Day Tripper: Unwind From Holiday Shopping at iPlay America

New attraction in Freehold offers plenty of indoor fun near familiar shopping venues.

Editor's note: Day Tripper offers, you guessed it, day trip ideas around New Jersey.


Holidays and the cold weather are edging upon us.

As people start shopping for gifts for the various celebrations to come, it is impossible to forget that sometimes shopping is really, really hard. Stores are extra crowded, the standard sales pitches are pitchier, the perfume counter attendants are a little more trigger happy on that bottle of cologne than normal, and the kids … the kids are not amused.

However, with a thick frost on the ground and a lingering chill in the air, an afternoon in the park is like asking for a week of chicken soup and thermometers. What is a person to do? Opening on Route 9 and Schanck Road in Freehold, the owners of iPlay America believe they have the answer and revealed it on Nov. 11 (that’s 11/11/2011). Come in before, or after, your shopping duties and blow off some steam with your family, all in the warmth and comfort of a large indoor arcade and amusement park.

iPlay America’s spokeswoman Marcy Edwards explained the origin of the indoor amusement park was the solution to an economic problem.

“Bob McDaid, the owner and founder of iPlay America, was left with a piece of unsightly land that was initially slated to be developed into a shopping center," Edwards said. "As the economy took a turn for the worse, the stores that were planning to move into the space backed out. Bob thought long and hard about how he wanted to develop the land. He kept coming back to what truly matters most to him: family.”

Day Tripper Digest

Estimated Travel Time: 60 minutes.

Why it’s Worth the Trip:  The kids just want to have fun. But so do you, and holiday shopping in the throes of the season isn't always particularly merry or joyful. A place like iPlay America, located where it is, makes for a tremendous pit stop (if you can actually pull yourself away once you’re there).

How to Get There from Here: Detailed driving directions.

You’ll Probably Get Hungry:  The Freehold Raceway Mall offers McDonalds, P.F. Chang’s, and other options in their food court. Starbucks and Chili’s flank either side of Barnes and Noble Bookstore on Route 9. Burger King, 7-11 convenience store and Wendy’s are in walking distance from iPlay America. If you want less fast-food oriented fare, near Wal-Mart is the Longhorn SteakhouseOlive GardenEscondido’s Mexican and, if the kids have really plucked that last nerve, Moore’s Tavern and Sports Bar.

However, you don’t actually have to leave iPlay America in order to eat. Featuring several food options, the facility has you covered very well. City Square Grill – A casual sit-down restaurant with specialty salads, pizzas, and even lobster macaroni and cheese; CSG Express – Salads, sandwiches, pizzas, desserts, and drinks prepared fast so you can move on to the next game; Sonny’s Boardwalk Grill – Hot dogs, fries, funnel cake, and refreshments; Mixx – frozen yogurt, espresso, cappuccino, hot cocoa and cookies; and Broadway Sweets – a candy store’s candy store.

While You’re in the Area:  Get that holiday shopping done at the Freehold Raceway Mall while you’re out, visiting shops like The Disney Store, Sears, J.C. Penney’s, and Hot Topic inside. On the property you’ll find Dick’s Sporting Goods and Toys R Us. Across the road from Route 9 you can buy books and family games at Barnes and Noble bookstore. Trying to keep the budget in check? Wal-Mart is not far away on West Main Street, shortly after the mall. Looking for more homespun flavor? Try Wemrock Orchards’ shop (which we  earlier in the year). If you want sweeter treats as gifts, Freehold mainstay Old Monmouth Candy Shop is located on Business Route 33 and offers factory tours for the little ones during the holidays.

iPlay America, though it has about all the arcade games you could hope for, is actually an indoor amusement park. As such, be prepared for Go Karts, bumper cars, the Kite Flyer slide and a laser tag course, as well as an obstacle course lit with laser light, mini-bowling, the 4-D theater and Just iKidz for the young ones.

Marcy Edwards said that the project began during the throes of the financial crisis. “From conceptualization to completion, the project has taken over three years,” she said. During that time period, many forms of entertainment have moved back into family-oriented territory, from destinations to movies. The time was, according to the principals involved with the project, just right for something like this to enter the region, Edwards said.

Edwards also said that the main purpose for building a place such as this was simple and, hopefully, long-lasting. “(McDaid) wanted to create an exciting location for families to come to and spend quality time together," Edwards said. "For this reason, iPlay America will be a destination where thousands of family memories will be created each week.”

For more information, visit the website at iPlay America.


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