Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Air Maniax: indoor adventure park blends fun with fitness for children and adults

A high-tech radio-frequency-connected band allows you to sync with FlyCams installed across the venue, which are triggered to start recording videos of you as you complete an activity

It’s not usual for parents to find an indoor play area for our children that also affords a smidgen of fun for us. Usually, we sit on the sidelines and watch as our kids burn some energy, and we stave off boredom by either taking endless pictures of children squealing as they propel themselves down a slide, or we’re mind-numbingly scrolling through our social media.

Air Maniax provides a welcome exception. Do not think of the newly opened adventure park in Dubai as yet another specimen to add to the ever-growing list of indoor play areas that dot the UAE. This one demands that parents partake in the fun, which is akin to a workout.

The first impressions

My husband and I bundled up our 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, and headed there early on a Friday morning. We picked the time and day hoping the place would be deserted and thus quiet, a rare state of being in most centres that cater for spirited children.

Surprisingly, plenty of other families – early risers like ourselves – must have had the same idea, because the place was buzzing, but not ­annoyingly so. Quickly, we ­realised that it’s the sort of space that won’t get too crowded, because of its sheer size and the type of play it requires; here, the more the merrier.

Located in a brand-new, custom-built warehouse in Al Quoz, Air Maniax is 23,000 square feet of inflatable fun. It has 15 activities, divvied up into five zones: a 15,000-square-foot Inflatable Arena; an interactive obstacle course known as the Warrior Assault; an adrenaline-fuelled zip line known as the Zip Zag, which defies gravity and can only be ridden by children who are taller than 130 centimetres; and an arcade-style laser tag game known as the Lazer Frenzy; plus two zones dedicated to toddlers between 1 and 4 years.

Getting started

When you sign in at reception, where life-size statues of The Hulk and The Rock are on hand to greet you, you’ll be given a pair of bright orange grip socks and a rubber wristband. The latter, it turns out, is the standout feature at Air Maniax. It’s a high-tech radio-frequency-connected band that allows you to sync with FlyCams installed across the venue, which are triggered to start recording videos of you as you complete an activity.

You can choose to share these videos on any social media outlet. The band is also used to accumulate points, record scores, and keep track of your time as you navigate different activities or obstacle courses, and it is your property for life. Every time you come back to Air Maniax, you bring the wristband along and use it to compare your performance to what you achieved the last time. It adds an element of competitiveness to the day, whether you’re playing against yourself, a family member, or the rest of your team.

A two-minute safety video follows, explaining the dos and don’ts inside the activity zones. Lockers are available to rent for free (just hand in an ID).

Getting in a workout

Making your way through all the activities is straightforward; there’s a start and an end point to each. Throughout, you’ll be working up a serious sweat. In the Inflatable Area, for example, you’ll find a basketball court that demands you keeping jumping, as if on a trampoline, to make each shot. There’s a ­wrecking- ball-style game where two to four competitors hulk the huge ball at one another in an attempt to throw the other off the platforms. Slides, some almost completely vertical, are plentiful, and a pit of foam cubes allows you to free fall into its depths. It’s undeniably fun, but of the more demanding sort. Thankfully, a cafe upstairs serves both food and drink if you need a break.

Don’t make the same mistake we did. Thinking it’s more the kind of place where the children will play while I sit and watch, I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, and was quite uncomfortable in my fitting jeans and stuffy sweater. My husband’s long-sleeved button-down didn’t help, either. Wear gym attire, or at least clothes that afford some stretch. You’ll be jumping relentlessly, not to mention scrambling up walls and through tunnels.

In fact, hour-long fitness challenges for adults-only will become a regular offer at the inflatable park during the week and in the evenings, and groups can engage in ­competitive fitness led by trainers. Air Maniax will also launch disco nights for teenagers, rendered all the more enjoyable thanks to the laser games and zip line.

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Read more:

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A caveat: although it markets itself as a play centre for ages 2 to 65, Air Maniax has a lot more to offer children who are 4 and above – or, more specifically, children taller than 107cm. The younger ones might find themselves bored in the toddler zones. My own 2-year-old lasted about an hour exploring the two, before whining relentlessly, eager to join his older sister and his father, both of whom were having the time of their lives. Regardless, toddlers have not been completely overlooked. Mother and toddler time will run Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 1pm, and will include two hours of playtime for the young ones and a free cup of coffee or tea for mothers, for Dh60.

Ultimately, what Air Maniax has managed to do is create a play area for families, rather than just children, and has done do in a way that fitness becomes synonymous with play. We left positively exhausted, but absolutely exhilarated.

Air Maniax is open daily from 10am to 7pm during the week and until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Tickets cost from Dh80. Visit www.airmaniax.com for more information

Updated: January 16, 2019 07:32 PM

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