10 tips for The Big Bounce America
We had a blast at The Big Bounce America today!
To quote my 4-year-old, who recently lost her beloved pet turtle, Lula: "I had so much fun I forgot about Lula!"
She declared it the "best day ever" as made our way back to the van, ice-cream treat in hand.
The set-up at Aquila Park in St. Louis Park is amazing. This is not a bounce house; it's a bounce village. The quirky, colorful configurations felt Seussian, beckoning children to climb aboard.
As we made our way throughout the park, "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra kept playing in my head. What a way to enjoy the blue sky!
It underscored our goal to reduce the stuff in our lives and focus on experiences we can have as a family. This was such a memorable experience!
For $16–$30 (depending on the access you select), you get a three-hour pass to the grounds. We attended an "All-Access Area" session, which I recommend, from 9 am to noon.
The Big Bounce America travels across the country and is open for one more weekend here in Minnesota, May 31-June 2. We had so much fun I'm considering going out again next weekend for one last hurrah.
Here are 10 tips and takeaways we gleaned that may enhance your experience.
1. Prepare for rain and shine. The Big Bounce America takes place no matter the weather. We got lucky with beautiful weather, but there was little cover on the inflatables. Sunscreen was a must.
2. Bring all ages! The 2-year-old in our group had just as much fun as the 8-year-old. This place is paradise for toddlers and new, unsteady walkers, providing a soft, padded world to roll around in. And it's not too crowded! They sell a limited number of tickets for each session to keep the size of the crowd under control, so you don't have to worry about getting elbowed. We didn't witness a single injury from one kid bumping into another.
3. Order your tickets soon. Sessions are likely to sell out because tickets are limited. You can order them online here.
4. Brace yourself for an intense work-out. Even the fittest parents were winded after making their way through the 900-foot-long obstacle course. (Here's an image of it.)
"Apparently my work-outs aren't working out," one mom quipped.
My 8-year-old nephew amazed us by making his way through the obstacle course four times. Most people in our group only tackled it once, enjoying the wide slide at the end as a reward.
5. Keep hydrated. For all the water bottles we packed, I wished we had brought more. You can bring food (including coolers) and there are multiple food trucks. There isn't a secure place to store your food or shoes, so keep your valuables locked in the car. There are multiple tents with pockets to tuck your shoes in, or you can just stick them under a tree, as we did.
6. Pack extra socks. You must wear socks to participate (no shoes). Because the inflatables are spread out, no matter where you leave your shoes, you'll be trekking across the field in socks. The day we went, parts of the field were damp from rain. Having back-up socks came in handy.
7. Go with a group. This is a great experience to share with others. My kids bonded with their cousins while bouncing. Sessions last three hours, but you could easily make a day of it. Aquila Park is large, including a playground behind the inflatables (to your right when facing the entrance). You could pack for a picnic or feast on the food trucks.
8. Manage your time. Entrance into the 10,000-square-foot bounce house is allowed each hour on the hour and lasts for 45 minutes. Seize the rest of the time to hit up the obstacle course, the massive maze, the pink-and-teal octopus (perfect for toddlers) and the giant slides called AirSpace. We got in line 10 minutes before the huge bounce house opened again (I set an alarm on my phone), which was plenty of time. The line wasn't long.
9. Divide and conquer. For our group (including ages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8) we adults did not need a one-on-one ratio of adults supervising kids. Each adult could watch a few, and we rotated groups throughout the morning based on the kids' interests.
It's free to be a spectator (or sneak inside to quickly snap a photo), but each adult who goes on the inflatables must pay. Kids 3 and under must be accompanied by a paying adult (designated by a bracelet). But if a parent wanted to rest outside the octopus for a while with a 2-year-old inside, that would be fine. One worker is stationed there to constantly monitor. She helped parents track down their kids.
10. Expect tired kids. This was a favorite conversation topic among parents as we watched our kids play: They'll sleep well tonight! This is such a pleasing thought for a parent!
The three hours go quickly. Our kids were exhausted after two hours. You can come late or leave early from your designated session. After our session, we went to lunch, where Archie fell asleep sitting upright and his 3-year-old cousin slept farther down the booth.
If you have any other questions, check out this FAQ, which is pretty thorough. And if you're able to attend, I hope you have as much fun as we did!
Thanks to The Big Bounce America for providing free press tickets.
Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and four children in Inver Grove Heights. Read all her posts at mnparent.com/charmed.