Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
I haven’t been a mall rat since moving to Seattle a dozen years ago, but within the past year, it’s become increasingly harder to resist the siren song of Southcenter Mall. With the opening of Din Tai Fung, 85°C Bakery Café and now Safari, I can make my kids and my belly happy all in one stop.
Safari Play Space is a family-owned indoor play spot that opened in November. It’s one big open room, centered around a maze-like climbing gym. As you explore the structure, you’ll find all kinds of fun surprises tucked inside: A swing. A ball pit. A trampoline. A long, wavy slide.
Admission was $12.99 for my one kid on a recent weekday visit, and with tax, it came out to $14.30. You get a wristband when you enter and it’s good all day, so make the most of it. Go play, then shop and eat, then play some more. Better yet, bring a partner to watch the kids play while you go shop and eat. (Note to self.)
Safari is open late — until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday — which is great for working parents. And great for kids who need to get the wiggles out before bedtime. Also, being at a mall means tons of free and easy parking — win!
Even as a playspace veteran, I was impressed by Safari.
Safari is extra clean. The staff vacuums and cleans the play structure every night. While we were there, one employee industriously wiped down the check-in counter, Windex-ed the storefront inside and out and tidied up the party room. The two family restrooms at the back of the playspace were spotless. And there’s a wall-mounted Purell dispenser near the entrance. Love, love, love.
The staff was really on top of things during our visit. They were courteous and efficient checking in people, and when they weren’t needed at the desk, they walked around to make sure the kids played nicely. “Can we share? We can’t hit people,” I heard one employee say. Parents minded their kids too, but it’s helpful to have another adult enforce rules.
If you’re familiar with Playdate SEA in South Lake Union, Safari is like a smaller, calmer, more brightly-lit version. A Disney soundtrack played in the background, but it wasn’t too loud, and the mamas holding babies could actually sit and chat. And since Safari is still brand-new (Playdate SEA turns five this year), the padding on the play structure isn’t worn or dirty.
There’s plenty of seating along the walls, so parents can relax while monitoring the kids through the mesh sides of the play structure. There's free wi-fi, too, courtesy of the H&M store next door.
If you forget to bring your own snack, Safari has a small selection of bottled water, juice boxes and crackers for $1.50 each. We spotted a couple of older kids (possibly homeschoolers?) when we visited on a weekday morning, but the scene was mostly tots and their caregivers. The pace does pick up in the afternoon once school lets out, but Safari has a 52-inch height restriction to keep big kids from trampling the little ones.
The upper level of the play structure has a 150-pound limit. It’s supposed to be for kids (and evidently their svelte caregivers), though I did see a few other mamas crawling around with their waddlers.
Babies have their own separate play area, with a big purple caterpillar and foam shapes to stack. While you’re entertaining the little one, you don’t have to worry about older siblings escaping unnoticed. There’s just one exit, by the check-in desk.
My two-year-old usually clings to me in new situations. At Safari, he pushed me away when I tried to help him and told me, “Go take walk.” That’s toddler-speak for, “Mama, this place is awesome!”
The bottom line
Safari is a great place for active indoor play. A little pricey, but in my opinion, you get what you pay for.
If you go...
When: Open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Ages: While there is no specified age limit, to play children must be less than 52 inches (four feet, four inches) in height. This is very roughly the height of an average 8- or 9-year-old, though the target audience is primarily toddlers and preschoolers.
Cost: Admission is for the first child is $12.99 on weekdays and $14.99 on weekends. Siblings are $9.99. Adults and babies under 12 months enter free. Looking for a deal? Try the Safari Groupon, or buy 10-pass card for $99.
Tips for parents: