If your kids can scale sofas, are masters of the monkey bars and tireless tree-climbers, you’re in luck. California’s newest and biggest indoor rock climbing gym just opened near LAX, and it’s the spot to let your little monkeys (safely!) scale some serious heights as they climb buildings, hop up towers, and race to the tops of the walls. Read on to get the scoop.
What Is It?
Sender City is just one piece—a kiddified nook—of the cavernous Sender One Climbing Gym, the spanking new sister of the Santa Ana climbing mecca with the same name. Step inside the giant warehouse, located a quarter-mile south of LAX, and you’ll feel like you’re inside a futuristic airport hanger. Swooshes of blue and orange decorate soaring white walls which tower more than six stories high. For serious climbers, Sender One offers a multitude of challenges and 36,000-square feet of walls to climb. For kids who are new to the sport, or people who just want to have fun climbing (and jumping off) walls, Sender City is where you want to be.
And it’s not just for kids. Sender City participants must be over 30 pounds, but can be up to 300 pounds. Which means, Mom and Dad: Gear up and get climbing!
First Things First: Waivers & Gear
After filling out the required waiver at the front desk, you’ll head past the entry to the main climbing area toward the Sender City room. Then, before you can go in, you’ll need to gear up. This means strapping on a standard rock climbing harness that’ll hook you into the auto-belay system (more on that later) and, basically, keep you and your little climbers from harm. (Hint: Make sure you and your kids are all wearing pants and close-toed shoes; this is not the place for skirts, dresses or flip-flops.)
Once you’re inside, Mama Bears will be comforted to know that Sender City keeps an instructor/child ratio of around 1 to 6, so there will always be someone to clip your kids in and out of the belay system as well as scurry up and rescue your little monkey if they decide they’re just not coming down when the time comes. Also helpful: Sender City participants must book their one-hour sessions in advance to ensure that no more than 15 people are in the gym at a time.
The Wall’s The Limit!
This is not your standard climbing gym, and it’s nothing like the rock walls you find at carnivals or theme parks. In fact, in all of Sender City’s 22 climbing challenges, there’s not a plain old rock wall to be found. Instead, you and your brood will be scaling giant spider webs, scampering up an in-the-dark vertical tunnel, navigating up a hands-on maze, racing up timed competition walls and balancing on “skyscraper” beams that get higher and higher with each step. For each challenge you complete, you’ll get a check on your Sender City Passport; finish this whole card (it’ll take a few visits) and you’ll score a T-shirt and $100 off an annual membership.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Down
While Sender City’s walls are shorter than those inside the main climbing gym, the kids’ courses stand more than three stories high and since all of them go up, they all end with the inevitable “must come down.” And, as easy as it might look, this is the scariest of all for little ones and their onlooking (or participating!) parents. But once you get the hang of it—just put your hands up and kick off the wall—the auto-belay system will catch you and you’ll glide down as gracefully as Peter Pan on Broadway. This is thanks to the auto-belay system, which is run by hydraulics and is more than capable of handling full-grown men, let alone your tiny tots.
Looking for Thrills? You Might as Well Jump
As if climbing up and soaring down aren’t enough of an adrenaline rush, some of Sender City’s stops are there purely to challenge your chutzpah. Courageous kiddos (and crazy parents) will want to try the Jump Catch, where they must leap off of a two-story high platform to catch a hanging bag. Don’t be surprised if your intrepid daredevil gets to the top and then changes her mind. It happens. (Our writer, for one, wouldn’t go anywhere near it!)
Then, Try the Really Big Slide
Looking for something with a little less leap? Put on a giant red fabric suit (it makes you more slippery) and hang onto a trapeze bar as operators lift you about 50 feet up a vertical slide then ask you to let go. “It’s quite scary,” was all our instructor said about the challenge. Of course, it’s only as scary as you want it to be, since you can tell the operators to stop the ascent whenever you think you’re high enough.
Rugrats Can Play While Older Sibs Climb
If you don’t want to hire a sitter to watch your littlest monkey while you take the older sibs to Sender City, they’re got that figured out, too. Sender City has a bouldering wall where smaller climbers are allowed to hang (literally and figuratively) while older sisters and brothers tackle the big stuff. Keep in mind, this area is not fenced in, so your toddler has to have someone watching her at all times.
Older kids, especially those who are a little nervous on the higher walls, can also practice their skills here, and it makes a nice, confidence-building break in between the scarier climbs.
But Wait, There’s More
If your little climbers are ready to take their climbing to the next level, now’s the time to enroll them in a class at Sender One so they can see what it’s like to climb the big walls. Sender One offers drop-in climbing sessions for kids ages 6 & up (5-year-olds are admitted if they’re ready and can follow directions well). There’s also a one-month, once-a-week Climbing Academy for kids who want to learn the fundamentals of climbing including technique, problem solving skills and basic knot tying.
Want your birthday boy or girl to be the coolest kid in school? Book this place for a party. The sheer novelty of Sender City (there’s just no place like it in LA) means your kids and their friends will be sufficiently wowed. Major points for Mom and Dad.
Sender City Hours: Currently open weekends by reservation and from 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday–Friday.
Cost: $25 per person for a one-hour session (includes all equipment and instructor supervision.)
Sender City (Inside Sender One Climbing)
11220 Hindry Ave.
Have you been to Sender City? Tell us how you liked it in the comments section below!
—written and photos by Melissa Heckscher