Expo Planet reminded me a lot of ‘Pizza Planet’ from Toy Story sans the pizza. This playground in Arch Walk is space themed with lots of neon lights and small bouncy surfaces good for kids 4-8. They've also got some smaller play spaces carved out for those not quite old enough to bounce freely. In addition to the trampolines, there's a small jungle gym with a slide, a mini boat, and foot-powered cars for wheeling around. Parents are welcome in the play area. There's also a craft corner with Perler Beads (so glad those still exist) and a kitchen that offers baking classes for an additional fee from 98-228rmb (closes at 7pm).

Highlight: A blow up slide that was perforated so kids could also climb up it—gotta love multi-purpose slides.

E Cube Club (Hongqiao)


Best for: Ages 8 months to 12 yrs
Costs: Mon-Fri 170rmb (1 adult, 1 child), Sat-Sun 200rmb
Hours: Daily, 10am-9.30pm
Attention Span: around 2-3 hours

E Cube Club has a small jungle gym, but the space carved out for it at The Place is large and so there's plenty of other stuff to do like shoot nerf guns or have a tea party in a plastic forest. It’s enclosed, with an attendant standing at the gate, so you can let the kids run wild while you sit on the sidelines, though you're also welcome to run alongside 'em. It's a little more commercial than the rest, with Little Ponies and Transformers branding and statues everywhere (kids like those, right?), and it had attractions that will appeal to kids both little and big.

Highlight: The nerf gun shooting station; load up a big nerf gun and hit targets.

Little Bugz (Jing'an)


Best for: Ages 0-8
Costs: Tues-Fri 150rmb for a day-pass (2 adult, 1 child), Sat-Sun 150rmb (1 adult, 1 child) additional 20rmb
Hours: Tues-Sun 9.30am-6.30pm
Attention Span: around 2-3 hours

When you first walk in, Little Bugz appears to be pretty small, with a jungle gym to the left and a place for parents to sit and snack on the right. But once you walk up the spiral staircase of the play area, it's like entering the wardrobe to Narnia. Here, you can find one awesome ball pit, a little nook with books and small toys for younger kids, and a decently sized tunnel-slide. The downside is this one's a bit older and the equipment looks a little worn. But kids can play in the deceptively big jungle gym while parents sit and relax within eyeshot. Little Bugz has a second location in Xuhui.

Highlight: Killer ball pit with a mini rock climbing wall inside

Lollipop (Hongqiao)


Best for: Ages 6 months-6 years
Costs: Mon-Fri 100rmb (1 adult, 1 child), Sat-Sun 110rmb
Hours: Daily, 10am-9.30pm
Attention Span: about 1-2 hours

A playground chain, Lollipop is small and might be slightly underwhelming for kids 6 and up, but younger kids ought to enjoy this one. It’s an enclosed space with places for crawling and climbing that are good with some supervision. A modest jungle gym has got tubes and slides, which little ones can explore safely because Lollipop is made up of a younger crowd. Lollipop has several locations, this one's at The Place.

Highlight: Little swings, with a cushy foam safety-mat underneath

Word to the Wise: All playgrounds listed are busiest on weekends, especially during the summer holiday. Also, adult supervision is required at all of these locations. So are socks!

Get playin'!