Favorite Playgrounds of 2016 1

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It’s that time of year again. School is out, the weather is great, and families are looking for something to do. At Play Across America, we are passionate about enriching the lives of children and their families through play. We want to help families get outside and create memorable experiences without having to pay a ton of money to do so.

With that in mind, we’ve reached out to playground equipment manufacturers, designers, landscape architects, and examined our own database to compile a list of our favorite playgrounds of 2016 (click HERE to view last year’s list of our favorite playgrounds).

There are so many fantastic playgrounds throughout the U.S. that we just want to share them all (hence the reason we started Play Across America), but below are this year’s favorite playgrounds and we have categorized them into four categories: creative, educational, all-inclusive, and most viewed. They are not ranked in any particular order (except the most viewed), as they are all fantastic, and it will be easy to see why they are our favorites as you read about each one below (click the names or photographs to see the complete playground profile).


1. Wizard of Oz playground: Upper Marlboro, Maryland

favorite playgrounds of 2016
I have four words for you: Ruby Red Slipper slides! Truly, the sight of these blew me away when I first saw them online. I just had to take my kids to this amazing playground by Landscape Structures and Sparks@Play. And, amazing it is! You can actually read sections of the book as you explore Emerald City, Dorothy’s Farm House, and the Balloon Escape to Kansas. Children (and adults) can play all kinds of musical instruments designed by Freenotes Harmony Park installed in the playground, and kids can follow the yellow brick road to the playground of their dreams!


2. Rockpile Playground: Muscle Shoals, Alabama

favorite playgrounds of 2016

Drawing its design inspiration from the nearby Wilson Dam, this custom playground by GameTime and J.A. Dawson & Co features a river theme complete with a treehouse, catfish, and replicas of the nearby waterfall and Wilson Dam. The replica Wilson Dam is topped off with a Bald Eagle, as eagles can often be seen soaring from the trees near the playground down to the river.


3. Wheadon Farm Park: Draper, Utah

favorite playgrounds of 2016

Wheadon Farm Park is so much more than a playground. It’s a completely immersive experience that transports kids back to the era (early 1900’s until 1997) when Wheadon Farm was still a working farm. The family later donated the land to Utah Open Lands, whose mission it is to preserve and protect open lands while maintaining Utah’s natural heritage.

Cre8Play, the designers of this amazing play environment, put a lot of thought and attention to detail into creating this playground. “The play elements immerse children into a familiar farm experience of some time ago. Complete with tons of interactive farm sounds, a scavenger hunt with discovery finds, and challenging climbers throughout, there is definitely enough fun to go around.” (Cre8Play).


4. Washington Park (AKA Dino Park): Winston-Salem, North Carolina

favorite playgrounds of 2016
You know that the designers, Cre8Play and Gametime, did an excellent job when your children are slightly afraid of the dinosaurs overtaking this playground. I can’t even begin to explain the level of excitement we all felt when we discovered just how gigantic these dinosaurs are! Honestly, I’ve never seen anything quite like it!

Once I finally convinced my younger children that they were not real, I couldn’t get them off of the dinosaurs. They climbed all over them and we took at least 30 photographs that day. Honestly, kids will LOVE this playground. We literally drove an hour and a half just to play here and my kids constantly ask to go back. To see such creativity incorporated into a playground feels a bit like going to an amusement park for free!



5. Harry Thomas Sr. Playground: Washington, DC

fibonacci collage

Most of the time when we visit a playground we are thinking about one thing: play. But, who knew you could also learn about Math, Art, Architecture, and Science, all while playing on the playground? At Harry Thomas Sr. playground, you can do all the above. The highlight of this recently renovated playground by Landscape Structures and Sparks@Play is the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio that have been creatively woven into the playground’s structure.

Most of us can’t even spell “Fibonacci” let alone explain what it even is, but after one trip to this playground parents and children alike will get a complete lesson on the Fibonacci Sequence. Pretty cool, huh?


6. NFL Play 60 Projects: Redskins Park in Richmond, Virginia, and Freedom Park, Charlotte, NC

NFL Play 60
An often overlooked, important part of education is physical education! At both Redskins Park, by Cunningham Recreation and Gametime, and Freedom Park by Cre8Play, Cunningham Recreation, and Gametime, kids and grownups can test out their speed and agility just like NFL football players!

Challenge Course is Gametime’s exclusive response to one of the fastest-growing trends in outdoor recreation. Obstacle course races. GT Challenge Course is designed to engage children and families, together.

It is a perfect way to encourage multi-generational fitness and recreation. Challenge Course is an outdoor fitness destination that connects people of all ages and backgrounds to socialize with their family and friends while getting more fit.


