Chicago’s best playgrounds

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?

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 ofSeminary 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 bya fieldhouse at one end that has public restrooms and rentableparty rooms, the lot has a tree-shaded picnic area, kid-sizedbasketball bucket with plenty of rubber balls to shoot and anumbrella-sheltered sand play area full of shovels, dump trucks anddigging toys. There’s a section of swings, jungle gym and climbingarea, and at the far end-though you might have to wait until nextsummer to try-a water playground with multiple slides and fountainfeatures.

Adams Playground Park

6205 N. Sheridan Road

Northsiders living near this traffic-heavy section of SheridanRoad don’t have much public waterfront to call their own. That’swhat makes this right-on-the-lake park such a gem. Berger has fourbeautiful, converted-mansion buildings on its grounds-side-by-sidecultural centers, a restaurant called the Waterfront Cafe and acoach house, (now used as a theater)-and a newly rehabbedADA-accessible playground. With the water just a few feet away, thesoft-surface playground’s pirate ship looks as if it just cameashore. There are bathrooms in the cultural center and snacks atthe cafe.

Berger Park Cultural Center

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. Indian Boundary’s pretty setting includes new expanses of natural-habitat gardens, a new Nature Play Center, a big old sprinkler area with dancing bears 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.

Indian Boundary Park

2021 N. Burling St.

Step into this Lincoln Park oasis and be transported to the magicalland of Oz. Though the wood-climbing “Dorothy’s Playlot” section issmaller than Indian Boundary’s and is limited to kids 5 and under,Oz Park’s tree-shaded wheelchair-accessible playground has agedwell. Check out Chicago artist John Kearney’s statues of Dorothyand Toto, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow on permanent displaythroughout the park and be sure to amble through the undulatingbeauty of Oz’s Emerald Garden of native flowers and grasses. OzPark has baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, walkingpaths and a gym.

Oz Park

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’splaygrounds. Among them, Kilbourn is the first in a large Americanmetro area to have a public fruit-tree orchard (24 apple, pear,cherry, plum and paw-paw trees). It’s also among the first to havea “teaching” greenhouse where adults and kids can learn year-roundabout gardening. The playground itself is cheery and wellmaintained. There’s a fieldhouse, outdoor basketball and tenniscourts, a gym, baseball field and new soccer field funded throughNike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program.

Kilbourn Park and Organic Greenhouse

Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse

3724 W. 111th St.

This playground really plays – music that is! PreventingADA-accessible playground equipment from seeming “same-old-thing,”the designer of this lot included enormous musical sculptures, twometal xylophones and round metal drums all around it. Thesoft-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 landanimals add cheery extra interest. Mt. Greenwood also has a largepool and water play area across the parking lot, plus a gym,walking paths and ball fields. Across the street? A well-placedScarlet & Gray’s soup and sandwich shop and Ben & Jerry’sice cream stand.

Mt. Greenwood Park

Mt. Greenwood Park

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.

A. Montgomery Ward (Erie) Park

Erie Park: Urban oasis, neighborhood nook and saving grace of River North

In the heart of River North, a three-acre patch of grass sprawlsbetween the modern high-rise condo buildings. Nestled right up tothe Chicago River, this land has become the epicenter of theneighborhood and the saving grace to parents and caregivers.

A. Montgomery Ward Park, or EriePark #511, is the go-to destination when your toddler has justabout had it with running around your two-bedroom condo.

When we first moved to theneighborhood five years ago, this part of town was a big patch ofdirt. Now it is a modern green space with a river walk, dog parkand state-of-the-art playground.

The playground opened last springand was a much-needed addition. River North is filled with youngfamilies like us, who haven’t made the move to larger city homes orsuburbia and are grateful for the outdoor space the parkprovides.

The 6,900-square foot playground hastwo gated entrances from within the park, a rubberized “land form”surface (so much better than wood chips), a huge fountain/sprinklerperfect for splashing around in on hot summer days and swings,slides and other fun equipment.

As soon as Mia was old enough to sitin a swing, we happily took jaunts to the park for some fresh airand a change of scenery. Now that she is a running, sliding,climbing 18 month old, the park is a daily occurrence in ourfamily.

On a nice sunny day the park isalways busy, but when five o’clock rolls around and parents comehome from work the park is especially hopping. We like to call thisthe River North “kiddie happy hour.”

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