North Raleigh's Rainbow Party Room is a bit of a hidden gem.
Not that people don't know about. Its six birthday party slots each weekend fill up months in advance. But, the large room with a giant playset sits inside a building that displays multiple Rainbow brand play sets outside and a large baby and youth furniture showroom (that's Tots to Teens) on the inside. In addition to the spot being popular for birthdays, it's open during the week for drop-in play.
I've talked to moms who have driven by it for years and had no idea the playroom was inside. Amy Kurz, the business' new owner, hopes to change that. She'd like to turn it into a community gathering place where local experts might offer their baby massage tips or a music class for kids and their parents.
In addition to the large playroom, she also has a giant showroom with nearly three dozen gliders (perhaps perfect for a breastfeeding meeting). She's actively looking for groups that might be interested in offering their services.
"I think there's ways to use this space," said Kurz, who bought the business in January.
Kurz, a mom of two teens, spent years at home with them, shuttling them to activities, volunteering with the PTA and focusing on her family. When her kids hit middle school, she started looking after a friend's child full-time. After three years, she was ready for another opportunity.
"I wanted to do something a little bit more, but I wanted children in my life," she said.
When she saw that Tots to Teens and Rainbow Play Systems off Glenwood Avenue was for sale, she jumped at the chance.
"Sometimes I get to hold the babies," Kurz said. "I really like being here all of the time. That part I haven't had to adapt to at all. The timing was right for me to do this."
When she bought the business, Kurz knew there was even more potential for the popular party room, which is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekdays. Admission is $5 per child (except on Mondays through Labor Day 2015 when it is free).
She had plans to bring in a new, giant playset that showcased Rainbow Play System's various features, including the opportunities for imaginative play. Those plans were accelerated when a homeowner's association, looking for a new playset, ended up buying the old one that sat in the room.
The new playset, designed by the business' general manager Kareem Karmous, still includes six large slides, ladders and a rock climbing wall. But there's also a small theater and lemonade or lunch counter for pretend play. The bridge that connects the two sides looks like it could be a pirate ship or a castle. There's also a small, enclosed area for babies and toddlers to play.
Each time I've been there, my kids have had a blast. I'd say the room is best for toddlers up through fourth graders, or so. (It always depends on the kid).
The party room has free WIFI and bathrooms right across the hall. Find it at 8732 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh. The party room is sometimes open beyond 2 p.m., weekdays, if no party or event is scheduled. Check the Facebook page for updates.
Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday.