The 16 Best Playgrounds in America
Playgrounds haven't changed much since they first entered the mainstream in the early 20th century, with slides, swings and seesaws still the dominating the landscape. But some playgrounds go above and beyond, challenge tradition, and reinvent the way children play in parks across the country. Take a look at some of the best playscapes in America.
The Aspetuck Land Trust in Weston is home to the Leonard Schine Preserve and the Children's Natural Playground. Designed for children ages 3-7, the playground boasts 10,000 square feet in an ancient glacial meadow. The playground's features are made from natural elements found on the preserve, mostly red cedar. Children can explore a manmade bear den and a giant bird's nest, which they can improve upon with sticks of their own.
The Shiver Me Timbers playground, which is in the recently rebuilt Millennium Park in Lake Charles, features a massive pirate ship-themed children's area. Situated on the water, the playground features an enormous eagles-nest structure that gives children a view of the entire park. Facebook group members laud the park as clean, imaginative and fun.
Billing itself as "a playground for all children," every inch of Tatum's Garden in Salinas was designed to provide access for children with physical limitations. The playground, which runs on donations, features attractions and elements that mimic the agricultural culture of the surrounding countryside.
Located near South Street Seaport in New York, Imagination Playground lives up to its name by encouraging kids to get creative. Void of traditional playground elements like swing sets, the playground is built for free-form play, with children designing and constructing their own structures with sand, water, foam blocks, and spare parts.
Chicago's Maggie Daley Park features a 3-acre children's recreation area called the Play Garden. The first of its kind in the city, the Play Garden is filled with custom-designed attractions and sculptures. Some of the most popular features are the Sea, the Watering Hole, the Harbor, and the Enchanted Forest.
The City Museum in St. Louis is housed inside a 600,000-square-foot facility. It contains a labyrinth that was built from items found throughout the city, like old chimneys, salvaged bridges, and even airplanes. Kids of all ages are welcome to climb, explore, and examine. Tickets are $12, but toddlers get in free.
Nestled between an amphitheater and a sea of green space is the playground at Westminster Center Park. Known to locals as Peter Pan Park, the playground's theme is based on the mythical land of Neverland. It includes tunnels and slides built into artificial boulders and logs.
The largest fully accessible playground in the Cleveland region, Preston's H.O.P.E. in Beachwood is home to Imagination Village, which features make-believe houses connected by a raised walking path. There are also swings, tunnels, a play theater, a sand area, and slides.
The Boundless Dream Playground is located in Fort Wayne inside Kreager Park. Designed for unstructured play, the playground is sectioned off by age group. Two- to 5-year-olds flock to the Alpha Pod. The Beta Pod attracts children between 2 and 12, and the Gamma Pod is for children 5 through 12.
Inside Smothers Park in Owensboro is the Lazy Dayz playground. The park boasts three signature fountains and spectacular river views. The playground features an elevated "tree walk" and spray park, a large, fountain-based splash pad. Kids are protected by a rubberized safety surface.
Shelby Farms Park in Memphis is home to Woodland Discovery Playground, which promotes active interaction in a non-traditional play setting. The surface is made from recycled shoes and boots, and nets and treehouses line the landscape above. Built within 4,500 acres of natural landscape, the playground provides opportunities for environmental education.
An initiative of Auburn University's Rural Studio, Lion's Park Playscape in Greensboro is a maze built from thousands of galvanized steel 55-gallon drums. The vast, open design encourages unrestricted play, and kids are challenged by undulating surfaces, sound tubes and sensory rooms, all of which are hidden throughout the maze.
Nearly 40 years old, Adventure Playground in Berkeley is consistently lauded as one of the top play spots in the country -- and for good reason. The playground's scattershot design encourages random and unstructured play, which is intended to stimulate the mental dexterity of the children who run, jump, and climb there.