Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Milwaukee's Best Playgrounds

Milwaukee has a dazzling array of playgrounds.  You could choose a different park for every day of the summer and find unique play opportunities with every choice.  Why not try a few new places outside of your neighborhood?  If you're in need of a good map, the county parks have a comprehensive map.  You'll find playgrounds, trails, birding spots, and the complete Milwaukee streets system.  You can get it at the Park People website, and soon you'll be able to download a passport for 2017 at the same website. It's a great way to explore the parks along the Oak Leaf Trail this summer.

Milwaukee County Parks have 114 tot lots, with much diversity and older spaces are being updated when funding permits. It's rare to find two identical structures. Often the tot lots are placed nearby splash pads or wading pools.  Find a complete list of tot lots here at the county parks website.

This new climbing structure at Carver Park is right next to a splash pad
Our favorite playground lately has been Kayla's Playground at Franklin Nature Center.  The best part about this park is that adults and children can play together. It's wheelchair friendly. There are so many unique swings and play spaces. It just has to be experienced.  Bring snacks with you and enjoy them under the covered picnic tables. Be sure to check out the nature trail too.



Milwaukee Recreation manages a summer playground experience for free at a number of city parks and schools.  This runs June 19-August.  The link gives you addresses, park names, and a phone number for more information.  You don't need to preregister.  The program is for school age children (6-17).

The Artists working in education (AWE) van will be visiting parks again this summer. They bring art supplies and adults to help kids make some fabulous things.  Follow the truck at this link to plan a meet up. This program is best for ages K-5th grade.
Your kids can do supervised art projects at the park
Look for the truck
Estabrook continues to be a favorite for us because there are two playgrounds with great equipment. and a beer garden that serves soft drinks and pretzels as well as adult beverages.  Last year they added fried foods on the weekends, and the fries were so delicious my son made it our weekly stop. There's a skateboarding area, fishing pond, disc golf course, and dog exercise area within walking distance.  You can walk down the stairs to the river and look for fossils embedded in the stones or watch fish jump the mini falls.  The hiking trail along the river goes for miles, though you should be prepared for some mud. It's 2 1/2 miles from here along the Oak Leaf trail to nearby Riverside park which has an urban ecology center with a hidden slide which kids LOVE!
Slide at Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center

Washington Park has a series of mini parks, called pocket parks, done in a nature theme.  These are mostly climbing structures, so they are for an older child.  There are no swings in the pocket parks, however, there is a larger playground at the opposite end of the park which includes handicapped accessible ramps.  Be sure to stop in at the Urban Ecology Center if it's open.  Lots of interesting reptiles to see there.

Climbing structure at Washington Park

Nature themed pocket parks
Atwater Park in Shorewood has a nautical themed playground at the top of the bluff, which is wheelchair friendly, and some of the coolest equipment at the beach level, which can take adults as well as kids. They normally have county park lifeguards for at least part of the summer.  This is my first choice for family beach time. You have the stairs for exercise.  There is a ramp for strollers. The view is breathtaking no matter when you go.  Sunrise is always a pretty sight.

Just one of the fun structures at beach level Atwater Park

Southshore Park has a nautical theme to its playground too.  You'll find a little free library, sand pit (bring shovels and buckets), and exercise equipment for bigger kids (adults). Be sure to visit here on a Saturday some time this summer because they host one of the best outdoor farmers markets from June through October. Follow the Facebook page for more information about vendors and entertainment.  This park has a beach, which is normally not swimmable due to pollutants, but there's a program happening now to try to clean the soil around the beach and parking lot. This is going to become a premier destination if it can be corrected. The beer garden has been expanded for 2017 and includes indoor tables now.

Nautical themed playground at South Shore Park
Milwaukee Zoo updated the play equipment at the Family Farm area with two age specific play areas. This is one of the coolest playgrounds for kids who love slides. They are long and circular. There's also a ropes course and zipline for older kids. And who doesn't love the train and carousel too?



For the widest variety in one location, check out Grant Park which has 4 playground areas and a lot of other fun spaces.  Hike Seven Bridges Trail through the wooded ravine. Check out the beach concession stand during summer for burgers and custard.
Wil-o-way Grant Park has ramps for wheel chairs

Grant Park
Wauwatosa has an interesting structure at Hart Park.  This is another accessible playground. The downside to this play space is a lack of shade.  Only go here when it isn't terribly hot.  On a hot day, drive a short distance from here to Hawthorn Glen where the playground is shaded and visit the nature center if it's open.

Hart Park accessible playground

Greenfield Parks are really nice.  Rather than list all of them, check out this review done by a mom a few years ago.  She and her kids visited all of the Greenfield parks and rated them on a scale of 1-5.  She includes comments about the condition of the structures and which have restrooms. The City of Greenfield has photos on their website you can view to see what park you might like to try.

If you still aren't sure where to go, maybe you want to go see Cass Park , pretty unique with its art structures made by Marina Lee.  You can play chess on permanent tables constructed at Enderis Park. There's a large artificial rock at Hales Corners Park meant for climbing. Visit Lake Park where your kids can put on their own play at the nearby stage, after playing at the tot lot.  Doctors Park has beach access and lots of interesting driftwood. The swing park is covered so it's a great rainy day destination. Walker's Square has a farmers market, wading pool, and free wifi. McKinley Beach is just across the street from Colectivo (when you need your coffee fix) and has a nice beach. Village of Whitefish Bay has Cahill park with a sand box where all garage sale leftovers seem to end up-lots of trucks and diggers here.  They also have a playground at Klode with beach access (swim at your own risk). I'd love to hear all about your adventures!

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