Urban myth: All playgrounds are created equal. Not true! Chicago and the ‘burbs have some that really go over the top to show you and your crew a good time. We’re talking unbelievable themes and play structures, plus cool add-ons like rope bridges, tire mazes and even faux Viking boats. Scroll through to discover local playgrounds that will stop you in your tracks.
For Brains & Courage: Oz Park Playground
Why will you go to this Wizard of Oz-themed playground? Because of the wonderful things it does! Walk the yellow brick road and explore the wooden tornado, then cozy up to statues of characters from the movie (you'll find them scattered throughout the park). Play, smell the flowers in the nearby Emerald Garden, and picnic on the lawn. What better way to ingratiate yourself with Dorothy and Toto?
2021 N. Burling St., Lincoln Park; Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com
For Climbing Fiends: Harvester Park Playground
Climbing a tree is a rite of childhood and you can do it here in a fun new way. Not only does this playground offer many play options, but a large climbable tree beckons as you arrive. Scurry on up and be sure to save time to play in the sand and control water flow in the nearby streams.
15 W. 400 Harvester Dr., Burr Ridge; Online: brparks.org
For Big Imaginations: Indian Boundary Playground
All aboard! The one-of-a-kind wooden climbing structures here riff on both Native American and train themes, and add up to a day of adventure. Pretend to be a conductor as you navigate maze-like tire and wood structures, reveling in new discoveries around every turn. Kids can also cool down in the water spray feature that has dancing bears and spray misters.
2500 W. Lunt Ave., West Ridge; Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com
For Spiderman Fans: Festival Park Playground
Crawl into a web of intrigue. As you make your way up the suspended ropes, you'll aim for the middle where you can jump on a mini trampoline and make the entire structure bounce and sway. There are other playtime gems here as well – the multiple musical instruments and piano embedded into the ground (just hop around on the squares to play notes) will be sure to delight. And just steps away is a splash fountain with multiple water sprayers cooling all ages off in hot weather.
132 S. Grove Ave., Elgin; Online: cityofelgin.org
For Baseball Fans: Sheil Playground
Batter up! If you have a soft spot for peanuts and Cracker Jacks, head here for a playground with a special baseball touch: There's a huge baseball scoreboard chalkboard on the brick wall to the north. Bring chalk and make a game out of who can do the most climbing and sliding.
3505 N. Southport Ave., Lakeview; Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com
For Little Farmhands: Adventure Playground
Adventure Playground at Blackberry Farm in Aurora has it all—a rustic barn-inspired design, fun interactive features, huge slides and tons of maze-like passageways. It’s unlike any other playground we’ve seen. Hours (yes, hours) will fly by.
100 S. Barnes Rd., Aurora; Online: foxvalleyparkdistrict.org
For Viking Adventures: Veterans Memorial Playground
Pretend that you're setting sail on the choppy seas at this stomping ground. Its claim to fame is a large-size Viking boat structure that you can play on. Look below to see sharks and other sea creatures printed onto the soft play surface. There are also sandy “beaches” with additional play structures. This playground has many more options, including a large zipline that mom and dad can try.
55 E. Richmond St., Westmont; Online: westmontparks.org
For the Little Indiana Jones: Union Park Playground
This newly renovated playground has challenging, modern equipment for all ages. From the large dome structure with rope climbing options to the swimming rope bridge over a ravine to the hanging rocking swings, this is climbing like you’ve never seen. Beware of the water sprayer—it looks innocent, but will soak you in just one run-through!
1501 W. Randolph St., West Loop; Online: chicagoparkdisrict.com
For Out-Of-This-World Fun: Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Playground
At this playground, you can pretend to be an astronaut and climb great to heights. The curved metal structure and tall climbing wall (with 3 options for different levels) will make kids, and adults, feel as though they are climbing as high as skyscrapers, with great views of Lake Michigan. Hidden water features, access to bathrooms and a beach, make this a playtime imagination destination.
31st Street & Lakeshore Dr., South Loop; Online: facebook.com
For the Climb: Maggie Daley
Take all other parks, give them a dose of steroids, and you have Maggie Daley Park. It's that cool. While there are certainly areas within the play structure you can climb, the Wave Hill is a 16,530 square foot play area with a rolling topography where kids can climb what feels like a mountain to them, roll down, and do it all over again.
337 E. Randolph St., The Loop: Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com
— Maria Chambers & Mistie Lucht
Featured photo: Pexels