Sometimes, after a long week at work, all you want to do is let your inner child run around screaming until it needs a snack and a nap. But in a slightly more refined way that comes from being a taxpayer with a horizontal driver’s license. Maybe not so much screaming. If Chuck E. Cheese (Charles Entertainment, really) is where a kid goes to be a kid, where does a grown up go to get childish in Birmingham?
Birmingham has lots of places for this behavior. As a field trip chaperone/photographer at a day camp and Grown-Up Resident of the city, these places have been personally visited and certified Fun for those who are looking for something less stressful and embarrassing than trivia night.
Trampoline parks are showing up everywhere. They perhaps offer the same things as Sky Zone, but I haven’t been to them and I don’t know that any are as conveniently located. If you love one in particular, let this writer know! Sky Zone is right off I-459 where the Staples used to be on 31.
The grown up part of me that folds napkins over my cold to-go cups was immediately impressed the customer service. When I went with my camp group, the staff danced with the kids as they walked in, high-fived everyone, learned names, and managed to do their jobs and keep everyone safe while also jumping around with the kids. I’ve been on a lot of field trips to child-specific places and have found this is not always the case. I went back the next day on my own and found the staff to be just as enthusiastic, helpful, and friendly as they had been with the kids there, just translated to an older clientele.
The part of me that likes to color and sing roll around on the floor (that’s also the teacher part of me) was in awe of the facility. It’s a giant trampoline. There’s a climbing wall, dodgeball rooms, trampoline basketball, and a 2nd floor eating/lounge area with flatscreens overlooking the whole gym. They didn’t have this sort of thing when I was a kid. But that’s okay! Because Sky Zone offers activities for adults! You can take fitness classes, play dodgeball (there’s ultimate dodgeball events, check the calendar), or go to a fundraiser. Yes, you can jump on a trampoline for charity. When was the last time you got to jump around?
Ah, the McWane. The science museum that defines childhood in Birmingham. Every city has something similar, but nothing like it. If, for some wild reason, you have not been, the McWane Center is four levels of fun. You can pet a stingray and a shark, stand in a tornado, see a very 90’s James Spann, bike across a tightrope, and take a breather on a bed of nails. After every McWane field trip, I go back.
The top floor interactive exhibit changes every few months and as fun as they are with kids (because no matter how bitter you are, watching a child discover something about the way the world works is magical), they’re pretty sweet with a group of peers. And after an hour wandering through the museum, if you’re in the mood for a film-length panic attack, you can take advantage of the McWane’s Imax theater. Yes, they sell snacks.
Oh, and the gift shop sells all the stuff you weren’t allowed to get as a kid because you would “break it.” You would have at 8, but you’re a grown up now, so get yourself that model rocket!
I grew up spending every night of the summer playing skeeball at the boardwalk (before MTV took over the Jersey Shore, although it was still delightfully delinquent). As I got older, I thought, “gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could have a grilled cheese and some bourbon while I did this?” I just didn’t think that would happen in landlocked Birmingham, Alabama, but the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Paramount Bar and Saturn are staples in town, not just because they’re hip and trendy! But because they’re fun! You can go to brunch like a real grown up, but eat Lucky Charms when you get there and no one can judge you for it! Saturn has a video game night! Birmingham’s drinking establishments are tapping into the fact that grown ups love games. Not for irony or nostalgia, but because games are fun. Games bring people together. So does beer. But after college, drinking games aren’t as appealing as pinball.
No day of summer fun would be complete without brain freeze. I prefer to get mine at La Sobrosita. It’s so cool, you probably haven’t heard of it. Well, okay, maybe you have. But it is certainly one of Birmingham’s most underrated ice cream and popsicle stops. Everything on the menu, and I mean everything (hint: try the spicy mango) is excellent, beautiful, and entirely unlike anything else you’ll find in the city. There are baked goods, snacks, and prices that’ll be nice and refreshing after spending maybe a few dollars too many on games.
Of course, there is lots of good ice cream and other frozen treats available in Birmingham. It’s how we are cosmically rewarded for living in such a miserably hot climate. There’s designer pops and specialty yogurts at every corner. But La Sobrosita is what I would call the real deal. It’s hidden, they don’t sell to local shops, and it’s sort of a family/neighborhood haunt when it’s 100 degrees out and the kids are too pruned up to spend any more time in the pool. There is nothing quaint or twee, there are no dainty bird silhouettes on the decor or wrought iron handles at the register. It’s a loving and dedicated homage to Mexican flavor and it deserves as much love and attention as the staff puts into it.
So go ahead and let yourself be childish. Remember, you are never, NEVER too old to go to the zoo, and now you get to pick your own music in the car. If nothing else, that’s celebration-worthy right there.