Swings, slides, climbing structures, mazes: The best outdoor playgrounds in Chicago let kids explore and use up that seemingly never-ending energy. (Chicago's unpredictable climate has also given rise to top-notch indoor playgrounds, thank god.) Our little ones tested out these top spots, from old-school (completely made of wood) to modern masterpieces to ones that have attached splash pads for when the mercury rises. With so many free, warm-weather options, who needs summer camp?
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The best playgrounds in Chicago
This South Side beach features amazing views of the Chicago skyline in addition to a harbor for small boats. A nearby park includes a picnic area and a public fishing dock. Amenities: concessions, restrooms, lockers, life guard first aid station, playground.
The Seuss-like playground is wavy and curvy with lots of things to climb on: monkey bars, slides, net-like things. Kids love the rail slide, on which they slide down on/between two rails.
The playground at this park, also known as Erie Park, is only four years old, and you can tell. Everything is in great shape, including the plentiful swings, hugely popular Green Mountain for climbing, plastic climbing structures, twirly slides and patio tables. The whole park is beautiful and scenic. Makes us happy to be city parents.
An organic greenhouse, popular afterschool children's program and fitness center are only a few of the Roscoe Village park's many facilities. Children can check out the first ever public fruit tree orchard and try their hand at organic gardening. There is also a Nike turf field for playing soccer.
This West Bucktown/Logan Square park received a much needed update in summer 2014 and is now considered a hidden gem in the neighborhood. The park has a sandbox, play structure over a soft surface, picnic tables and a small water feature. Bonus: The surrounding trees add nice shade to the small park area. There is also a community garden.
The newest addition to Grant Park features a quarter-mile ice-skating ribbon, which wraps around a 40-foot climbing wall on the northern end of the 20-acre plot (now closed for the season). The Play Garden has enormous slides and whimsical climbing structures. Future attractions include a new fieldhouse.
The children’s play area at this West Loop park is ADA accessible, which allows for inventive, non-linear play without traditional play equipment, though it does have swings, structures, slides and a lot of cool things to run around on. In the rest of the park, dogs can enjoy a uniquely sunken dog park that is complete with a continuously filling, over-sized dog bowl, ramps, ledges, steps, and artificial canine grass to provide an exercise area. The viewing hill is up to six feet high and provides a stunning view of the entire park with a backdrop of the Chicago skyline.
While this lakeside Evanston playground was designed with the input of therapists to allow children with physical limitations and sensory issues to have a playground they could enjoy, it was also meant for typical kids. “The goal is for everyone to play there,” says Julie Cutter, who (along with her husband, David) helped raise the money to build it in their son’s memory. Highlights include a wheelchair-accessible climbing structure, seated swings and a Braille map. The parking lot, water fountains, picnic tables and restrooms are equally accessible, making this a playground that truly lives up to its name.
Located right behind Lincoln Park High School, Oz Park is just what you think: a park dedicated to The Wizard of Oz. Sculptures of the popular characters are scattered around the huge park. The small-ish playground has a fun wooden castle/maze structure filled with windows to look through, things to climb, bridges to run across, etc. There is also a plastic tire swing that bigger kids seem to like. The playground even has equipment for the littlest ones who can barely walk—with a separate slide, rocking animals and a wooden train to climb on.
This colorful playlot boasts fun for all ages. Big kids will love the zipline, 22-foot slide and pummel horses, while little ones will appreciate the rubbery surface, raised play structures and various things to climb on. Adults aren't left out, either: There's a walking path complete with fitness circuit equipment. When warm weather hits, there is also a natural stone water-spray area.
Commonly known as the "Blue Park" because of its large, blue, kid-friendly surface, this park is beloved by most Lakeview parents. The playground has three large play structures, plus swings, benches, picnics table and more. There is also a basketball court and a gazebo. The large lot is fenced in, so kids can run around safely.