Children's Play Places
Grab the kids and check out these great spots–just five minutes to an hour away.
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It’s getting warm outside. The skies are blue, the road is calling, and the kids are stir crazy. Some will inevitably pack their families into the car to make for the airport and faraway theme parks, but Morgantown and surrounding communities offer more than enough wild and wonderful adventure for the whole family—without airport security or a hefty gas receipt. From The Children’s Discovery Museum in Morgantown to Idlewild and SoakZone in Ligonier, Pennsylvania—stick around this summer and you’ll discover some of the best-kept secrets just minutes from your neighborhood.
Places to play when you don’t have all day
Children’s Discovery Museum of West Virginia
At The Children’s Discovery Museum, “kids and their grown-ups get to explore, discover, and grow through interactive exhibits and play-based experiences,” says Children’s Discovery Museum President Angela Carter. From sensory exploration in the Tot and Toddler Zone to hands-on science at The Eureka! Science Center, the museum is truly one of Morgantown’s best-kept secrets.
It all started in 1997 when a group of concerned citizens came together and formed ROFAYKI, Inc., or Recreational Opportunities for All Young Kids Initiative. Retired school teachers, local business people, people from social agencies, and stay-at-home parents felt a need for a place in Morgantown to support parents and children outside of the classroom, Angela says. “When we first moved here in 2008, I was surprised there was not a children’s museum. I wanted someplace to take my daughters so they could meet kids and I could meet parents and other stay-at-home moms,” she says.
Even with ROFAYKI’s Fun Factory in the Mountaineer Mall, Angela saw the opportunity to help the organization expand. “There is so little play in schools once they start kindergarten,” she says. “I wanted to help develop a children’s museum.” By 2011, under Angela’s guidance, the Fun Factory was renamed the Children’s Discovery Museum and volunteers continued pursuing their goal of becoming an integral community partner, offering exhibits and programming to engage the imagination, develop critical thinking skills, and encourage healthy living and a lifelong love of learning.
Before Angela was named president in August 2010, the organization was only open when volunteers could be found. After some ingenious fundraising, selling snacks and beverages at football games, the board was able to hire a part-time program assistant, and the organization opened five days a week, drawing in more than 500 visitors each month in the first three months of 2012.
With a staff of devoted volunteers, the children’s museum offers different “zones” for different ages and developmental levels. The Construction Zone offers future engineers building materials and a train table to exercise their creativity, while The Active Zone lets kids burn off steam with hopscotch, a balance beam, and huge foam blocks for building (and wrecking!) magnificent towers, forts, and obstacle courses. The museum’s Transition Station has a constantly changing theme. In previous months, it has focused on what children want to be when they grow up, offering kids the space to explore their dream of archeology while digging through rice for fossils or caring for injured animals in a veterinarian’s office. Kids can try on costumes and play whatever role they choose—from doctor to chef.
“We want all of our exhibits to be developmental. Our Imagination Station was created in honor of one of our founding members, Mary McIntosh Davis, who was a teacher in Monongalia County and donated almost all of the puppets and books we have. She felt strongly about children being able to express themselves through dramatic play,” Angela says.
In July, plan to visit the museum to celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday or visit in August to go bug hunting at White Park.
Children’s Discovery Museum of West Virginia, Mountaineer Mall, Suite #A-1, 5000 Greenbag Road; 304.292.4646
Krepps Pool & Marilla Pool
What do you do in Morgantown when the day is too hot to handle? Grab your suits, grab the kids, and head down to Krepps Park Pool, located in the Suncrest area off Patteson Drive, or Marilla Park Pool in the Sabraton area off Route 7.
Krepps Pool is the pool for families with young children, as it features an aquatic play area that’s just right for little swimmers. With water fountains, a water slide, and a playground right in the water, kids and adults alike can be assured of a wet and wild afternoon. Marilla Pool, also great for families, offers nothing less than a zero-grade entry, also called a beach entry, pool experience, and not one but two fantastic water slides.
Both pools offer concession stands, beach areas, and locker rooms. Having a blast? Rent the whole place. Both Krepps Pool and Marilla Pool are great for reunions, birthdays, and private parties.
Krepps Park and Marilla Park are part of the Morgantown Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners (BOPARC). This summer, BOPARC will be featuring Family Day at the Pool every Sunday, where a family of four can swim, relax, and have fun for only $15, and $2 for additional family members. Swimmers can take advantage of the water slides for an additional $3 per person. This season, the pools will be open June 1 to August 19, 2012, 12:30 to 6 p.m. daily.
Krepps Park Pool, Patteson Drive; Marilla Park Pool East Brockway Avenue; 304.296.8356
Marilla Skate Park
Teens and pre-teens especially love this spot. Right next door to Marilla Park Recreation Center in Sabraton is the area’s premier outdoor skateboard and BMX facility, giving all ages and ability levels the space to learn and perfect their moves. “This is what’s great about skate parks. It brings other skateboarders together,” says Adam Townsend, who’s been an active skateboarder for more than 10 years. “It’s a place where you can learn tricks and teach other people.”
Even though the facility already boasts a half-pipe, pyramid with rail, and two combination vert ramps, the park is continually being improved, with plans for additional ramps underway. Marilla Park is known for its spacious, smooth surfaces, and a friendly community of skateboarders. “It’s very well laid out,” Adam says. “Most skate parks are either too crowded or not well maintained. This is one of the few parks that I’ve seen with a nice half-pipe.”
Marilla Skate Park is part of the larger Marilla Recreation Center, a 45-acre multipurpose facility that includes an outdoor pool, two water slides, youth baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, and access to Deckers Creek Trail.
Skateboarders just starting out will find the sport well represented at the park, with enthusiasts of all ages gathering to share their appreciation for a good kick flip, ollie, or grind from dawn ’til dusk. “It keeps you physically active and feeds creativity,” Adam says. “And it’s a good way to develop social skills because you’re always meeting new people.”
Marilla Skate Park, East Brockway Avenue; 304.296.8356
The WOW! Factory
At The WOW! Factory your family can get a little creative, painting pottery, making mosaics, learning glass fusing, and experimenting with “handbuilding” in clay.
Owners Joanne Watson and Dina Muttillo, and their seven respective children, had always been frequent visitors to other paint-your-own pottery studios, but after settling in Morgantown, both families realized that this sort of “creative outlet” was missing. Combining their efforts, the two opened The WOW! Factory—a creative, entertainment venue for all ages—in May 2008.
“With infants or pre-schoolers, parents can create hand and footprint keepsakes with paint or clay impressions to keep or give as gifts. Younger children, pre-school through elementary ages, prefer painting pottery, while older children try mosaics, glass fusing, and clay ‘handbuilding,’” says Dina.
Don’t worry if you aren’t the artistic type. The WOW! Factory has a great group of artists and experts to help you and your family create art and memories. Currently, the studio also offers birthday parties, “story painting” for children ages 2 to 4, art instruction for children ages 3 to 8, and weeklong summer camps for ages 6 to 12.
Be sure to sign up for the summer kids’ programs starting June 11.
The WOW! Factory, 3453 University Avenue; 304.599.2969