This place is unreal and I totally wish I had this when I was little. Under the recommendation of a friend, we finally visited Storyville in Woodlawn for the first time this fall. It's 100% free since it's part of the library and there's tons of fun and educational stuff for the kiddies to do.
They can grocery shop in a market that has mussels (MUSSELS!!), fish, lean cuts of steak, all kinds of fruits and veggies, life-sized laminated money, bread, milk, eggs, and a scale for weighing your produce.
They can dress up as a postal worker and sort and deliver mail and pacakages to each of the buildings/houses in Storyville because each has its own numbered mailbox (left, in picture).They can sell tickets at a ticket window to a play or puppet show they can put on in the Theater House.
They can pretend to be engineers, architects, designers and mathmeticians in the building zone.
They can drive a trolley car and spell words on street signs with huge foam magnetic letters.
They can cook and clean and care for infants and pets in the house, which has a life-size staircase to a second level where there's a doll house and reading room.
There's a log they can crawl through and a treehouse to climb up into that also has some nice private reading nooks.
And all the while they can browse and select picture books on display throughout the whole town, then check themselves (for real) out in the Storyville Library. They haven't forgotten the babies, though, because there's a gated area where babies can safely play.
Techie Moms, you'll be glad to know that the place has free Wi-Fi for your smartphone since it's connected to the Woodlawn Library building, and older kids (6 and up) can color, do puzzles, read, and play with magnetic shapes and letters, etc., in the play area just inside the library doors while little ones enjoy Storyville, provided you have someone with you to help supervise them. There's also a huge coat room as you come in with a rocking chair, cubbies, and a table with sidewalk chalk to keep them entertained while you wait for a friend, nurse or change the baby, or just take a breather. The bathrooms are also located near the entrance, they're kid-and-family-friendly and are always sweet-smelling and clean! Can't ask for more.
They have a variety of coloring pages at the check-in desk that are best to grab on your way out to soften the blow of having to leave before your child/ren are ready, which will be NEVER, unless Spiderman himself is outside waiting.
My only disappointment: They only allow 5 and unders inside, so in another 6-8 months, we may have to find a new spot (most likely Great Kids Village in Columbia), but please believe that we're gonna milk the next half-a-year we have for what it's worth!
There's another branch not too far from Woodlawn in Rosedale, fyi. If you visit, please remember to come back and leave a comment to let us know if you loved it as much as we do. Happy playing!