Kid-friendly Rock Climbing Places in New Jersey
Fitness and fun in one
If you’re like me, the mere thought of ice skating, sledding, or any other outdoor winter sport is enough to make your teeth chatter. Yet, while it’s tempting to microwave popcorn and watch a movie with your kids every weekend, research tells us, and common sense confirms, that it’s important for them to get daily exercise (and getting up to refill the popcorn bowl doesn’t count). Luckily, New Jersey is full of fun, climate-controlled facilities, including bounce houses, laser tag arenas, and jungle gyms, where kids can get moving indoors when it’s cold outside (or rainy).
Another option that serves as a way for parents to get in on the action with their kids (because let’s face it: the bounce house is not for you) is to try rock climbing. It’s an activity you can do together, and it’s tops in building muscle strength, balance, and self-esteem, says Barbara Lawrence of New Jersey Rock Gym in Fairfield. The climbing facilities listed below are kid-friendly, don’t require membership, and—best of all—are completely indoors!
- The Gravity Vault, Upper Saddle River, NJ; 201-934-7625; minimum age: 5.
- Elite Climbing, Maple Shade, NJ; 856-273-1370; minimum age: 6.
- Milton and Betty Katz JCC (this is the community center), Margate, NJ; 609-822-1167; no set minimum age. 30 min climb: $40 Members / $45 Non-Members, 60 min climb: $65 Members / $70 Non-Members.
- New Jersey Rock Gym, Fairfield, NJ; 973-439-9860; minimum age: 5.
- Rockville Climbing Center, Hamilton, NJ; 609-631-7625; minimum age: 3.
- Up The Wall, East Brunswick, NJ; 732-249-6422; minimum age: 6.
- Garden State Rocks, Morganville, NJ; 732-972-3003; no set minimum age, but recommended minimum: 5.
- Diamond Rock, East Hanover, NJ; 973-560-0413; minimum age: 5.
- The Gravity Vault, Chatham, NJ (Upper Saddle River and Middletown); 973-701-7625; minimum age: 5.
- Randolph Climbing Center, Randolph, NJ; 973-598-8555; minimum height: 34”.
- Summit YMCA, Summit, NJ; 908-273-3330; minimum age: 7. While YMCAs are generally “members only,” this Y has reciprocal agreements with many other YMCAs in New Jersey. If you’re a member of a Y in another town, you may be able to use the Summit Y facilities—including its rock wall—for free. Non-members can use the facilities as guests for $7/person.
Wary of taking little ones to a place that’s strictly for rock climbing?
These places offer other activities as well:
- Camp Iliff, Newton, NJ and Rockaway, NJ; 973-383-7231; 42” or taller to climb.
- Kids Towne USA, Hamilton, NJ; 609-838-1881; 45 lbs. and up to climb.
- Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ; 201-200-1000; no minimum to climb.
Rock Climbing to New Heights
Kids under 14 or so need a belayer—someone to control the ropes. You can take a one-time lesson at the facility and then belay for them, or a staff member can do the belaying (usually the more expensive option). Call at least 24 hours in advance to check belayer availability.
Some places have special family packages or times. Visit the facility’s website or call for details.
If your child falls in love with rock climbing, find out about the facility’s membership packages, monthly passes, classes, and teams. It just might be the activity that propels her to new heights!
Renée Sagiv Riebling is a freelance writer from Metuchen, NJ. She and her husband and two children are always on the lookout for new adventures.