Right now when I think of the mall, I think of crowds, lists of presents to purchase and crazy parking lots. On a cold day though (or crazy hot day in the summer), it can be heaven for toddlers and preschoolers who need a place to run and play. Fair Oaks Mall has created one such oasis just outside of JC Penney on the lower level. The play area’s theme is the Baby Looney Tunes Express. All of the structures are shiny and colorful on the outside, but are squishy to the touch. The carpeted floor is also well padded. My initial impression was that the play area was spotless, colorful and very inviting.
We walked down a few steps into the sunken area and found a place to sit down and take off my little reviewer’s shoes. There is no shoe storage area, so we just set them on the floor. The play area is surrounded by padded benches. There are two entrances – the stairs and a long ramp. The stairs are easy to keep an eye on, but the ramp is a bit hidden behind the benches. Definitely be aware that children seemed to love running up and down the ramp and if your child got bored or curious, they might decide to take a stroll around the mall.
As soon as my little guy’s shoes were off, he took off to explore. There is a train in the middle with baby Bugs driving the engine. The train cars have spaces for kids to climb in and pretend to go for a ride. The caboose is a tunnel and there is a track that winds its way all around the carpet. Children enjoyed pretending they were trains and walking, running and crawling along the track. The track also goes up and down a little hill and between other play structures. The other play structures included a huge Pepe Le Pew, a little ducky, a large green block, baby Sylvester with a water tower, a ring stacker and a slide with baby Taz next to it.
Some of the older kids at the play area (the maximum height is 42″) enjoyed climbing up and jumping off both the ring stacker and big green block. I would highly recommend keeping an eye on your child at all times. Older children need to be monitored so that they don’t run over little ones and little ones are not always skilled in sharing. One larger, but younger toddler followed my son around and just shoved him off of whatever he was on, my son just moved on to the next thing, but his Mom was busy looking at her phone the whole time. Regardless, my son had a wonderful time climbing on, off and over all of the structures.
The play area was crowded, but the structures and space allowed kids to spread out. The part of the play area closest to JC Penney is under a stairway and a bit hidden from the other end of the area. If you are sitting at the far end, it is easy to lose track of children playing on the big green block under the stairs. This is only a minor issue and easily remedied by moving to a bench near the ramp. After a solid hour of happy play I attempted to get my reviewer to leave and go home for lunch. He had no interest in leaving and it took some creative efforts to get him to cooperate. A definite endorsement from my 3-year old reviewer!
- The play area is open during mall hours which are currently: Monday to Saturday: 10am to 9:30pm and Sunday: 10:00am to 7:00pm. Please refer to the website for mall hours after Christmas.
- The maximum height to play in the play area is 42″ (several children appeared a bit taller, but use your best judgement).
- No food or drink is allowed in the play area, but this rule was generally ignored between the coffee for the adults and milk, juice and snacks for the children.
- There is no charge to use the play area.
- There is no hand sanitizer available at the play area. Definitely bring your own if you are in the habit of using it after playing.
- Bathrooms are available near Macy’s and also within each of the department stores.
- Multiple food options are available in the food court near Macy’s on the lower level. There is also an Auntie Anne’s pretzel kiosk just beyond the play area.
- Parking is not fun right now, but generally avoid parking near Cheesecake Factory and you should be okay.
The Fair Oaks Childrens’ Play Area is a wonderful place for toddlers and preschoolers to use up some of their endless energy during the cold winter months or hot muggy months when outdoor playgrounds are not viable options. My little reviewer and I are huge fans!