Ask any child what they love best about the playground, and you’ll get a multitude of answers. Whether it’s things to climb, spaces to run, or gadgets and gizmos to play with, almost any park has a certain level of appeal from a child’s perspective. Some kids are attracted by the sheer size and creative opportunities in their favorite parks. Other children believe that the park’s ability to provide interaction is what makes it great.
Fortunately, parents often agree that interaction and potential for creativity are how to differentiate the best playgrounds, as well. Based on feedback collected online in direct interviews with parents, teachers, and children, we picked the best playgrounds that offer social, physical, and mental growth through the powerful medium of play.
10. Aliante Discovery Park Playground (Las Vegas, NV)
“Great for kids of all ages! Very diverse demographic, fantastic for a child’s personal growth!!” – Jason Bracey
If you’re looking for an oasis in the desert of the Southwestern States, there is no better place to play and learn than the Alianted Discovery Park. Referred to by locals as, “The Dinosaur Park,” this 20-acre area has easy access to soccer fields, a duck pond, a water-splash area, and three different levels of playground. The dinosaur exploration theme is masterfully implemented, with a sand pit full of “bones” that children can excavate in archaeological style.
9. Imagination Playground (New York, NY)
“I have been to this playground numerous times and my 5-year-old always has a great time! The building blocks are awesome and the water features and wonderful on a hut, sunny day.” – Gina G.
The Imagination Playground, designed by world-famous architect David Rockwell, is one of the jewels of the New York City crown. Instead of focusing the play on structures, this playground provides materials for children to build, create, and interact with. The park is host to thousands of foam blocks, wagons, mats, crates, and noodles, which can be manipulated to build anything a child can imagine. Kids also love the giant sand pit, water sprinkler, and sound tube system, which allows them to send messages through a colorful series of cones.
8. Veteran’s Memorial Park – “Wild West Jordan Playground” (Jordan, UT)
“My kids love this park. Lots for them to do and plenty of shade.” – Richard Rond
Take a walk back through history with the amazing Wild West Jordan Playground. This Wild-West-themed playground takes it’s design from a typical street during the 1880’s, complete with a water tower, Main Street storefronts, and homages to local Utah landmarks. The playground is connected with bridges, tunnels, and climbing structures. One large wall is painted to look like the Wasatch Mountain range, and it includes hand and footholds for kids to “climb the mountains.” In addition, this playground features a multi-level playhouse, reminiscent of the Old Saltair Resort, one of the most famous buildings of the Salt Lake Valley.
7. Adventure Playground (Berkeley, CA)
“I knew this was the place for my family when I saw a child walk past us with a hammer followed by a three year old with a saw.” – Jeremy S.
There is nowhere else in the U.S. where children are the designers and patrons of the playground. At the Adventure Playground, children learn the idea of environmental conservation as well as design through the unique “Pick up to play,” system. Children earn the right to use building tools by picking up trash or potentially dangerous items (like loose nails). Then, kids can build their own play elements, or build on to the established play equipment using saws, hammers, and nails. And, if building isn’t in the cards, no one can resist the zip line.
6. Union Square Park Playground (New York, NY)
“It’s a very fun place for the kids and a beautiful, relaxing park for parents.” – Kristin L.
Union Square is one of the hippest parts of NYC, and is the meeting place for people from every race, religion, and culture. In addition to almost-weekly pillow fights and political protests, the park is home to one of the most creatively artistic playgrounds in America. There are three play sections – a modern architectural area with a slide built into a rock wall and a massive stainless steel “mountain”, a brightly colored traditional jungle gym, and an enclosed swing area. The whole park is gated, making it a great place to keep an eye on kids while they explore the artistic and creative avenues for play.
5. Teardrop Park Playground (New York, NY)
“I can’t say enough good about this place, and it’s early in the morning. Just go. You won’t be disappointed.” – Briana M.
Tucked away between high rise buildings, Teardrop Park is the best kept New York play secret. Not only is it green and quiet (as compared to the busier parks like Union Square and Rockefeller Center), but it provides a level of nature-based adventure that’s hard to find in one of America’s most urbanized cities. Teardrop is host to a variety of play structures (including a 30-foot slide) that use rock, natural soil, and lush greenery to give a feel of natural explorative play. Children also love the sand pit and water features.
4. Lafayette Park Playground (San Francisco, CA)
“A great park for adults, kids, dogs – A wonderful haven nestled in the city!” Karen D.
Lafayette Park playground combines natural settings with artistic play equipment to create a relaxing play experience for both parents and children. Although the main play structure is made of modern materials, the surroundings are built of natural stone blocks. It also features an old-fashioned water pump and “lazy river” for small engineers to wade in and divert. In addition, adventurous children will love the climbing net and slide rails.
3. Cambridge Common Alexander Kemp (Cambridge, MA)
“Amazing that someone put some imagination into building a playground! Awesome for my kids ages 3-7.” – Suzanne F.
Imagination is truly the name of the game with this nature-inspired playground. From the child-sized “Narnia” door to the wooden pirate ship, the Alexander Kemp playground is the perfect place to have an adventure with your child. The main play area is built on an ocean of sand, and features a hide-away net treehouse, climbing nets, and water feature. It also includes an updated merry-go-round and loose building blocks to facilitate risk-taking and engineering play.
2. Cumberland Park Playground (Nashville, TN)
“This place is awesome for children of all ages! I have a 2 & 3 year old and they love it!”
What do you get when you mix artistry with inventive play? The Cumberland Park Playground. This 6.5 acre park in Nashville is the perfect representation of the city, offering play of every kind in one of the most architecturally innovative settings. It includes a timed spraypad, a stone climbing wall surrounded by a rope and net ladder system, and a unique playground called The Hollow, which features a bounce pad, prism exploration area, a “cloud” bridge (which accumulates moisture until it “rains”), and a fossil-discovery sand area.
1. Jackson Square (Boston, MA)
“We’ve been to a zillion playgrounds, and this unique and giant play structure, plus the zip lines and carousel, make it a marvelous place for older kids.” – Shana K.
This innovative playground is home to the very first American installation of the world-famous “Wall-holla” play structure. This 56-foot-long, 4-foot-wide, 16-foot-tall edifice acts as a human pinball puzzle, allowing kids to twist turn and squeeze their way to the bottom. It also boasts a zip line, wheelchair accessible merry-go-round and swings, as well as unique structures called “grass.” Children can grab these slender poles and bounce, swing, and dance with them from sun-up to sundown.