What’s to Love: If you’re looking for the largest, indoor, jungle gym in Oregon, you’ll want to visit “Safari Sam’s Jungle of Fun” out in Sherwood, Oregon. Sure, it’s about a 20 minute drive from downtown Portland on some fairly undesirable roads, but it’s worth the trip. There are plenty of other activities to augment this HUGE playstructure (e.g., glow-in-the-dark miniature golf, arcade games, and inflatable bounce houses). However, in my opinion, the jungle gym alone makes this a must do for active children, and parents who are not afraid to bang-up their knees a bit!
There are some an incredible indoor playstructures in the Portland area, but this one takes the cake. It is hands-down the best for a variety of ages. If you have kids who are very physical (i.e., they like climbing, jumping, movement, sports, etc.), you won’t want to miss this attraction. And, when you walk into Safari Sam’s, it’s certainly not hard to miss it. In writing, it’s difficult to convey the enormity of this structure. There is so much to it!
Around the outside of the structure, there is a “Black Diamond” course, which mixes some difficult sections that will test kids’ strength and endurance. It starts with a big, blue cube that must be climbed. The cube is smooth and just tall enough to weed out the smaller kids, who will definitely struggle once inside the advanced course. Being able to climb the cube is a good test to make sure your child can make it through the Black Diamond course. If kids cannot climb the cube, they should not attempt the rest of the course, unless they are accompanied by an adult. It has some spooky sections for smaller kids including some steep rope-wall climbs, big jumps, rope swings, etc. Again, make sure you accompany your child through this difficult course, if you feel they need assistance.
The jungle gym also sports a small section for toddlers, which is a big plus. Most of these structures do not have anything designed for crawlers and beginning-walkers. Right in the middle of the structure, you’ll find a couple small slides with some nice cushioned steps.
Generally, there are plenty of twists, turns and slides to keep almost any kid entertained. As a parent, you can go inside the playstructure, but be prepared to GET WORKED! If you have bad knees or a bad back, forget about it! Also, you’ll do some serious climbing in very tight quarters. Good luck!
The miniature golf course uses black lights to create a glow-in-the-dark effect. This is a top-notch 18-hole course. Each hole was constructed on a raised platform where they actually contoured the “green.” It’s hard to see these contours in the dark; thus, it creates a pretty challenging game of mini-golf.
There are two inflatable “bounce houses.” These are smaller than what you would find at Pump-It-Up or JJJump; however, they still looked pretty fun to me. When we weren’t playing in the jungle-gym or playing golf, we spent our time in the arcade playing driving games. The arcade features the same type of redeemable tickets that one can find at Bullwinkles’ Family Fun Center.
Overall, this is a VERY nice facility – very clean with a friendly staff. The arcade games were all in excellent condition, and I didn’t notice a single issue with the jungle gym. I can’t wait to go back for another visit soon! Here is a short video clip.
Caveats: As with similar places, these types of activities can add up quickly to give you a hefty bill. Check the “Family Tips” section below for some hints on minimizing the expense for your group or family. Even with one kid, expect to pay upwards of $20 for your visit – assuming you want to play golf and run around the jungle gym.
It’s hard to monitor activity inside any jungle gym, and as I’ve said, this one is very big. Thus, it’s possible that kids could fall down rope ladders onto your kids below without you even knowing. And, if your kids are exploring on their own, and you need to find them quickly, it will certainly be a challenge. Obviously, it’s better for kids to play in groups or with a buddy.
No outside food or drink allowed.
Website: Safari Sam’s Jungle of Fun
Distance from Portland: It’s about 16-20 miles from Portland. Plan on about 30 minutes due to traffic – it’s in a potentially congested area. Here is a Google Map of the area.
Recommended Ages: All ages! This is a great indoor spot for toddlers all the way to teens, which is difficult to find. I would say it’s best for ages ranging from 4 – 10.
Parental Stress Factor: It’s potentially high due to the rather chaotic nature of the venue itself. By saying that, I’m not knocking the management – it’s simply pretty loud with the video games, screaming (in delight!) kids, dull roar of the crowd, etc. It was a big challenge for me to let my son explore the jungle gym on his own, and I was pretty stressed while he was in there by himself. I did follow him around for a bit, but it was tough keeping up with him.
Because things seem to run efficiently inside Safari Sam’s, I think most parents, especially if they are in a larger group where their kids will all keep an eye on each other, will probably feel pretty relaxed.
Physical Difficulty: Challenging! Although it’s indoors, don’t be fooled! This playstructure is a BIG workout for kids of any age. This type of play is very good for motor-skill development. It seems like our children are getting less and less of this, especially through our schools.
Family Fun Factor: High! If you’re the type of parent who likes to act like a kid every now and then, the “fun factor” will be very high. Together, my 5 year old and I moved through the playstructure, shot 18 holes of mini-golf, played tons of arcade games, and definitely worked up a sweat! We had a wonderful time, and I saw many families with kids in different age groups also enjoying themselves.
Pet Friendly: No pets!
Weather Considerations: Of course, this is the perfect activity for the dreary winter months. However, we had so much fun that I could definitely see going even when the weather is nice.
Insider Info: Many of you might think this is just too far of a drive for a couple hours of fun. However, Sherwood is home to the beautiful Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge, which is another great reason to visit. So, if you don’t feel like spending more than an hour or two at Safari Sam’s, head over to the Refuge to get outdoors and stretch your legs.
Safari Sam’s has an excellent security feature – just in case you’re concerned about someone walking out with your kid when you’re not watching. Upon check-in, your entire group is stamped with the same code. This code is changed for every group. When you’re ready to exit, a staff member shines a black light over your hands to reveal the code. You must have the same code to exit together. This is a nice touch, and it made me feel much better about letting my son explore on his own.
Family Tips: Adults and kids under 2 are free! There are several pricing packages to help ease the financial burden. I won’t list these in the article, because prices are always subject to change. However, I can say that we went with the “Safari Adventure,” which gave us access to unlimited golf, jungle-gym, and 20 tokens for arcade games. If you want to include the other attractions and food, you’re going to spend at least $20 per child.
If you want to save money, plan on bringing your own food and just keeping it in the car. When you’re done, you can distribute the snacks on your drive back home or over to the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge. Often times, food is what really can brake the bank. Popcorn, candy, burgers, pizza, and drinks can all add up quickly.
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Rock Climbing at Smith Rock! on August 8th, 2009
Family Getaway - Garibaldi, Oregon on April 9th, 2012
Hondo Dog Park - Hillsboro on July 2nd, 2012
What's to Love: A fan on my .