Recognizing that Northeast DC was lacking in amenities for city parents, working moms Molly Nizhnikov and Rachel Lubin founded The Lane in Ivy City, a stylish “family social club” that officially opened its doors last weekend.
The two-story indoor play place features a giant spiral slide, a climbing wall, a ball pit and a netted loft and tunnel for kids to explore. There’s also a soft play area for babies, a gathering area for organized activities and a quiet reading nook with a curated selection of diverse children’s books. Upstairs, an all-day cafe offers breakfast, lunch and snacks (plus coffee, beer and wine for the adults) and there’s a roof deck where families can play classic board games.
Washington FAMILY spoke to Nizhnikov and Lubin about their new family social club in Ivy City:
Can you tell us your inspiration for starting The Lane?
Having kids! We became friends after our older daughters were born (5.5 years ago) and quickly realized that the spaces available for young families were underwhelming and inconvenient for D.C. families. We didn’t want to accept the notion that you have to exit your former life when you have kids and enter a new reality that’s almost entirely kid-focused. It would help if you didn’t have to pick and choose between adult and kid-focused activities, and we know so many other parents out there who felt the same way. It’s possible for a space to be happy for the whole family and we were determined to create it.
What was your inspiration behind the design of the space?
We channeled our kids and what they love—as well as our inner child. We knew we wanted to intersperse seating, amenities and design catering to adults with play elements and whimsy for children. Beyond that, we wanted to take it to the next level and inspire the grown-ups to play, too! Does anyone stop loving to climb things? Does anyone NOT want to play a board game?
And we’ve proven that a gigantic ball pit is tempting at all ages. We wanted to have features that get the whole family excited, and we’re seeing people enjoy the space as we imagined. Seeing the look of glee when a parent and a little one get to the bottom of the slide is so validating—and precisely the moment of relief parents need amidst the work, chores, errands and responsibilities that fill the rest of their days.
How can this be a fun and enjoyable space for both parents and their children?
From the beginning, we envisioned a space that caters equally to parents and kids. To us, that means an area that is designed with an adult aesthetic down to the last detail (the great backsplash tile, the color of chair legs—and the overall color palette—and the thoughtful countertops are all meant for adult eyes) and offers great food options (carefully sourced coffee beans, beer, wine and adult sandwich/salad recipes are key). And, of course, awesome play options for the kids, like our huge ball pit, climbing walls, climbing net, and fleet of fun ride-along toys.
We also wanted to encourage adults to get in on the fun instead of creating separation between adults and kids. Go down the twirly slide, race your kid up the climbing wall, play board games upstairs. We also have lots of lounge seating throughout when you want to sit back and enjoy your latte and scone.
Why did you choose to open up in Ivy City? What makes that location special?
A couple of reasons. First, the building itself is something special. It has a modern and industrial feel to it with 19 ft ceilings on the first floor, making it possible to have tall, large play structures. It’s super open and airy with windows all around, which ensures sightlines from front to back and great natural light throughout. Having a second floor with space for birthday parties and a roof deck for outdoor activity really took our vision to the next level.
Second, so many families live in Northeast DC, and the community is generally underserved when it comes to amenities for families. We wanted to be adjacent to neighborhoods full of families, and when you add a Target one block away and a large parking garage across the street, this becomes a no-brainer destination for families.
Why do you think the parenting community needs a space like this?
Raising kids is incredibly fulfilling and many moments are pure magic, but it can also be overwhelmingly frustrating, stressful and isolating at times. Getting through those tough moments is much easier when you have other parents to lean on who are experiencing the same challenges. We wanted to create a space that would welcome parents right away when they enter the new world of raising children and be there for them throughout those early years to make friends, get access to helpful resources, enjoy awesome events and programs and just let loose and have a great time with their kids. Most importantly, we know that everyone, especially parents, need to have more fun. Parents’ lives pull them in every direction, and they need a space to breathe, relax and remember the fun.
What does the membership process entail?
Membership is month-to-month—no initiation fee and no cancellation fee. Parenting is complicated; we want this to be simple. We offer both family memberships (starting at $95/month) and parental leave memberships ($225 for three months). Family membership pricing is based on the number of kids in the family and includes up to three caregivers on each membership. All memberships entitle families to unlimited visits, 10 percent off all purchases at our cafe, discounts on birthday parties, first access to events and members-only events.
How can families host parties at the Lane?
We have a private room on our second level that allows us to host birthday parties while keeping the rest of the space open to other guests. The first 45 minutes of the party is spent throughout the building playing, and then our birthday party coordinator will help gather the party guests to bring them upstairs to the private room for food, cake, gifts, etc. We have partnerships with Della Barba Pizza, Ivy City Smokehouse, Bullfrog Bagels, Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, and Buzz Bakery for food and cake, and we also offer decor & party favor packages. If you want a “don’t lift a finger but have a ton of fun” birthday party, we’ve got you covered; however, families are also welcome to pay the base rate for the party and be more hands-on with providing food and decor.
What has your family most enjoyed about the space?
There is nothing better than seeing our own kids enjoy the space. They honestly can’t get enough of it, and it’s the ultimate thrill for us. We want to make them proud and hope that’s what we’re doing!
Photo credits: The Lane