rocks-cityAlthough you’ll not likely find the Carrie Bradshaws of the world at Cliffs Gym in Queens, New York is still a city where you can happily lose the Louboutins, and then lose yourself for hours at a time in a climbing gym.

Regardless of whether you’re fighting freezing temperatures or working up a sweat the minute you step out of your home; climbing gyms are an ever more popular way for many city & suburban dwellers to hit the “rocks” and test their strength and agility, without having to travel too far out of town.

There’s something for just about everyone, climbing novices to serious climbers alike, found within the converted warehouse space run by Brooklyn Boulders. Although outside it’s a non-descript building that you’d easily walk right past, inside you’ll find approximately 22,000 feet of climbing space and walls lined with hundreds of constantly changing climbing routes. If you need equipment, you can rent, buy or bring your own.

 Learning the Ropes

Regardless of whether you’ve climbed before, instructors will want to be sure you’ve learned the ropes and are familiar with safety rules and climbing etiquette. That means spending some time with staff professionals and passing a belaying test if you want to be able to go it on your own.


Boulders and “Landmarks”

For the kids, one of the first things they’ll likely want to rope climb is the “Brooklyn Bridge,” wall. In addition to beginner friendly holds, they’ll have a chance to use the “auto belay,”—an automatic belaying machine that allows them to scale the walls—no partner necessary. (Parents, here’s your chance to take some photos of the kids while they’re climbing.) Note the auto-belay isn’t just for kids—it can handle little and big alike.

Swing Low

For those who prefer, a series of free-climbing walls offer challenges as well. These bouldering areas (no harness necessary), include a “cave wall,” and another area known by the locals as “the beast”. Overhanging “boulders”, top roping and auto belay walls aren’t the only choices either—the gym also offers yoga, Pilates, and more. If you want to slack off, there’s a slack line to master, and a number of sets of rings.

Note that to get your full moneys-worth, make sure you start early and take the whole day. This gym is often open until 2am, so you could potentially take almost the whole night as well. Also, there are plenty of sites including Living Social,Groupon and Gilt City where you may be able to find discounts on various climbing programs offered.

Social Climbers

Sure, there are many folks go to the climbing gym for the exercise benefits. But there’s also the social aspect. With climbers of all different age and physical ranges, there’s a good chance you’ll find at least one other person you’ve got something in common with as you climb. In general, there’s something about climbing that seems to leave most folks generally happy—even on days when the crowds are heavy. (Hint: hit the walls early on the weekends!) Maybe it’s the endorphins, or maybe it’s the ability to take risks while still playing it safe, but it’s hard not to feel a part of this climbing community.


For those who want a more intimate climbing space, the newly opened Everyday Athlete, offers what’s been described as a “boutique” bouldering experience. Clean and light, climbers are encouraged to reserve time in advance to keep the crowds at bay. Walk-ins are accepted (assuming there’s still space) and the gym offers climbing and tumbling for kids as well as other fitness classes such as boxing and yoga for adults.

For fun on the rocks, there are plenty of other big cities where rock climbing makes for a day of it, including Georgia’s Atlanta Rocks, Vertical Endeavors in the Chicago area and Go Vertical in Philadelphia.

Once you’ve made your way up and back down again, you’ll also have the foundation to venture outside to your local, or not so local, true-to-life rocks. So go on and move mountains.