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When Steve Steidl was creating Helium, an indoor trampoline / rock climbing facility in New Berlin, he looked to Walt Disney for inspiration.
"Walt Disney built Disney World as a special place for families to have a fun and magical place to spend time together. I did my best to capture a similar culture," says Steidl.
Helium Trampoline Park, which is not a franchise, opened last spring and offers a 30,000-square foot space featuring 130 trampolines, massive foam pit, dodge ball / basketball area and a three-story rock climbing wall called "Mt. Helium."
There is also an observation deck where parents can relax while keeping an eye on their kids. But I don’t recommend this because, unlike inflatables facilities, adults are allowed to participate in the activities. Even the foam pit.
This was my favorite aspect of Helium. After years of standing on the sidelines and wishing I could hop around inside a castle-shaped bouncy house, I was finally a welcomed participant.
Hence, during a recent visit, I took part in all of the activities alongside my 11-year-olds. I was, however, the only grown up at the time participating, but after about 5 seconds of feeling silly, I was seriously engrossed in the fun.
A couple of things I noted while jumping: Those trampolines are much springier than I expected and I am in terrible shape. I was winded after about five minutes and sore the next day. But it was totally worth the fun.
"The facility is all about family entertainment, fun and exercise," says Steidl.
I also really appreciated that Helium does not have any video games to distract the kids or lure them into the awful tickets-for-prizes trap.
"Instead, the kids get to run, jump, dunk basketballs, flip and bounce," says Steidl.
The only slightly disappointing aspect of Helium is the food options. Unfortunately, the menu is limited to items that are kid-popular but not particularly healthy – pizza, nachos, hot dogs and the like.
The pizza is made on-site, so it’s a cut above the usual fare, but I would have still liked to see fruit or veggies available. Not that my kids would eat them, mind you. They were too busy slurping down an Icee that came from a self-serve station with three flavors that they mixed together into one putrid-colored slushy drink.
No doubt about it, trampolining and climbing are really good exercise, and they also provide kids and adults with the chance to improve balance and agility.
Concern of injury while trampolining is valid and there are many statistics that suggest trampoling is dangerous. Like anything else, it is up to parents to decide what is best for their child.
Steidl says they often host boy and girl scout troops and that local school groups sometimes have gym classes at Helium. I opted not to tell my children this otherwise they would start lobbying to transfer.
Throughout the week, Helium offers a variety of special activities. Every Wednesday night, for example, is Family Night with a discount on up to four jumpers and includes pizza and soda.
Helium offers toddler time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and AIRobics which allows adults a seemingly fun workout. (One child can jump for free while his or her parent attends the class.)
"It’s very easy on the muscles and joints," says Steidl.
Also, Helium hosts a Jump and Jam Night for the 14-and-older crowd on Saturdays from 9 p.m. to midnight with a live DJ or cover band.
The rates, Monday through Thursday, are $10 for one hour, $13 for 90 minutes and $16 for 120 minutes. On the weekends, the prices are $12, $16 and $20. Birthday party packages are also available.
The winter hours for open play are Monday-Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m.; Fridays from 3 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to midnight and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A waiver must be signed before jumping or climbing. It can be filled out online ahead of time.
"The biggest thrill for me is to see a smiling person come off the trampolines sweaty and red in the face," says Steidl.
Later this year, Ryan Clancy and Becky Cooper-Clancy will open a similar facility called Bounce in Bay View. This is good news for people living on or near the South Side in the city of Milwaukee.
"We want to provide something for people and families to do that's fun and healthy and indoors," says Cooper-Clancy.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.