How To Try A Seacoast Rock Climbing Gym With The Family

girl climbing on rock climbing wall in gym
Rock climbing is a great kid-friendly activity. Learn how to try a Seacoast rock climbing gym with the family!

In our twenties, my husband and I would occasionally rock climb. Now, decades later, I find myself looking for fun, indoor, and active things to do with my kids on a rainy day. I have discovered that the rock climbing gym is a place for our children to build confidence, develop a skill, and get exercise through goal-oriented climbing challenges. Does this sound like something your family would like too? Here’s how to try a Seacoast rock climbing gym with the family.

Why Rock Climbing?

Rock climbing is a great activity for kids (and grown ups) that provides numerous benefits. Some of the most obvious I’ve seen in children are:

  • Physical Fitness: Rock climbing uses many muscle groups, including upper body, core, and legs. It’s great exercise!
  • Confidence and Self Esteem: Through climbing, children learn to overcome challenges and push their limits. Walls in the rock climbing gym vary based on skill and ability. They can start with a 5.6 and work towards a challenging 5.10. Taking baby steps? Have them start by climbing to their height. Next time try twice their height. After practice, they might reach the top of the wall!
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making: Climbers must assess the best route to take up the wall. Foot and hand placement takes thought and strategic thinking.
  • Teamwork and Communication: Your child will rely on their belayer (person holding the rope), for support and safety. The team at the bottom are there to encourage and support the climber.
little girl holds on tight to rock climbing wall
My daughter (age 5) climbs the bouldering wall. A soft bouncy floor cushions her fall when she jumps off.

Steps To Trying Out A Rock Climbing Gym

To try a Seacoast rock climbing gym with the family, you don’t need gear or skills. It’s intimidating entering a facility where you have no frame of reference, but here’s how it works:

What to expect when you arrive

  • Sign in and pay: Most rock climbing gyms are drop in facilities. While some folks have memberships, its common to pay a day rate. Upon entry, you state who the climbers are and say if it’s your first time there. First timers will need to fill out a waiver form which is usually accessible online ahead of time. Staff will ask you if you need to rent gear. Climbers need shoes and harnesses. Belayers (the person holding the rope from below) need a harness, rock climbing carabiner, and belay device. These items can all be rented for $5 – $10 at the gym. 
  • Suit up: Once you have payed and signed, harness up. If it’s your first time, ask a staff member to show you how. Even though I’ve climbed many times, I sometimes have a staff member check my kids harnesses since rentals are different than my own. Don’t be shy! Rock climbing shoes should be snug.
  • Ask for a tour and a tutorial: If you are new to the gym, ask for a quick tour. Most rock climbing gyms on the Seacoast are small. They will point out the bouldering area, rock walls, and any other features. Ask where beginners should start.


  • Belay: Most of the time I’m at the rock climbing gym with my kids, I’m belaying them and watching them climb. Gyms require that you show you can properly belay others and pass a very informal “belay test”. If you are new to the sport, don’t fear- it’s not hard! Ask for a tutorial and have them watch you as you practice. You need to learn how to tie a climber in with a figure eight knot and how to belay the climber. If you’re a total newbie and you’re not going with a more experienced climber, consider taking a beginner class your first time. That said, some gyms, like MetroRock, have auto belay systems on some of their routes. If you plan on only using the auto belay, you do not need to know knots and belay technique.
  • Boulder: Bouldering walls are shorter walls that people can climb without wearing a rope. Thick mats cushion your fall and no belaying is required. The bouldering walls are great for kids since they can freely climb and then jump down when they are done. As a parent, it’s also an easy way to entertain them without having to arrange taking-turns on belay.
  • Climb: Climbing up a rock wall requires a partner to belay. When going with my kids, I have them take turns climbing while the other waits. When new to the gym, ask an employee to guide you to an easy climb to start with. Watch the other climbers and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Kids at climbing gyms are common so there will often be plenty of parents or staff members to ask for help. 
My two children simultaneously climb up side by side rock walls using an auto – belay.

Where to Try A Rock Climbing Gym On The Seacoast?

There are some fun and easily accessible rock climbing gyms a short drive from the Seacoast. Check these out:

Indoor Ascent – Dover, New Hampshire

Indoor Ascent is located at 47 Broadway in Dover, New Hampshire. It’s a small but family-friendly indoor rock climbing gym. Gym hours are 4 pm – 10 pm on weekdays and 10 am – 4 pm on weekends. Monday is ladies only night from 6 – 10 pm – so get your mom-friends to go with you! A day pass for climbing is $16 for an adult and $14 for a student. If you are totally new, consider signing up for a $40 intro class. This will build confidence in climbing, safety, and belaying.

MetroRock Newburyport – Newburyport, Massachusetts

MetroRock Newburyport is part of a national chain of rock gyms. It has a few bells and whistles that Indoor Ascent is lacking. This includes, extensive range of boulder walls, swishy soft floors perfect for falling from the bouldering walls, and auto belay systems which means you can solo climb, or have multiple kids climb together with one adult. While the adult day pass is steeper than Indoor Ascent at $25 a person, they have a kid-under-7 day rate for $10. As a result, this spot is family favorite. MetroRock is open 10 am to 10 pm weekdays and weekends 9 am to 8 pm. They also have both a Ladies Night and Men’s Night every week.

Vertical Dreams – Manchester, New Hampshire

I became familiar with this rock climbing gym by chaperoning a lot of after-school field trips with middle school kids. It’s a small rock gym with a fun challenge – one of the climbs is the entire length of the mill building elevator shaft (middle schoolers love this). Day rates are $17 for adults and $15 for students with hours weekdays from 3 pm – 9 pm and weekends 11 am to 7 pm. Vertical Dreams also offers beginner lesson packages for $40. Vertical Dreams also does kid camps, birthday parties, and has a youth climbing team!

Salt Pump Climbing Company – Scarborough, Maine

Salt Pump Climbing Company is a kid-friendly rock climbing gym in southern Maine. It’s open weekdays noon – 10 pm and weekends 10 am to 6/8 pm respectively. Rates are comparable to the others with adult day passes for $20 and children for $15. Salt Pump has a whole section on their website that explains to first timers what the experience is like. While they offer first timer classes, they will also train you for free on your first try. This is an approachable way to enter the sport. In addition, Salt Pump offers a wide range of opportunities for kids including camps and even a toddler climbing group!

mom and kids climb on the seacoast
Spending a few hours at the rock climbing gym is the perfect way to spend a rainy weekend.

Final Thoughts

It takes strength and bravery to overcome the anxiety and fear of trying something new. Even as a previous climber, I was nervous about entering a new climbing gym for the first time. Now, I’ve visited multiple different Seacoast rock climbing gyms and usually find myself surrounded by parents, kids of all ages, and yes – a few rock-adults practicing their skills. It’s a safe and welcoming space.

These days, I stand below while my kids tackle the walls. I look forward to the day when they are older and we can take turns climbing together. Whether you want a place to go on a rainy day, or looking for a new hobby, take a leap and try a Seacoast rock climbing gym with the family.

For more adventure sports with your Seacoast family, consider trying out kayaking or hiking on a Seacoast trail.