Take one of those children’s playgrounds found at many fast-food restaurants. Enlarge it to the size of an enormous aircraft hangar. Fill it with a fairy-tale castle, a spaceship, super-sized jungle gyms and educational fun and you’ll get Sensapolis in Sindelfingen, Germany.
I’ve wanted to visit this place for a while, but as a single adult, I never felt right going alone. So I borrowed the neighbor’s kids and headed out.
Once inside Sensapolis, the first things I noticed were its sheer size and the noise created by the crowd of children. Both are huge. But my neighbors, who’ve been many times, told me it was a slow day and to expect a full crowd and more noise next time.
We visited the Science Center first. It was full of hands-on exhibits like optical illusions, giant building blocks and an interactive facial recognition screen. The screen showed a video of passers-by and displayed text next to their faces with their gender and mood.
The kids seemed to be enchanted by the exhibits and constantly called for me to look at something they had discovered.
Next was the spaceship. This massive structure is full of shooting galleries, crazy space props and statues of aliens. The best part about climbing into this thing is that you know you don’t have to climb down. You are never far from an “escape hatch,” a slide that shoots you out onto pads on the ground level of Sensapolis.
The castle was my least favorite section. It had a fairy-tale theme and, except for the dungeon, seemed to be geared to young girls. It had a dress-up room with outfits fit for princesses, throne rooms and a dance hall.
A tree village stood next to the castle. Think of an Ewok city in “Star Wars.” Ladders, rope bridges and houses created a vertical and horizontal labyrinth.
Now that we had worked up an appetite, we headed to the short-order grill and a dessert bar in the main area of Sensapolis. I had a cheeseburger that was OK, but nothing to write to Mom about. The kids were more than satisfied with their meals, small burgers and fries.
Cash is not accepted at any of the concession stands or gift shops in the facility. When you arrive, you are given a credit card. Everything is purchased with this card and you pay when you leave.
This is an ingenious idea for the owner of Sensapolis, but be careful not to lose track of how much you are spending.
We finished up with the jungle gym and water toys where the kids played with puzzles involving water and attacked each other in a giant ball pit surrounded by vines and trees.
As the children played, their father and I contemplated climbing the giant tree near a pirate ship. At the top of the tree there was a small house and an obstacle course hanging from the ceiling about 100 feet up. No one was there to strap us into the mandatory harnesses, so I never got the chance to chicken out.
After five full hours, the kids had finally had enough — and I was tired, too.
All in all, it was a fun excursion and, if you have children, I highly recommend taking them there.
From Stuttgart, take A831 then A81 southwest and leave the autobahn at Exit 24, Böblingen-Hulb. Keep to the right and continue toward Böblingen-Hulb as the road merges with Calwer Strasse. Continue to the right on Calwer as it passes under the autobahn. After a mile or so, turn left at a set of traffic lights onto Flugfeld-Allee and left onto Umberto-Nobile-Strasse. Finally, take the first left onto Melli-Beese-Strasse. Sensapolis is on the left at Melli-Beese-Strasse 1. There is free parking.
Hours are noon to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and school and public holidays. Closed some evenings for special events; check the website for dates.
Fifteen euros for children and adults, 10 euros for seniors and disabled persons, free for those up to age 3. An evening ticket good from 5 p.m. to closing time costs 7 euros; family, group and season tickets also are available.
There is a fast-food and drink area as well as a separate coffee bar. The average meal price is less than 10 euros; drinks range from 1.50 euros to 4 euros. A beer costs 3 euros.
The English-language website is www.sensapolis.de/index_en.php. It includes an interactive map that identifies various attractions and gives details (in German) about each and guidelines for those planning to use the park’s equipment.