Image: Fire truck exhibit at Discovery Center. Murfreesboro Mama
Whether it’s a heavy spring rain or a bout of Ice-mageddon, Tennessee weather is known for being unpredictable. I love the meme that says, “Northern friends, your weather is down here in my yard drunk. I'm gonna need you to come down here and get it."
Before Covid-19 most of us with young children could head to the nearest fast-food restaurant with an indoor play area in bad weather, but health concerns have curbed those options. Thankfully, many local play places, museums, and entertainment businesses have been busy creating clean and safe spaces for families, and now is a great time to visit. At the time of this article all are fully open, but several have had periods of opening and briefly closing for Covid-19, so be sure to call or message before you go to make sure they’re ready for guests.
Check out these 18 Spots for Rainy-Day Play.
Open Wednesday- Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Cost: $8.
Babies through elementary-school aged children will stay busy with art supplies, learning from a mechanics min-lab, playing with water, and learning about the intersection of all things STEAM with the center’s hands-on exhibits. Choose from special programs and even reserve your own private playdate!
100 Sam Ridley Pkwy E. Smyrna, TN 37167. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday 12 – 6 p.m. Cost: $5 for ages 3- 12; $7 for ages 13 and older.
Are the kids climbing the walls at home? At SOAC they'll enjoy interactive exhibits, small animals to visit, art projects, and the center's stellar indoor climbing walls for all ages.
Incl. Smyrna Public Library, MGL in Patterson Park, Eagleville, Linebaugh Library (main branch), and Technology Resource Center. Hours and times vary. Cost: FREE.
We might take our libraries for granted, but even I forget the beautiful open spaces they provide, not to mention valuable books and media to take home! Aside from looking at books, encourage your kids to bring a few toys to play with (quietly) on tables between page turning. Take advantage of freebies like Quest kits, curriculum book packages, and coloring sheets.
5063 Murfreesboro Rd., La Vergne. Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Cost: FREE.
It’s not uncommon for locals to miss La rgne’s own lovely mecca for literature. Utilize study spaces, a charming children’s area with computers and inviting décor, and tempting aisles of used books for purchase.
521 Mercury Blvd. Murfreesboro. Hours: Monday- Saturday 6 a.m. – 5 p.m, Sunday 1 – 5 p.m. Cost: $4.
Find open gyms, an art gallery, indoor pool, library and walking track in this comprehensive community center. The family will love playing games like air hockey, checkers, and ping pong ball in the game room, or plan ahead and invite a group to join you at the indoor pool (by reservation only).
401 Volunteer Rd. Murfreesboro. Hours: Monday 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday 12 – 5 p.m. Cost: FREE.
It’s one thing to take on the elements, and it’s another to do it with a cozy indoor refuge (and bathrooms) nearby. The Wilderness Station hosts outdoor workshops for all ages, plenty of small animals to visit with, as well inspiration for outdoor exploring and guides to trails and wildlife.
3138 S. Church St. Suite F Murfreesboro. Hours: Monday- Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sunday 1:30- 5:30 p.m. Cost: Starts at $20 for 50 minutes for 1 parent and 1 child (ask about family pricing).
If you can't get to the beach, then this is the next best thing! The play room at Breathe Easy features every beach toy imaginable (okay, no surf boards, but nearly everything else) for kids to play with while enjoying the health benefits of Himalayan sea salts.
1399 Sam Davis Rd. Smyrna. Hours: Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Cost: Children under 6 FREE, Children 6-12 $10, 12 and older $15.
Take a tour of the Confederate hero’s home and peruse the separate gift shop, visitor center, and attractive museum and theater. Check their events on social media and sign up for great programs like homeschool days or the monthly Toddler Tuesdays.
225 W. College St. Murfreesboro. Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Cost: FREE.
Learn more about where you live at this home of interactive exhibits, public programs and educational events surrounding stories from Rutherford County’s history. Visit for a walk through of current exhibits, or plan ahead for an age-appropriate field trip.
816 Old Salem Rd. Murfreesboro. Hours: Thursday- Saturday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Cost: $7 for those 12 and up; $3 for those 4-11 years; 4 and under FREE.
The hands-on mineral and paleontology museum has something for dinosaur lovers of all ages! Be wowed by the stories and facts behind the fossils and skeletal casts of actual dinosaurs, and learn about local geography with exhibits from the Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society.
1720 Old Fort Pkwy Ste 2002 Murfreesboro. Hours: Monday, 9 a.m. -11 p.m, Tuesday 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Wednesday 9 a.m. – 12 a.m., Thursday 9 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday- Saturday 9 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. Cost: Varies.
More than fun bowling lanes, the family can get treated to roller skating, laser tag, and bumper cars. Purchase one-time tickets or spring for unlimited access to all activities with their Wristband rates.
1660 Memorial Blvd. Murfreesboro. Monday- Friday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Cost: Youth day passes for those 12 and under start at $15; adult day passes start at $17.
This climbing destination boasts climbing, fitness and yoga, which includes bouldering, lead, top rope, kids climbing areas and auto belays. Check out classes and group event for a wide range of ages.
450 Butler Dr. Murfreesboro. Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m, Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday 12 – 9 p.m. Cost: Varies.
Hit the lanes, the arcade, and the Dark Ops Tactical Tag at this family destination center. Take advantage of leagues and events for kids, and weekly specials like their two-for-one Tuesday deals.
95 Weakley Ln #4241 Smyrna. Open 24 hours. Cost: Children 12 and under start at $2.25/game; adults $3/game.
It might be one of the largest bowling centers in the state, but families are the focus of the 50,000 square foot bowling and arcade. Since it has some of the best rates around it’s a great way to grow a love of bowling for all ages.
333 N. Lowry St. Smyrna. Hours: Monday- Thursday 12 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday- Saturday 12 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 12 a.m. Cost: Varies.
There’s a little bit of everything here—24 bowling lanes, a two-story laser tag arena, bumper cars, and even an Escapology escape room! If you plan to settle in for the day, take advantage of their stellar café which features the usual pizza and burgers, but also plenty of options for the health-minded and food-sensitivity crowd.
1220 NW Broad St. Murfreesboro. Hours: Monday- Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Cost: Varies; Current specials for children start at $9.99.
From the mega-launch slide to the ninja warrior course to freestyle jumps, kids and adults will find an activity to test their strength, while toddlers can learn and jump in the play areas. Follow their social media for specials like their parents night out programs, Homeschool Hop memberships, and Little Leapers events.
252 River Rock Blvd. Murfreesboro. Hours: Monday- Thursdays 3 :30 – 9 p.m., Friday 3:30 – 11 p.m., Saturday 12 -11 p.m; Sunday 2-7 p.m. Cost: Starts at $8 per person per game.
Got kiddos who are ready to run? Take advantage of the city’s largest laser tag arena.
849 W. College St. Murfreesboro. Hours: Tuesdays 4 – 8 p.m.; Friday 4- 10 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 :30 p.m. and 7:30- 10 p.m.; Sunday 2-5 p.m. Cost: Starts at $4 admission.
Burn off some energy and serious calories with an old-fashioned skate outting! The city’s oldest skating rink still hosts wonderful fun throughout the week with pizza parties, themed skates, and special music nights.
Did I miss a spot? Share your favorite place to go for rainy-day play with kids in the comments!
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama and Murfreesboro native who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two children. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Got a column idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.