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

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

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

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

The playground opened last spring and was a much-needed addition. River North is filled with young families like us, who haven’t made the move to larger city homes or suburbia and are grateful for the outdoor space the park provides.

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

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

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

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