Family Day Out Review: DJ’s Play Zone, Berkhamsted
DJ's Play Zone
Value For Money9.0/10
Variety Of Activities9.0/10
Things We Like
- A modern, clean, safe and fun soft play which is much better than its predecessor (Kidzone)
- Although small, the Sensory Area is a great addition
- The role play village is a great idea which gets children playing in different ways
- Lots of seating with clear view of the entire play frame
Things We Dislike
- Under 2's Area is a little small and would have been better separated
- Parking can be a little tricky at times due to location
- Same price structure as DJ's Play Park which is arguably bigger and better
What’s It All About?
DJ’s Play Zone is a brand new indoor soft play centre in Berkhamsted, located at the former Kidzone adventure playground. From the same team behind DJ’s Play Park in Hemel Hempstead, it’s a smaller venue but still offers a three-tier play frame with areas for over 4’s, under 4’s and under 2’s, as well as a sensory area and a role play street.
What Do We Think?
Opened in late November 2018, DJ’s Play Zone replaces The Kidzone indoor adventure playground which was located on the same site (Kidzone review here). Rather than just make a few tweaks, the entire place has been re-branded and renovated to provide a modern, clean, safe and fun place for children to play in Berkhamsted. It’s everything you’d want from a new soft play and we expect it to be very popular in the area.
It’s a little difficult to write this review though because (1) comparisons are going to be made to the old Kidzone, and (2) comparisons are going to be made to DJ’s Play Park in Hemel Hempstead. However, we’re going to try to review it as an independent establishment, just like we do with everywhere we visit. That being said, we think two main questions are going to pop up, which we may as well try to answer straight away.
Firstly, there’s no question that DJ’s Play Zone is so much better than Kidzone. I’m sure a few parents and children will look at Kidzone with nostalgia and miss certain features like the drop slide or that there was more play equipment, but it was tired, dated, dirty and needed a massive renovation. Our eldest enjoyed going, but from a parent’s perspective, it wasn’t particularly pleasant and they must have missed out on so many customers because of their reputation.
In terms of the second point, DJ’s Play Zone is almost like the little brother of the flagship DJ’s Play Park. The venue in Hemel has obviously been a huge success, so it makes sense to roll out what has worked well rather than reinventing the wheel – as such, it has the same branding, the same atmosphere and much of the same equipment. However, DJ’s Play Zone is smaller and some sacrifices have had to be made, which arguably makes DJ’s Play Park the better of the two venues.
With those two points made, let’s move on to what DJ’s Play Zone has to offer. The venue is within a large warehouse unit at the end of an industrial road. There’s free parking available for approx. 25 cars which is handy, however the car park can get full quite quickly as people from other units park there despite clear signs.
On entering, you walk through a little corridor and then through another door which takes you into the main area. The reception desk is immediately on the right, then continuing in this direction, you’ll find three toilet cubicles (one disabled with baby change), a cafe with booth seating, a separate party room, a role play area, a large play frame against the back wall and plenty of seating and tables in the middle. There’s also a small, enclosed outside area, however this was closed on our visit and we’re not sure how this will be used.
The large play frame is set over three tiers, has three defined (but not separate) areas for Over 4’s, Under 4’s and Under 2’s and features loads of different play equipment. Within the Over 4’s and Under 4’s, you’ll find a dual bumpy slide, a steep slide, a tube slide, two mini slides, a wrecking ball zip wire, a ball pit with suction tubes, a rodeo bull, swinging ring monkey bars, large gym balls, punching bags and a donut ring. There’s also a football and basketball area on the second level to the far left. Everything is brand new, shiny and clean which makes it a really nice place to play.
Integrated into this large play frame is the Under 2’s Area, which is on the far right beneath the ball pit with suction tubes. In here, you’ll find a small ball pool, foam shapes, a foam ramp, a ball blower, some large connecting blocks, a large mirror and a foam wall with colours and shapes. Although this area is quite small, there’s a fair few things to do and it provides enough entertainment for babies and toddlers.
At the back of the Under 2’s Area, there’s a little hidden area which works as a Sensory Room. In this dark area, there’s a large tank with coloured bubbles, a bumpy mirror and an infinity tunnel. This is a great addition for babies in terms of sensory play and for those with special educational needs and disabilities.
Although we like this play frame and the play equipment, there’s a sense that it’s a little underwhelming. The entire play frame feels like it should be bigger within the large building, particularly as it houses all three age ranges – it’s not small by any stretch of the imagination, but it only runs along the back wall and the top tier feels like it should be bigger than it is. There’s an argument that they’ve prioritised seating over play space, particularly when anyone who went to Kidzone knows how much stuff was crammed in there!
There’s also questions about the Under 2’s Area too – namely, (1) why is it integrated into the main play frame, and (2) why do you have to go through that area to get to the Sensory Room. During our visit, it was being used by much older kids because they didn’t see it as being separate to the Over 4’s and Under 4’s Areas and because they used it as a corridor to get to the Sensory Room – this means you have to continually watch what’s happening around you to ensure your baby / toddler doesn’t get hurt. We applaud the Under 2’s Area and Sensory Room, but having it separate to the main play frame would have been better.
Over on the right hand side, you’ll find a Role Play Village. This is made up of a number of themed buildings which have been decorated to resemble a Vets, Grocery Store, Police Station, Post Office and Cafe. These buildings contain props and outfits inside to help with imaginative play – for instance, your child can dress like a vet and use a stethoscope on a cuddly dog or sit behind the till and scan groceries. This is a brilliant idea and allows your children to use their imagination, play with other kids and take a break from running around on the play equipment.
There’s also DJ’s Cafe on site which serves hot and cold food, snacks and drinks. There’s plenty of seating, both in the cafe area and main floor area, with enough room to have a pushchair without being in the way. One of the great things is that you can see the entire play area from wherever you sit which is essential when trying to keep an eye on your children as they play.
In terms of prices, adults are free which is always a winner. Under 12 months are free with a paying sibling, then it’s a sliding scale from £3 up to £9.50 depending on age. Something that always works out pretty well is the hot drink deal which costs £8 and gets you entry, a hot drink, a squash and a biscuit – it costs £8 for entry for our four year old, so getting the drinks on top is a nice bonus. They also offer an annual membership at £149, which allows you to use all three DJ’s sites – it’s something we’re strongly considering.
To summarise, we enjoyed our visit to DJ’s Play Zone and love what they’ve done with the place. It’s a great addition to Berkhamsted, is a massive improvement on Kidzone, but arguably isn’t quite as good as DJ’s Play Park in Hemel. However, having said that, I imagine we’ll be visiting time and time again because it does exactly what we’d want from a soft play and it’s now the closest one to where we live.
What Does It Look Like?
What Do I Need To Know?
Address:1 Northbridge Road, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 1EH.
Opening Times: 7 days per week, 9.30am-6pm.
Price: Under 1 £3 (free with paying sibling), 1 year old £5, 2 years old £6, 3 years old £7, 4 years old £8, 5 years old £8.50, 6-12 years old £9.
Toilets: Yes. Two Unisex toilets and Disabled toilets. Baby change facilities available.
Cafe / Restaurant: Yes. DJ’s cafe serves hot and cold drinks, snacks and food.
Parking: Yes. Free parking spaces in car park outside.
Public Transport: Berkhamsted Train Station 1.2 miles away.
Duration: 1 to 3 hours.
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8), Older Children (9-12).
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