MINNEAPOLIS BOULDERING PROJECT
As a parent, there’s no sweeter feeling than how I felt during our first visit to the Minneapolis Bouldering Project. That night, I got my own workout, but I was also able to physically admire all three of my children’s confidences soar – like, literally saw it elevating with every step they climbed. They walked in to the 40,000 square foot venue filled with nerves and fear (because the place looks pretty intimidating) and – having never done anything like this before – I heard a lot of “This is gonna be hard”s and “I don’t think I’ll be able to do it”s. But after a few “Just go for it”s and “I believe in you”s, they ascended higher and higher, boulder by boulder.
After a couple minutes, they were absolutely DOING IT! And LOVING IT! And they (mom brag) KICKING ITS BUTT! In a mere two hours spent at the Minneapolis Bouldering Project, our moods were 100% boosted and our kids (and me too, I’m not gonna lie) walked out with heads held high sort of skipping on clouds, ready to take on the world! We immediately booked a birthday party and are considering youth summer camp because, how strong would they feel after a week straight of that sort of confidence-boost?!
Minneapolis Bouldering Project is a place where you don’t need to come in with the right skills, the right shoes, or an overabundance of athleticism. It’s a place where you try, you learn, you improve and you beam with pride because your little ones are accomplishing something challenging right alongside you. This place was so super good for my soul – my family honestly can’t recommend it enough!
What is it?
The Minneapolis Bouldering Project (MBP) is a massive indoor facility specially designed for the sport of bouldering. Bouldering is basically rock climbing – minus the ropes and harness – with climbs that don’t go too high off the ground (think between 12 and 18 feet). The entire flooring under the climbing walls are squishy pads, making falls far less painful (trust me…I fell…a lot). This is the first business of its kind in Minnesota and the third Bouldering Project in the country (others are in Seattle and Austin).
MBP is owned by Will Hansen (who is awesome, by the way) and you can tell there is passion behind the project. It’s well laid out, safe, clean, and he sincerely enjoys welcoming youth into the world of bouldering. They offer many youth programs, summer camps, and parties – plus a Parents Night Out, which I will discuss more in the Tips section.
When you walk in to the building, you’ll be overwhelmed by its size (and its cleanliness, spoken like a true mother). The long check-in desk sits under the huge MBP logo on the wall and there’s a tiny product shop next to a row of computers where you sign your electronic waiver. I kid you not – every single staff member was smiling and exceptionally welcoming to our kids. If I’m being honest, it’s not what I expected. I shamefully envisioned a bunch of scantily-clad hard-core climbers on every wall frustrated that children were invading their space. But everyone (staff and climbers alike) was so chill, smiling and high fiving them as they trekked back to the kids area
While the kid’s section is technically in the back, kids are allowed everywhere in the facility with adult supervision. My crew stuck to the back room and the slide structure mostly and it kept them very busy for a solid couple hours. My 8-year old liked venturing into the main area more and challenging himself but we accompanied him per the rules and common sense. The rest of the facility also hosts a fitness area, yoga classes, weight lifting, locker rooms and plenty of seating areas.
Fit for what ages?
If you had asked me which ages were appropriate at MBP before we went, my answer would’ve been teenagers on up. But once we went and tried it out, I can happily change that to TODDLERS on up. My 2-year-old had an absolute blast here! My 8-year-old is having his birthday party here! Nate and I had a date night here! Yes, teenagers will love it but – good news – so will ALL ages. They had teeny tiny climbing shoes for my 2-year-old and it was the cutest darn thing ever! So, yes, bring any age. If they have upper body strength and energy, they will love it here.
Couple things to note: experience is unnecessary. If a kid is even minutely athletic, climbing should come relatively naturally to them. Adults, same goes for you. There is a color key hanging on the walls that tells you what paths are easiest vs. which ones are hardest. We stuck to yellows (easiest) and reds mostly. If you are under the age of 14, they don’t want you in the main climbing area without an adult. We climbed out there with all three of our kids for the last hour and they enjoyed the challenges out there. Just be sure to keep an eye on them so they aren’t running underneath other climbers. If the back kids room will hold their attention long, I suggest trying to stay back there with the little ones. Oh, and you have to be 14 to use the fitness area (treadmills, weights, etc).
How much are we talkin’?
There are quite a few payment options at MBP, but if I were to assume you’re just taking your kids for a fun night out, you would be paying the day pass rate of $12/kid and $16/adult. Day passes give you access to the entire facility (including any classes happening that day as well as the fitness area). WE ARE GIVING AWAY TWO FAMILY FOUR-PACKS OF DAY PASSES HERE! You can also get a 10-punch day pass and save a little money if you plan on coming back nine more times.
Shoe rentals cost extra, however rentals are free on your first visit. Otherwise shoes are $4/pair (and they are worth every penny if you really want to climb well).
If your family is super duper into this like mine was, you might want to consider a family* membership. There are month-by-month memberships (range from $40-90/month or $108/family*), annual memberships ($615/kid; $750/adult) and family* membership options ($108/month or $1,155/year). *Family references one adult and one child. Additional family members are additional money.
