2333 W Sunnyside Ave., Chicago
Best for: All ages!
Why kids love it: In the play area there are a variety of structures ranging from toddler towers to more advanced climbs to keep everyone happy. The splash pad has a large spray structure yet isn’t overwhelming. The space is spread out with plenty of area within the fenced play area to run around and play tag or sports as well. Outside the play area, the fields are well-kept and offer even more space to spread out.
Why parents love it: Bathrooms! There are bathrooms right next to the play area in the indoor pool and rec center directly adjacent to the play area. (Don’t act like that doesn’t excite you. It does. You’re among friends.) Also, benches in the shade. (Again, you’re among friends. You’re allowed to be excited about this.) You’re also incredibly close to all of the Lincoln Square foodstuffs, including Baker Miller for the all-important sanity-saving pie break after a full day of chasing kids.
Good to know: Welles Park is a perennial favorite that’s about to get even better with a $20,000 grant to build an additional natural playground oasis complete with natural climbing structures, new pathways and more fun for all. Welles Park also hosts a plethora of toddler concerts/animal encounters, Shakespeare in the Park performances and other concerts and movies all summer long. For the full event calendar, click here.
Weisman Playlot Park
901 W Oakdale Ave., Chicago
Best for: The under 7 crowd
Why kids love it: There are plenty of structures for many different levels of abilities, miniature play structures for the barely-walkers to revel in, and even a splash pad in this quiet playlot.
Why parents love it: Sure, Margaret Donahue park off Southport (the one with the huge Cubs logo on the turf portion) has a cult-like following on the north side, and for good reason. But tucked a little further south off the Wellington brown line is this little playlot that offers many of the amenities of Donahue without the madness and general Hunger Games feel, and parents adore it. This park packs a punch (say that five times fast, I dare you) for its size: plenty of seating, a splash pad, four different play structures and shaded areas. It’s always easy to find your little ones because while they’re having the times of their lives they don’t even realize how compact this playlot is.
Good to know: This playlot is three blocks away from the Oberweis ice cream shop and that is all you’ll ever need to know in this world to be happy.