Sure, the playground you love and visit most will be the one closest to home, but isn't it nice to know wherever you travel with kids in the city, you'll be near a spiffy public playground to sweeten the outing? There are more than 500 playgrounds in Chicago. What's your favorite?
1919 N. Seminary
Wend your way across Armitage and up a quiet, dead-end section of
Seminary and you'll find this unexpected treasure of a playlot.
Though small, this beautifully landscaped, soft-surface,
ADA-accessible lot has all sorts of bells and whistles. Anchored by
a fieldhouse at one end that has public restrooms and rentable
party rooms, the lot has a tree-shaded picnic area, kid-sized
basketball bucket with plenty of rubber balls to shoot and an
umbrella-sheltered sand play area full of shovels, dump trucks and
digging toys. There's a section of swings, jungle gym and climbing
area, and at the far end-though you might have to wait until next
summer to try-a water playground with multiple slides and fountain
6205 N. Sheridan Road
Northsiders living near this traffic-heavy section of Sheridan
Road don't have much public waterfront to call their own. That's
what makes this right-on-the-lake park such a gem. Berger has four
beautiful, converted-mansion buildings on its grounds-side-by-side
cultural centers, a restaurant called the Waterfront Cafe and a
coach house, (now used as a theater)-and a newly rehabbed
ADA-accessible playground. With the water just a few feet away, the
soft-surface playground's pirate ship looks as if it just came
ashore. There are bathrooms in the cultural center and snacks at
2500 W. Lunt
This is hands-down the best hide-and-seek spot in Chicago. I still
remember a sixth-grade school scavenger hunt that included finding
a duck feather. For that, we headed straight to Indian Boundary.
One of the few Chicago parks with a small zoo (llamas and goats)
and duck pond with a small island, Indian Boundary's pretty setting
includes new expanses of natural-habitat gardens, a big old
sprinkler/wading pool area and, of course, the rambling wooden maze
of a playground. This is one of those old-fashioned '70s-era
structures that begs to be climbed, conquered and hidden in. Foot
bridges sway and creak, fat tire structures invite crawl-throughs.
The park's fieldhouse has public bathrooms, and there are three
tennis courts. If you walk the zoo path, the best time to view the
animals is 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
2021 N. Burling St.
Step into this Lincoln Park oasis and be transported to the magical
land of Oz. Though the wood-climbing "Dorothy's Playlot" section is
smaller than Indian Boundary's and is limited to kids 5 and under,
Oz Park's tree-shaded wheelchair-accessible playground has aged
well. Check out Chicago artist John Kearney's statues of Dorothy
and Toto, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow on permanent display
throughout the park and be sure to amble through the undulating
beauty of Oz's Emerald Garden of native flowers and grasses. Oz
Park has baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, walking
paths and a gym.
3501 N. Kilbourn Ave.
The addition of expanded native-plant gardens are among the best,
latest developments evolving the look and feel of the city's
playgrounds. Among them, Kilbourn is the first in a large American
metro area to have a public fruit-tree orchard (24 apple, pear,
cherry, plum and paw-paw trees). It's also among the first to have
a "teaching" greenhouse where adults and kids can learn year-round
about gardening. The playground itself is cheery and well
maintained. There's a fieldhouse, outdoor basketball and tennis
courts, a gym, baseball field and new soccer field funded through
Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program.
3724 W. 111th St.
This playground really plays - music that is! Preventing
ADA-accessible playground equipment from seeming "same-old-thing,"
the designer of this lot included enormous musical sculptures, two
metal xylophones and round metal drums all around it. The
soft-rubber-surfaced landscape is also unusually sloped and hilly,
with plenty of mounds to climb. Seasonally, there's a sprinkler.
Sparkling mosaic pillars and wrap-arounds of sea creatures and land
animals add cheery extra interest. Mt. Greenwood also has a large
pool and water play area across the parking lot, plus a gym,
walking paths and ball fields. Across the street? A well-placed
Scarlet & Gray's soup and sandwich shop and Ben & Jerry's
ice cream stand.
630 N. Kingsbury St.
This park and playground is a winner not just for what it has, but for where it is. Just five years ago, this stretch along the east bank of the Chicago River was an empty lot, and parents in nearby neighborhoods had few walkable park options. Now, Erie Park is a modern green space with a riverwalk, dog park and 6,900-square foot playground with a splash-around fountain. River North mom and blogger Amy Galvin recommends swinging by during "kiddie happy hour" - around 5 p.m., when parents come home from work and the park is especially hopping.