Summer vacation is in full swing, and finding fun ways to fill our days can sometimes be a challenge. PB & Jack, an indoor play area and café in Fairfax City, is the perfect solution.
PB & Jack opened in December 2012 and quickly became a favorite for our family. When you walk into PB & Jack, you are greeted by a friendly staff member who goes over the waiver form with you (it’s a standard kids area-type waiver, though I can’t remember ever signing one before that gives the staff permission to call 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency with your child) and gets you signed in and gives your child a nametag.
In order to make sure that you leave with your own child, you are required to leave photo id at the front desk; you get it back at the end when you turn your child’s nametag back in. The play area is shoe-free (for kids AND parents), so we stowed our shoes in the cubby area and headed in.
The play area is a large ocean themed carpeted area with two large permanent play structures – a whale and an octopus. They are similar to the play structures at area mall play areas. There are also multiple large movable items that can be moved and combined in different ways to create new gross motor activity areas. On our most recent trip, large “half tubes” were lined up to create tunnels and bridges to climb through – we’ve seen many configurations, and staff members often help kids move the pieces around to encourage games and creativity.
There is also a large play house, books, and toys available that encourage creative play. On this trip, my daughter joined in with 3 other girls who were having a tea party. Hide-and-seek and elaborate games with squishy balls also are her favorites. Within the play area is a sectioned off area for babies and a separate “Lego Room.”
The best part of the play area, as a mom, is the staff. The play area is supervised. That’s right – while you are welcome to play with your kids, on the other side of the play area wall is the café. The tables and chairs are set up so that some are clearly visible to the play area if you want to keep an eye on your child, and some are just out of sight of the area if you would like a much-needed break. The staff is phenomenal. They don’t just watch your kids – they actively play with them. My daughter LOVES the staff (who she refers to as “teachers”) – playing games with them is always the highlight of our trip.
The café is the perfect place to take a break. Unlike other places we have been, PB & Jack features all healthy snacks – fruit, yogurt, apple sauce, goldfish, veggie chips, etc – along with milk and juice boxes. There is a coffee bar for parents, along with iced teas and sodas available as well. Outside food is not allowed in order to keep the facility nut-free. They also have sandwiches available if you want to have more than just a snack.
Special activities, included with your admission fee, are offered each day. The summer schedule includes art (Mondays & Fridays), face-painting (Thursdays), international story times (Fridays), and live entertainment (Tuesdays). The activities are always announced on PB & Jack’s Facebook page. We especially like the art projects, but all of the activities are fun and it’s great that they’re included with admission.
Classes are also offered at PB & Jack, both for kids and parents. There are yoga and pilates classes for adults, and offerings for kids include art classes, Music Together and language classes from Language Planet DC. Check out the website for more details and schedules.
PB & Jack’s slogan is “where kids can be kids and adults can be adults,” and they do just that. As I joked with one of the staff members, I always grossly underestimate the amount of time my 5 year old daughter wants to play there. We often spend the entire morning there, and she would play all day if I would let her. The average visit is 3 hours – that’s right, 3 full hours. It’s fantastic to be able to sit for awhile, enjoy a cup of coffee, and catch up on emails while my daughter happily plays a few feet away.
It’s also my favorite place in the area for a play date – the kids play while the moms can actually sit and catch up. It’s also fun to go on a weekend and have a “date” in the café with my husband without finding a babysitter. The entire staff is fantastic, and I’ve heard them all say how much they like working in such a happy place.
How does PB & Jack compare to other play areas in our region? It’s definitely smaller than some of the “big” places, and is geared to the preschool set. That’s tough if you have kids with a wide range of ages, but great for the 5 and unders who often get run over by the big kids. The real advantage is that the play area is supervised, so not only do the kids have fun, but parents get to take a break and even enjoy some adult conversation or a book without pictures! There are also no membership fees or limited hours.
You can come and play when it works best for your child and stay as long as you want. The entire space (including the café and the bathrooms) were very clean, which is not always the case at kids play areas. The owner of PB & Jack created the space because there wasn’t any place like it in the area, and my family couldn’t be more thrilled.
Some things to know before you head out
- PB & Jack is $15 per child (siblings $10 each). That includes whatever activity is going on and you can stay as long as you like. You also have in-and-out privileges, so you can go eat lunch or take a nap and come back and play without paying again for that day. They also have 5 and 10 visit punch cards ($70 for 5 and $125 for 10).
- Family memberships are also offered for $100 a month. This is a great option for families with multiple children as all children are included. You also get one 2-hour drop off a month (go shopping without your kids!) and discounts on classes, parties, and date nights.
- Date nights are offered once a month (drop your kids off and go eat dinner!) and birthday party packages are also available.
- Snacks are reasonably priced – my daughter’s juice box and applesauce cost $3 – and the coffee drinks are less than you would expect at a café or coffee shop.
- PB & Jack is located in the Turnpike Shopping Center, at the intersection of Pickett and Main Streets in Fairfax City (next to Dollar Tree). The shopping center just underwent a major renovation, and there is a variety of kid-friendly lunch options available – Firehouse Subs, Chipotle, Elevation Burger, Flippin’ Pizza, and more.
- PB & Jack is open 9am to 5pm during the week and 10am to 5pm on the weekends. It can get a little busy in the mornings, especially when the weather for outside play is less than ideal, but we have been there on mornings when it’s quiet. Even on crowded days, it starts to empty out around noon as families go home for lunch and naps. If your child is up from noon to 3pm, that’s a great time to go since it will be much quieter.
- The play area closes every day from 12:30 to 12:45pm for cleaning. The café stays open so there’s no need to leave, and staff members often offer crayons and paper to make the 15 minutes speed by. I love that they do this – a clean play area is always worth the 15 minute break!
- Class schedules and more information are on the PB & Jack website.
Photos by Mara Surridge.