Growing up as a Pittsburgh child in the 90s, the hottest birthday party spot around was “Discovery Zone”, or as we called it, “DZ”. I celebrated several of my own birthday parties and many of my friends’ birthday parties at Discovery Zone, and I have such fond memories of it. For those of you who may not know what Discovery Zone is, it’s similar to Chuck E. Cheese or Safari Sam’s, complete with colorful ball pits, a roller slide (made of individual cylindrical tubes that rolled underneath you as you slid down), winding tubes to climb through and slide down, a trapeze bar to swing from, more games than one’s heart could desire, and so much more! I’m always a sucker for a Halloween costume that promotes nostalgia and childhood memories, so what better than dressing up as Discovery Zone itself!
(Side Note: My original idea was to have two other friends do a group costume with me, so we could be Discovery Zone, Chuck E. Cheese, and Safari Sam’s, but I ended up going solo which turned out just fine!) This costume took about six weeks from start to finish (working on the weekends only), and I was very happy with the final look. On Halloween weekend, my friends and I went out to several bars and when people saw my costume and recognized what it what, their faces lit up! I received a lot of comments similar to, “No Way! DZ, I loved that place! Awesome costume!” or “OMG DZ, I loved that Roller slide thing! I went to so many birthday parties there!” My costume was a great conversation starter all night, and it was wonderful to share so many childhood stories and DZ experiences with complete strangers!
What I used:
- Cardboard box: I found a cardboard box that would fit around my hips comfortably and cut out the top of the box completely. I cut out the center of each of the four remaining sides of the box, as well as the bottom of the box (leaving a frame of about 1 ½ -2 inch of cardboard on each of the four sides and the bottom. The netting will later go along the side of the box so you can see through to the ball pit.) At this point, the box was cut down into the basic frame and wasn’t as strong, so I used scrap cardboard to reinforce the frame where needed.
- Duct Tape: I bought 2-3 rolls of yellow duct tape and taped up the entire box frame, adding color and additional strength to the box. I also created a pair of suspenders out of the yellow duct tape to hold up the box around my hips.
- Netting/Bottom of the Box: looked up a YouTube video on how to make your own netting, and created the net using thick yarn/string. I duct taped the netting to the inside of the four sides of the box. I also used netting on the bottom of the box, cutting out two sections for leg holes. Additionally, I attached a pair of black fishnet stocking to the bottom of my box (above the bottom netting), so the legs of the stockings could hang through the leg holes in the netting. The stockings will ensure that the ball pit balls don’t fall out of the bottom of the costume throughout the night. I used fishnet stockings because they stretch more easily and because I could tie them to the box by tying string through the holes of the stockings around the waist band and attaching them to the netting on the sides of the box. When putting on the costume, the black fishnet stockings go on right over the black leggings and blend in perfectly. (Figuring out how to keep the balls in the ball pit without falling out the bottom of the costume was the toughest part of construction! But the fishnet stockings are foolproof.)
- Red, Yellow, and Blue Foam Sheets for the Roller slide: I purchased the thin foam sheets at Michaels (in the same isle as poster board). I cut the foam into strips and rolled them up tightly (I used a ½ inch thick cylindrical rod to roll the foam around so the sizing would be consistent). I reinforced each foam cylinder with clear packing tape, and used some old plastic cord to string all of the cylinders together, forming the roller slide as seen at DZ. I taped the roller slide to the suspenders on the back of my costume.
- Black Shirt and Black Leggings: I chose to wear a plain black shirt and black leggings under this costume, so the ball pit and roller slide would remain the main focus.
- Photo Transfer Paper: I printed the Discovery Zone logo with special T-shirt photo transfer paper and when it dried, I ironed it onto a plain black shirt. (Note: Make sure you print the mirror image of the logo so when you iron it onto the shirt, the words aren’t backwards!)
- Ball Pit Balls: I purchased the colorful Ball pit Balls at Toys R Us, and filled up my ball pit. The balls were the most expensive part of the costume (around $20).
- Party Hat: I made the party hat with cardstock, tissue paper, and elastic string for the chin strap.