Who: Globe staffer Stephanie Ebbert with her children, Anna, 9, and Nick, 6
Where: Beantown at Jordan’s Furniture in Reading
WhaT: Seeking indoor winter entertainment
Had anyone warned me, back when I was single and going out every night, that I’d someday have a good time hanging out in the food court of a suburban furniture store, I might have wept.
But that was before children reshaped the contours of my days and a home renovation reshaped my living space. That was before I realized just how long a New England winter could be with restless toddlers at home and I discovered the indoor entertainment at Jordan’s Furniture in Reading.
My kids call it “the Jelly Bean Store,” and they don’t actually seem to understand that Jordan’s sells furniture. They fixate on Beantown, the area just inside the entrance that’s exploding with color, sound, lights, and jelly beans. Cartoonish, scaled-down models of Boston institutions — the State House, the Frog Pond, and Make Way for Ducklings statues — are built from nearly 25 million jelly beans. On an upper wall, Red Sox mascot Wally, an outsized green monster, tries to chomp on a rival Yankee.
On our visit last week, Nick and Anna ate ice cream cones nearly as big as their heads at Richardson’s Ice Cream, while we took in the competing attractions. One is the “Liquid Fireworks” show, which plays at regular intervals all day long. It’s a fountain, and light and music show, which mesmerizes little ones. We stuck around for several cycles and by the time Nick’s ice cream had kicked in, he was playing conductor, sweeping his arms in dramatic gestures to direct the fountains and dancing in front of the stage. This show, he declared, is actually “better than fireworks” because it’s not accompanied by loud explosions.
The other is attraction is overhead — a trapeze school. Instructors and students swing and clasp, reaching for one another and often missing, plummeting into safe, cushy nets. The kids can sign up for a lesson, though Trapeze School New York recommends booking beforehand online. The recommended minimum age is 6, but the woman working the desk told me that the youngest to try it was just 22 months old.
Beantown is free but offers cooped-up families valuable winter options — enough entertainment to keep kids sitting still for a few minutes and a space where they can swing from the rafters.