Beyond the tot lot: 5 best playgrounds in Lake County

When we were in the city we had five playgrounds and/or tot lots in a few blocks walk from our house. We had our favorites, and a rotation, and we visited them all frequently. We don’t have a great neighborhood park in our new suburban home, but we still find ourselves visiting the same few parks. One of my colleagues told me about a playground crawl she set up and did with her boys last summer. She mapped it out and visited all 22 parks in her city in one day. What a way to say goodbye to summer!

Since I have toddlers, I am not that ambitious. However, since this is our summer of no-schedules, I have let Cheryl inspire our adventures and we have been visiting a ton of new parks and playgrounds all over Lake County. Since I have children that span the ages of 1-9, finding playgrounds where everyone has fun is not always easy. Either the equipment is too big for the little ones or too small for the big ones.

We’re still doing research (there’s four more weeks of summer!) but here are our top five playgrounds for mixed ages in Lake County:

Bowen Park

{1800 N. Sheridan Road, Waukegan}

This is the farthest away, even for many of us in Lake County, but it is so worth the trip! Bowen is a 60 plus acre park that houses trails, gardens and the Jack Benny center for the Arts. But the crown jewel (at least for my kids) is the playground. The playground is built into the hill so there are fully grown trees and lots of shade which totally won me over. The two story climbing web and the 40 foot slide won the kids over. There is also a small tot lot with a sandbox and slide that is tucked away at the top of the park. It’s a nice little quiet oasis to take the little one. Now, I am pretty free-range when it comes to parenting, so this park may not work if you hover. The toddler areas are at the top of the hill and the attractions for the bigger kids are at the bottom so sometimes sightlines are obstructed. It works for our family, mainly because my kids run back to me every five minutes to ask for something or tell me what they’ve done!

Warren Township Park

{17801 W Washington Street, Gurnee}

This playground was one of the first “You must visit!” recommendations when we moved to Lake County. My kids favorite part is the sandbox that is as large as some small city beaches. It includes a water play area and has dinosaur bones and dig sites hidden throughout the park. There are play structures for all ages in two separate locations. There are also plenty of swings, including disc swings, a rock climber and a fun music making station. It’s part of the larger Warren Township complex so there are fields and picnic areas as well.

Hasting Lake Park

{Hastings Lake Forest Preserve, Lake Villa}

This brand new playground at Hastings Lake is our new favorite and the only one we have visited more than once this summer. It just opened this spring, is located inside the hastings Lake Forest Preserve, and is a modern delight with all new equipment, turf and an imaginative play area meant to mimic a beaver hut. I love it because the sightlines are superb and the park is fenced in. It’s also the perfect location for me to get some exercise in as there is a two-mile loop around the lake, just long enough for me to run and my big kids to bike.

Independence Grove

{16400 W. Buckley Rd., Libertyville}

I would be remiss if I left this playground off the list. While it’s not my personal favorite (it’s hot and the tire mulch leaves everyone dirty!), my kids absolutely love it. It does have the benefit of being part of the larger forest preserve which has an extensive trail system and beach and boat launch, which means we can also exercise here before playing. The kids love it because it includes a large climbing ravine where the kids can rock climb for access to a tube slide. There is a toddler play structure on the lower level and and a larger structure on the upper level. My kids particularly love the bridge that is made to look like little houses complete with little benches.

Lake Villa Township Park

{37908 N Fairfield Rd., Lake Villa}

If you have been reminiscing about the playground equipment of your youth thanks to those viral posts going around Facebook then this park is worth the trip. This large, spread out park probably has what you miss! From metal shaped monkey bars, a tall metal slide and a old-school merry-go-round, it’s a hipster kid’s dream park. My children are obsessed with merry-go-rounds so they beg to go to this park. It also features a real Soo Line Caboose that the kids can climb on. It’s spread out over a large field with each structure getting it’s own area, so if you have runners or want to keep them all together this park may not be for you.

We have a few more parks on our bucket list this summer so we may just find a new favorite!

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