When the unpredictable summer weather means it's raining or just too hot to play outside, you don't have to resign yourself to having your energetic kids running around the house. One great option to let your family moving is to try rock climbing at one of these local gym or community center, where kids of all ages and fitness levels can challenge themselves. You might even find them getting hooked on a new sport that can keep them active year round.
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28141 Diehl Rd., Warrenville, (630) 836-0122, verticalendeavors.com/warrenville
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
One of the largest rock-climbing gyms in the Midwest, Vertical Endeavors offers 18,000-square feet of walls with routes ranging in difficulty from beginners to experts. Families get in at a reduced cost Friday and Saturday nights, and the spot also has an area for birthday parties. The gym uses an auto-belay system, meaning you can just clip onto a rope that will lower you automatically when you want to climb down, so you don't need a spotter or much climbing knowledge.
"It lets kids be monkeys and do their thing," assistant facility manager John Wowczuk said. "If the kids are afraid of it, it lets them gradually get used to it."
North Wall Rock Climbing Gym
824 S. Main St., Crystal Lake, (815) 356-6855, climbnorthwall.com
Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
Price: $12-$14; $7 for kids under age 10
North Wall is a great place to try rock climbing for the first time, offering an hourlong "Just Try It" program that will let you try taped-off routes on the lower walls with mats to catch you if you fall.
"It can be a very safe, organized way to climb without ropes," said manager Jason Cipri. "It's enough time to really explore the place and wear yourself out and really get the climbing experience."
If you find you like it, the gym also offers classes that can certify you to belay yourself so you don't have to rely on staff members to support you, which proves popular with parents wanting to help out their kids.
"It just kind of gets kids working with their parents a lot more," Cipri said. "Not only is it a great way to stay in shape and really get kids off the couch, it improves their balance, their cognitive thinking, their problem solving and it can be a lifelong fitness activity."
The Centre of Elgin
100 Symphony Way, Elgin, (847) 531-7000, centreofelgin.org
Price: $7-$9; $5-$9 for kids ages 5-17
Hours: Open climb hours vary by week. Call or check the website for details
The central attraction of The Centre of Elgin is its climbing wall, which offers 1,165 square feet of routes for all skill levels, which climbers can scale with ropes or on auto-belay systems.
"It's an activity the whole family can do together and you don't need to have any experience," said customer service manager Amy Knorek. "You can make it to the top or go half way and you always have the opportunity to improve your climbing to master one of the easier routes and move to one of the harder routes."
The Centre also hosts plenty of birthday parties, combining the rock climbing with pool time and pizza and soda in their party room.
Hunt Club Park Community Center
920 N. Hunt Club Rd., Gurnee, (847) 623-7788, gurneeparkdistrict.com/hunt-club-park-community-center
Hours: Climbing times vary. Call for details.
Geared toward kids, the 24-foot wall at this six-year-old community center has two auto-belay routes. Children love jumping down from the top and having staff members time them as they race up, trying to beat past records.
Libertyville Sports Complex
1950 N. Highway 45, Libertyville, (847) 367-1502, libertyville.com
Hours: 1 to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The 28-foot-tall climbing wall in the center of the facility offers both manual and auto-belay routes. Staff members can belay climbers or you can take a class to get certified. The wall also makes the facility popular for birthday parties and bar or bas mitzvahes.