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Nostalgic for the McDonald’s ball pits of yore? Ever wondered what a bouncy castle nearly the length of a city block would be like? Looking for an unconventional workout? You can find it all in Midtown, where a gigantic inflatable installation has bounced in to entertain New Yorkers this August. 

Pop goes the bouncy, block-long installation on W34th Street. Photo: Naty Caez

Pop in the City, a 120-foot, month-long exhibition at Broadway between 32nd and 33rd Streets, aims to give visitors of all ages a place to jump, jump around. The semi-obstacle course propels participants to navigate a surprisingly challenging ball pit, jam to a DJ set amid a wave of bubbles, and slide through fake snow and frosty figurines. The castle also features a few sly nods to New York itself — inflatable “Big Apples”, New York pizza and glittering Studio 54-style disco balls adorn the attraction.

The team behind all the equal parts manic and joyful chaos? XL Labs — inflatable event specialists who have a Guinness World Record to their name (it’s for the largest Bouncy inflatable in the world, currently touring the US and Canada!). Cameron Craig, CEO of XL Labs and one of the designers of the project, said that though his team was used to dreaming up outsized, ambitious designs, making one that worked within the city’s many space constraints was a challenge. 

Homage to the Big Apple. Photo: Naty Caez

“It’s a difficult space to work with, because we had one block and had to keep it quite narrow because there’s a fire lane, and all that kind of stuff,” said Craig, who credited their collaboration with the 34th Street Partnership in finding ways to build out a bouncy castle without the usual wide open fields of green. 

Craig and the XL Labs team are pleased with the outcome — a “family-friendly” space meant to brighten up the Herald Square area. While the exhibition is geared towards, and perhaps constructed best for the boundless energy and scrappy coordination of children — it has also attracted its fair share of the after hours crowd. “​​At nighttime, you get some young adults who’ve had a few beers, want to take a run as well,” laughed Craig. After hours, security guards are present to make sure that no one tries to, well, pop Pop in the City

Bounce to the beat. Photo: Naty Caez

The installation has been heartily embraced by New Yorkers, said Craig, and the team is already planning a seasonal return in October. For now, he added that there’s no time limit for visitors to enjoy the scene: “Some kids run through it and come back around and run again and they can spend as much time as they want — we’re not strict with that,” said Craig. “And some people take half an hour to go through and chill out, listen to the DJs and just lie on a ball pack.” Who says you can’t find an escape in Midtown?!

Up for the challenge? Photo: Naty Caez


Tickets For Pop in the City start at $19 and are selling fast.

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