The New Chicago Playgrounds We Love

Published in Chicago Parent Going Places- Spring 2015 magazine

What’s old is new again! Many Chicago-area parks have undergone dramatic renovations in the past year—and we’re not just talking about that shiny new ice ribbon in the heart of downtown. These four great parks bring a fresh look to playtime. And the best news is that they should be ready for full exploration this spring.

Maggie Daley Park

337 E. Randolph St., Chicago

(312) 742-3918

This $60 million park-for-all-seasons embraces the warmer weather with roller skating in the Skating Ribbon. The 40-foot climbing structures in the center of the ribbon will be the city’s first rock climbing park. Both experienced and novice climbers can take hold with instruction and supervision from park staff.

If you’ve wondered what those upside down trees are, wander the Alice in Wonderland-inspired Enchanted Forest. Play tea party or discover the Kaleidoscope mirror maze.

The three-acre Play Garden is wonderfully whimsical. Even really big kids have been known to holler “this is awesome!” as they embark.The playground can accommodate up to 600 kids. Each section is labeled for age. Most equipment is geared toward ages 5-12.

The Sea’s metal play ship is irresistible, with nets and ladders. The Slide Crater is a climbing and sliding bonanza with spiral, wide and rail slides. March along the tower suspension bridge or play tag on the Wave Lawn.

Even the swings are unique—some are nests! The Lagoon, featuring three animal figures, and The Harbor, home to wood boats and a boardwalk, are the best options for kids 2-5.

Without a doubt, this park honors the former first lady of Chicago’s legacy of helping children.

Harvard Early Learning Playscape

Naper Settlement

523 S. Weber St., Naperville

(630) 420-6010

In April, the new 10,000-square-foot, award-winning playscape at Naper Settlement opens for the warm months. Kids 2-7 will love making a deal at the trading post, playing on the fort-themed structure and exploring Illinois’ natural history with hands-on activities. Climb and slide into new adventures.

“Children and parents who participate in the playscape are embracing our vision of ‘Live History and Inspire Our Future,’” says Sally Pentecost, chair of the Naperville Heritage Society.

Opportunities for physical, social and imaginative play abound within the 12-acre Naperville Settlement museum campus. Starting May 1, Naperville’s only splash pad will run on days when temperatures are over 70 degrees. The splash pad admission is included with museum entry.

“We hope kids will develop a love of history that stays with them forever,” says Rena Tamayo-Calabrese, Naper Settlement president and CEO.

Woodscreek Park

1420 Willow Tree, Crystal Lake

(815) 459-0680

Nearly 1,000 volunteers and $1 million helped expand and update one of south Crystal Lake’s most popular parks. Check out the new baggo and bocce courts, serve up some fun on the sand volleyball court and expanded tennis courts, or hook some bait on the additional fishing pier.

The new Crystal Castle playground offers climbing, sliding and swinging adventures. Parents will rejoice that children can be visible and easily supervised from all angles. Come Memorial Day, the dragon splash pad will be flowing for water fun.

Between the park district building with restrooms, a nature walking path and the additional parking spaces, you’re ensured a comfortable and enjoyable visit for the entire family.

Park 574

2540 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago

(312) 746-5560

This state-of-the-art fitness playground sits on the former Rockwell Gardens Housing complex. It’s one of the 325 parks to benefit from Chicago Plays!, a program designed to ensure every Chicagoan is within a 10-minute walk of a park. Kids love the zip line, pommel horses and water feature. Adults can enjoy the fitness stations and 1/5-mile walking path. This colorful and innovative new park is evidence to why the Chicago Park District won a 2014 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation. The mayor’s office says its goal is to create a safer, brighter and healthier future for every child in Chicago.