7. Elk Ridge Park: Castle Pines, Colorado

Elk Ridge collage
Elk Ridge Park is both creative and educational. This playground by Design Concepts is great for kids of all ages and seamlessly weaves Colorado’s history into its play elements while simultaneously educating its patrons. A climbing wall with nods to the Anasazi culture shelters the play area from the frequent winds on this hilltop.

Education for every age focuses on ‘scavenger hunt’ kiosks which lead the adventurer to and fro on the looped paths and offers puzzles, surprises and historical facts for every age level.



8. Magical Bridge Playground: Palo Alto, California

favorite playgrounds of 2016
Magical Bridge Playground opened to the public in April 2015 in the heart of Silicon Valley. This remarkable playground, located in Mitchell Park in Palo Alto, California, is heralded as the nation’s most innovative and inclusive playground. With its fully accessible treehouse and bridge, play zone descriptions featuring Braille, and cozy domes for little ones who just need a break from all the stimulation around them, it’s easy to see why this playground is a must-visit for children of all abilities!


9. Kade’s Playground: Herculaneum, Missouri

favorite playgrounds of 2016

In a town named Herculaneum, it’s only fitting that there should be a Mount Vesuvius! Kade’s Playground has accomplished exactly that! This playground could have easily fallen into our “Creative” category but what truly makes this playground special is that it’s accessible to all!

This Gametime, Cunningham Recreation, and Unlimited Play playground is wheelchair accessible by ramps, features high back swings, a saucer swing, rubber safety surfacing patterned like flowing lava, sensory interactive panels and all kinds of musical instruments like drums and xylophones.

10.Play 4 All playground: Williston, North Dakota

favorite playgrounds of 2016
Play 4 All playground is truly out of this world. With its outer space theme, kids will enjoy exploring the moon rock steppers, the concrete solar system, and even a rocket ship!

This is another great playground that could have easily fallen into our “Creative” category but the collaborative effort between Landscape Structures and Shane’s Inspiration turning this into an accessible playground is what really makes this playground special.

With ramps leading to various sensory rich play elements, a Sway Fun Glider, high back swings (that provide upper body support), and even a cozy dome so kids can escape from the over stimulation, Play 4 All playground really does live up to its name.


Most Viewed:

Our “most viewed” category is always an interesting one to me because it seems to be determined by necessity more than anything else. When traveling with kids, parents are constantly searching for play areas in airports, as reflected in the fact that three of our top five visited playground profiles are in airports.

The following play areas are the only ones on this site that are actually in ranking order. I’ve listed the top five most viewed play areas on Play Across America below:

1. Detroit Metropolitan Airport play area

favorite playgrounds of 2016 

2. Seattle/Tacoma International Airport play area

favorite playgrounds of 2016

3. Play area at the Florida Mall: Orlando, Florida

4. Shoreline Park, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM): Tacoma, Washington:

favorite playgrounds of 2016

5. Minneapolis/St. Paul airport (MSP) children’s play area:

favorite playgrounds of 2016

So, if you happen to find yourself traveling this summer and in need of a great place to stop and let the kids out to play, consider visiting one of these great playgrounds! If you do, Tweet at us or share your photos with us on Facebook! We’d love to see your family having fun together!

Do you know of some great play areas near you? We’d love for you to share them with us so others can learn about them, too. Also, we are searching for great splash parks/spraygrounds throughout the U.S. We’d love to put together an article highlighting great placed to cool off in the Summer! Share all your favorites with us at www.PlayAcrossAmerica.com. And, don’t forget to download your free iPhone App today!

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One thought on “Favorite Playgrounds of 2016

  • Dr. Reeve Brenner

    Playgrounds, whether they are or are not inclusive, are invariably outgrown by typical as well as atypical youngsters including the disabled. Our organization advocates for the post-playground physically and cognitively challenged, the autistic community and mobility impaired in the matter of facility shortages, particularly ballplaying sports facilities that are drop-in inclusive. By this we mean the sport offered is played without opponents and without teams because autistic participants and the mobility impaired are better served by independent/individual sports not contact team sports.
    By alongside play, without offense and defense as Bankshot sports, full inclusion is achieved at all times, not having to wait for a program. Programs segregate, failing to socialize individuals we wish to mainstream into the general community.
    Youngsters who are delighted with an inclusive playground but have grown out of it will welcome Bankshot offering alongside companionable play beyond the playground not the more aggressive ball playing sports communities provide. It’s good to have ballplaying sports that are companionable not competitive. Self competition is every bit as important as rivalry competition. Ball playing sports receive the most attention, budgets and space but invariably once the inclusive playground is established communities often call it a day and believe that they have met the needs of the differently able when they have merely met the needs of the younger segment of special populations and their families. Think of the recreational needs of the eight to the 16-year-old cognitively or mobility impaired and look in at the National Association for Recreational Equality and the YouTube videos on the League for Autistic participants at Bankshot.com.