If you're looking to escape the summer heat while keeping the kids entertained, I suggest you head to Park Place. The mall offers something - no purchase required - for nearly all ages and caters to early and late risers.
My moms group recently held a book club and craft date in the food court at Park Place, 5870 E Broadway. My toddler, Zachary, and I arrived at about 9:30 a.m. I knew the mall opened early for mall walkers, but I wasn't expecting it to be so kid-friendly before stores officially opened.
Making our way inside, Zachary and I stopped to check out the giant-screen television playing the PBS show "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood." Finding our friends, we sat at the tables playing while listening to one of the moms read a book.
We hadn't had much breakfast, so I was happy to see a smiling face welcome us at Jamba Juice just before 10 a.m. Us moms didn't have to search far to find highchairs for the kids. And Zachary and his friends had a marvelous time traipsing through the food court and playing in the children's play area. At that hour, we were sharing the mall with only a handful of other people.
I left Park Place that morning amazed at all the excitement Zachary had just had. I put in a call and spoke to mall representatives to learn about child-friendly happenings that take place on a day-to-day basis there. I learned that the shopping center has lots of activities geared toward kids.
Park Place opens its doors at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday, while the actual stores are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. And on Sunday, the doors open at 8 a.m., with the stores open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
PBS children's shows typically play on the big television in the food court from 7 to 11 a.m.
Kids are welcome to enjoy the desert-themed play area once mall doors open, but there are a few times when it's closed. The play zone doesn't open until 8 a.m. on Mondays due to a weekly deep cleaning. And it's also closed every day from 2 to 3 p.m. for midday cleanings. Last renovated in 2012, the play area has slides, toys to climb on and many larger-than-life-sized animals such as a snake and a frog, allowing kids' imaginations to soar.
The mall is also home to the Park Place Kids Club, which is free and available to children 8 and younger. Kids gather the second and fourth Thursdays of every month from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the food court. The first event of the month is a storybook character hour with crafts, hosted by The A-Store, a University of Arizona store. The mall hosts the second monthly kids' get-together with a variety of different activities such as Color Me Mine ceramic painting and movie days.
Many special events geared toward kids and adults take place during the year as well. There's the annual chalk art festival each April. And the mall recently hosted a guitar festival with air guitar fun.
Finally, there's Delightful Diversions. It's a program at Park Place that strives to create a fun and interactive atmosphere in unique ways. The action takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Delightful Diversions includes a variety of live performances from musicians, mimes and magicians to jugglers, human statues and dancers. The acts are spread throughout the mall, as well as in the courtyards and walkways, both indoors and out. A face painter is even available on some weekends to paint children's faces. Delightful Diversions is free.
Whether the kids - or their parents - are itching to get out of the house in the early hours, afternoon or evening, there's something going on at Park Place that will likely catch your kiddo's eye any time of day.
Email Sarah McKeown at firstname.lastname@example.org