On your first visit you can take a complementary introduction class if you’d prefer. My family did not do this but if you actually want to learn tips and technique, go for it.
Other items that are available for a cost:
- Birthday Parties: $220 for up to 10 climbers and $15/additional climber (max of 20 kids total)
- After School Programs: Monthly payments ranging from $50-150 depending on the child’s age. Available to kids ages 4-12 during the months of September-May
- Summer Camps: Ages 5-12 can join a week-long half-day camp between June and August for $250/week (non-members) or $200/week (members)
There is also a little shop at the front that sells MBP gear as well as Cliff Bars, Gatorade and more.
Want some tips?
So you want some pointers to make the process of bouldering with kiddos a little easier? OK. First things first, everyone should wear socks. MBP provides you with climbing shoes (free on your first visit; $4 going forward) but socks are a necessity. There are coat racks and cubbies available to store your items. There are mens and womens locker rooms with full bathroom facilities and really nice showers if needed.
Wear comfy clothes that you can climb (and fall) in. I would avoid zippers, buttons and hoods if possible. You will see people there wearing anything, including jeans, but we were comfiest in athletic pants and tank tops.
Bring snacks and water. This is a physical sport and even kids will get tired (don’t even get me started on how exhausted us adults were!) so having a water bottle handy and some granola bars or other energy foods handy will not go unappreciated. There is a small lounge area in the back by the kids are with tables and seats where you can enjoy your refreshments. Don’t take food or drink into the climbing areas though.
No reservations are needed – just come during open climb time. We went on a weeknight and it was super chill. I would suggest possibly calling if you are headed there on a weekend to make sure the kids area is accessible during the time you want to visit (due to potential groups or birthday parties).
Every single person who will be climbing needs to sign a waiver on one of the computers in the front entryway area or online before you arrive.
When it comes to actual bouldering, they offer chalk for your hands and band-aids for blisters which my kids thought was cool and it apparently “helped them climb better.” There are colored holds on all the walls and a color coded key hanging on the wall. Basically, yellow is the easiest followed by red then green. If your kids get past the green, bra-freaking-vo! That’s no-joke-awesome! You want to make sure your children know the rule that you don’t walk underneath other climbers on the squishy pad. Use the main walkway when switching walls. It’s pretty simple – even my toddler understood it.
On your first visit to MBP, you can take an introductory course from a staffer if you choose. It’s free and I don’t think it’s very long, so if your kids are in to learning the ropes and understanding the rules, go for it. We did not because my kids just wanted to jump right in. Note that any child under 14 must be accompanied by an adult at MBP and kids aren’t allowed in the fitness area.
I guess they have people come in and change the paths every five weeks, so it isn’t static, which makes it cool when visiting multiple times. And most importantly – there is no skill necessary to enjoy bouldering. Our family appreciated the support of the whole dang community there. Random climbers would walk past my son as he was hanging on the top hold of a tall wall and tell him how awesome he was doing. He thought that was the greatest thing ever! Everyone we encountered there was encouraging and energetic.
For some extra fun, you might want to consider one of the Minneapolis Bouldering Project’s many available youth activities:
Parents Night Out: Every Friday night from 6-9pm, parents can actually drop off their children age 4-12 for $15/kid (or $10/members). Their night includes climbing, rental shoes, instruction and a snack. They also have a table for a project or art or other forms of entertainment. The kids will be tired when you pick them up and you’ll get a tiny bit of freedom to enjoy a date night (may I suggest Pryes Brewing Company directly next door?). You can also just choose to climb at MBP without keeping an eye on the little ones during Parents Night Out. Space is limited so sign up online the week you’d like to send the kiddos and get planning your fun night out!
Summer Camps: 2018 marks the first summer of bouldering summer camps at MBP and I hope they are incredibly successful! Camps run weekly, Monday through Friday, June 11 until August 10, from 8am to 12:30pm. Kids between the ages of 5 and 12 are welcome to participate and will be separated by age group and skill level. The camps will include climbing (of course), but also games, personal challenges, project-based learning and lunch. Camps are $250/non-members or $200/members. And MinneMama Adventures readers are being offered a SUMMER CAMP DISCOUNT of 20% off (what?! amazing!). Simply enter the code: minnemama when registering for a Summer Camp.
Birthday & Climbing Parties: We are having our almost-9-year-old’s birthday party here in a couple of weeks and I canNOT wait! Parties are two hours long and are held in the climbing room in the back during selective open hours on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-1pm and 4pm-6pm. Parties cost $220 for up to ten children, but additional kids are allowed at a cost of $15/each. No food or beverage is included but you can bring in your own.
Hours and location
1433 W. River Rd N. | Minneapolis, MN 55411
Mon – Fri : 6am – 11pm
Sat – Sun : 9am – 10pm
There is a large, free parking lot. The building is massive so you can’t miss it. If you want to see upcoming classes or additional information, their website is very up-to-date. They also list all of their upcoming special events (and there are a lot of them) on their Facebook page.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary visit to Minneapolis Bouldering Project in exchange for my time sharing this post. All thoughts are my own.