By Bethany Parker
First, let me tell you just straight off – if you haven’t been here yet, just go. It’s totally and completely worth your time.
Now, on to the review.
Urbana Boulders is a new climbing wall experience at 502 N. Cunningham Dr. in Urbana. It’s tucked away in the shopping plaza at the corner of Cunningham and Perkins Road – I missed it twice and finally my son shouted “It’s RIGHT THERE! Just go back!” and we were on our way. The owner, Jim, has 12 years of climbing experience and seems to love every minute of what he’s doing.
For those who have never climbed at this location, even if you are a veteran climber, a brief safety orientation and explanation of the facility is in order. With that taken care of, you are on your own. The difference between Urbana Boulders and other climbing walls is that there are no belay ropes, nobody at the bottom to help you climb down. You don’t need that here. The walls are all between 9-13 feet high and the object is to climb as you are able. The 12-inch thick padded safety surface provides more than adequate cushion for a drop even from the top of the wall – although the staff does suggest that if you do reach the top (it’s not as easy as it looks!) that you climb down to a more comfortable height before you drop to the floor.
We visited at 3:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and shared the facility with about 10 people during that time. Since I had filled out our liability waivers online prior to arrival, it only took about 10 minutes from the time we entered the door until the kids were scaling the walls. I sat back and watched for a while, then joined them on the floor to see things close up. They really didn’t need me – with no need for a safety harness they were completely on their own and only called my name when they had mastered something difficult.
There was plenty of space for them to move around both with and without each other, and watch other people climb. Even after 90 minutes of nonstop climbing, they weren’t ready to leave.
If you go:
• Urbana Boulders is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days per week. Currently, the busiest times are on weekend afternoons and evening, and least busy on weekday afternoons.
• Climbing shoes are required. If you don’t have your own you can rent a pair for $2. These ran very true to size and were incredibly easy to put on, far easier than ice skates or roller skates!
• According to the owner, they do offer a discount for large groups (10 people or more). Call for details.
There are chairs and places to sit if you’re not climbing, or you can join your crew on the incredibly comfortable padded floor. There isn’t, however, a lot of space other than that for crawlers or walkers who won’t be climbing, so consider a less busy time if you will be bringing one of those along with you.
• Fill out the liability waiver online and you won’t have to deal with any paper when you get there.
• Check out www.urbanaboulders.com for full details.
Bethany Parker, a frequent contributor to Chambanamoms.com, is mom to the three wilds who, despite all of their recent growing up, still manage to leave Legos where she steps on them barefoot, marbles in their pants pockets and various food wrappers on the floor of the car.