It’s a rural Alberta rec centre like any other – arena, curling rink, gym – but the Ardrossan Recreation Complex has a secret.
Located just 10 minutes east of Sherwood Park, Ardrossan is a growing rural community, and its popular rec centre is clear indication of that. It’s always bustling with hockey players, skaters, and curlers. But at the end of a nondescript hallway, up an almost-secret staircase, is the highlight of the facility.
It’s called the Love to Play room. It’s an amazing mix of indoor playground and science centre, and is an innovative space unlike any other I’ve found in the capital region.
The sound of forced air greets you as you walk in to see an impossible maze of air tubes. (toss giant pom poms or scarves in and watch them weave a magical path before they’re shot out – catch them if you can!)
There’s an amazing fort building centre, decked out with pillows and sheets. There are balance tools, and reading cubbies, and an enviable supply of giant blue foam building blocks. There’s a crank operated elevator that sends balls onto a twisty-turny track. There’s even a magnet wall with a series of attachable pipes and tubes that can be arranged to send plastic golf balls on intricate trips.
But by far and away the best part is the miniature grocery store.
In the centre sits a wire shelf piled high with play foods, cartons and cans. A half-dozen Melissa and Doug miniature shopping carts line the walls. The checkout, complete with cash registers and rolling conveyor belt, sits off to the side. Completing the scene is a mock up of the back of a delivery truck with clear plastic blinds to enter and exit the shipping zone.
Sometimes the shopping deteriorates to a cart crash derby. Sometimes it’s a fight over the best foods. (Why, oh why, do kids gravitate to the purple onions?!?) Sometimes I’m ordered to be the checkout girl. Sometimes I’m ordered out of the store altogether.
Amazingly, there’s never been more than a handful of other kids when we’ve visited. We’ve even had times where we’ve had the whole space to ourselves! And every time, without fail, our trip ends with “Mommy, can we come back another day???”
A word to the wise – the Love to Play room is primarily used as a preschool space, so the hours for drop-in play are limited. Parented Playtimes (parent & child(ren)) are offered Mondays from 9:30 am to 11:30 am, and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm. Ardrossan Rec Centre is also home to another great indoor playground on the main floor, and your admission fee will allow you to access both spaces.
It’s definitely worth the trip for an experience you won’t soon forget!
Love to Play Room:
Where: Ardrossan Recreation Complex, 80-1 Avenue, Ardrossan
Times: Mondays 9:30 am to 11:30 am & Saturdays 10 am to 1 pm