Who: Globe columnist Joanna Weiss; her kids Ava, 8, and Jesse, 3; their friend, Brianna DiMaggio, 8
What: Jumping and sliding with abandon
Where: Cape Cod Inflatable Park, South Dennis
We can’t all be Olympic gymnasts. But most of us can jump. That’s what makes the moon bounce — or bouncy house, or inflatable castle — so irresistible. Especially when it’s shaped like a giant dinosaur with teeth.
We first spotted the Cape Cod Inflatable Park a few months after it opened last summer, when we saw a Tyrannosaurus towering in the air behind a strip mall on Route 134. As we came closer, we realized it had company: enormous air-filled sharks, lizards, boot-camp-style obstacle courses.
The inflatable park is one of those brilliant concepts that, in retrospect, seems too simple. The operators of a flea market, struggling during a retail slump, decided to clear off an acre of the land they were renting and fill it with a group of bouncy houses. They collected a mix of sports games, water games, and enormous slides. They cordoned off a set of smaller inflatables for kids under 6 and staffed the larger rides with monitors, minimizing the chance of injury and parental worry. (You still need to sign a release form to get your kids in.)
The older kids were instantly hooked, and Jesse, then 2, mastered the art of jumping and struggled to make it up little ladders to the tiny slides. This year, they all begged to return, and they had company. By noon on a Sunday, the park was mobbed — and admission had gone up from $12 to $15 a jumper (plus $1 for a pair of socks, if you forget to bring your own).
Warning: On a hot day, the park feels a little like an oven. And on a morning after a heavy rain, the inflatables were filled with standing, bubbling water, until staff members made their way through them with towels.
The kids didn’t care; they were too busy jumping. This year, Jesse was a pint-size ladder master, giving instructions to the smaller toddlers. With a staffer’s consent, he even dared to climb the dinosaur.
I watched him disappear up the ladder and reappear at the top of the slide. Down he came, a look of half-terror, half-thrill on his face.
“I did it!” he shouted proudly when he landed.
“Do you want to do it again?”
By next year, he’ll change his mind.
codinflatablepark.com. Joanna Weiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaWeiss.