The Best Playgrounds of 2017 3

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For the third year, Play Across America is proud to present the best playgrounds of the year found all throughout the United States. We initially started this list because we were blown away by the amazing playgrounds parents were discovering and sharing with us and each year we continue to find amazing playgrounds that we just can’t help but share with everyone. This year, the best playgrounds are scattered all across the U.S. and are truly awe-inspiring in their own right.

The new, innovative technology that playground equipment manufacturers continue to develop, to ensure that children of all abilities can experience the joy of play, are just amazing! We want parents to know that it IS possible for all children to play at the playground. As Hugh MacRae Park, Owen’s Playground, and Sassafras All Children’s playground demonstrate that today’s playgrounds really are designed with all children in mind.

Other playgrounds like Yanaguana Garden and playground, Adventure World playground, Fort Washington Park, McClatchy Park, and Kenosha Dream Playground, are sure to wow their patrons with the shear creativity and imagination that went into their one-of-a-kind designs.

Finally, Maggie Daley Park and Smothers Park, with their enormous size give more of the feel of an amusement park than a playground and will certainly delight children for hours on end.

So, if you’re wondering what to do with the kids this summer, and you don’t want to spend a ton of money, we suggest you check out one or more of the best playgrounds of 2017! And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to explore our 2016 and 2015 lists, too! Those playgrounds are spectacular as well.

Hugh MacRae Park, Wilmington, NC


Playground (and photos) by Cunningham Recreation and GameTime

The first time this playground showed up on Play Across America, the song that kept popping in our heads was, “Insane in the Membrane” by Cypress Hill (okay, now we’ve definitely dated ourselves). It’s so true, though. The truly all-inclusive playground at Hugh MacRae Park is insanely awesome! They’ve left nothing out here. There’s even a splash pad here that is open in the summer.

Have you heard of the Liberty Swing? Well, it’s an incredibly wonderful, innovative invention that allows wheelchair-bound children to experience the thrill of swinging without ever having to leave their wheelchair! Amazing!

There’s also a “sky run zip track” that is a zipline! It includes a track with an accessible swing that provides upper back support! Honestly, this playground has it all and truly has put a lot of thought and effort into including children of all abilities in the play experience. According to Anne-Marie Spencer, with PlayCore:

“They followed all the research based best practice principles found in Me2: the 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design guide to ensure that the play area provided inclusive play opportunities for children of all abilities”

This, and the fact that it’s an incredible playground, is why it’s one of 2017’s best playgrounds of the year!

Maggie Daley Park Play Garden, Chicago, IL

One word for you when it comes to this playground: HUGE!! So huge that you actually need to keep a very close watch on your children when you come here, but don’t let that deter you from experiencing this absolutely unbelievable playground! This is a so cool it will “knock-your-socks-off” (do people even say that anymore?) kind of playground.

If you’re from Chicago, and you have kids, you probably already know about this but if you plan to visit Chicago with kids this should be very high on your priority list. Your kids will definitely thank you!

Adventure World Playground, North Richland Hills, TX


Playground (and photos) by Landscape Structures and Recreation Consultants of Texas

What child doesn’t love a treehouse? This year’s pick, Adventure World Playground, is sure to delight children of all ages. There’s even a natural looking hollowed out log that kids can slide through! With interactive musical toys, cargo nets, accessible swings, natural looking log and rock steppers, and more, it’s no surprise that Adventure World Playground made the list this year!

Kenosha Dream Playground, Kenosha, WI:

best playgrounds

Photo and playground by Play by Design

This fabulous, large, wooden play structure is certainly a sight to see! With it’s lighthouse and boat structures, kids can have fun pretending they’re heading out to the high seas. There are lots of musical toys here, too, so budding musicians can play their little hearts out. With all-inclusive elements like the swing that allows wheelchair bound children to stay in their chair but experience the thrill of swinging, kids of all abilities can enjoy playing here.

Owen’s Playground at Rotary Park in Bainbridge Island, WA

best playgrounds

Photograph and playground by PlayCreation

While Owen’s Playground in itself earned a right to be on the best playgrounds of 2017 list, with it’s unique play structures and thoughtful incorporation of children of all abilities when designing the play equipment, sometimes it’s the story behind the playground that truly makes it deserve a spot on the list.

Often, as parents, we take our children to playgrounds named after a child but have no idea all the time, effort, fundraising, community involvement, and heartache and loss that led to the inspiration to build these playgrounds in the first place. These stories are remarkable and inspiring. In the case of Owen, he died at the tender age of six from complications associated with Cerebral Palsy. With the money donated to a memorial fund in his honor, and with the help of countless lemonade stands, bike-at-thons, hike-a-thons, garage sales, and more, the dream of building a place where all could come together to play, regardless of age or ability, became a reality!

To learn more about Owen and all the dedicated volunteers and donors who made Owen’s Playground a dream come true, click HERE.

Sassafras All Children’s Playground in Raleigh, NC

“We thought about everybody when creating this space. You weren’t an afterthought.”

–Deanna Choplin

best playgrounds

Photo by Amy Rowland and playground by Landscape Structures

Not only is Sassafras All Children’s Playground the largest playground in Raleigh (3.5 acres) but it’s 100% all-inclusive! Mothers Danielle and Deanna spearheaded this project several years ago with the specific purpose of ensuring that children of all abilities would be able to play! And, boy did they ever accomplish that goal! Ziplines with an accessible seat providing upper back support, rubberized surfacing and extra wide ramps making it easy for wheelchairs to navigate seamlessly through the playground, roller slides, a Sway Fun glider that is wheelchair accessible, and even adjustable height Basketball hoops make this playground an absolute home run for the Raleigh area!

McClatchy Park in Sacramento, CA

best playgrounds

Playground equipment by Landscape Structures

The creativity that went into designing this custom themed playground that serves as an ode to Old Town Sacramento is truly impressive! Check out the melting ice cream cone and tipped over popcorn. Talk about a great photo op with kids! Other cool and creative features include a rollercoaster, trolley and a tot lot carnival themed area. Take notice, also, of the miniature railway, the carousel horses, and the small “zoo” of life-size concrete animals.

Yanaguana Garden and playground, San Antonio, TX

best playgrounds
One might mistake this playground for an outdoor, modern art exhibit if you didn’t know any better! Well, it actually is but it’s also a uniquely fantastic playground, too! Take in the beautiful mosaic Leopard and bird, build a sand sculpture, cool off at the splash pad, and challenge yourself to get through the large cargo net “obstacle course”! One of the coolest things about the playground here is that, on the day I visited it, I saw more adults playing on the cargo nets than kids! I love that! However, do not worry if you have little ones, there is a whole separate play area (and much smaller cargo net) for them, too. Combining art, nature, and play are what make Yanaguana so unique and special and why it made it onto our list this year.

Smothers Park in Owensboro, KY

best playgrounds

Photograph and playground by Miracle Recreation

Lazy Dayz Playground at Smothers Park is no stranger to accolades. Having recently been listed as the top playground in the WORLD by Landscape Architects Network, we would be remiss if we failed to place it on our list as well. The honor is well deserved. Enormous playground–check. All-inclusive play elements–check. Safe—check (take a look at the fully enclosed upper level of the play structure). Splash park for hot, summer days–check. Oh, and throw in a really great view right along the waterfront in downtown Owensboro and I’d say you have a real winner!

Fort Washington Park, New York, NY

best playgrounds

Photograph and playground equipment by Landscape Structures

In a city know for its skyline and skyscrapers, it can be difficult to find much in the way of nature besides Central Park. So, the playground at Fort Washington Park in Upper Manhattan is truly a special treat! Children can escape the hectic city life by exploring this nature themed playground, complete with log balance beams, leaf steppers, and little wooden suspension bridges, this playground offers a lot for curious little ones. There is also a sand play area and sprinklers for kids to cool off. Parents can also enjoy nice views of the Hudson River from here, too.

Most Popular

If there’s anything that all five of our most popular playgrounds have in common this year, it’s convenience! Parents are looking for places to play inside airports, in shopping malls, and along major interstates! The great news is that Play Across America can help with that search! Below, are the five most popular play areas that people looked at the most on our app/website over the past year. To find more conveniently located playgrounds, check out our articles highlighting playgrounds all along I-95, I-20, and I-5.

  1. Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) play port:

    For the third year in a row, DTW is among the most popular searches within our app and website. It’s clear that parents passing through here definitely want to find a place to let the kids play!

  2.  The Florida Mall play area in Orlando, FL:

    Florida Mall play area
    The play area at the Florida Mall has also made our most popular list for the third year in a row. It’s worth noting that the original play area that was near Macy’s is no longer there. However, there is a fun, small play area right outside the American Girl store on the other side of the mall. Keep checking back, though, because they are building a new play area over by Dick’s Sporting Goods.

  3. Kids Kingdom Playground and Fantasy Fountain Splash Park in Redding, CA:

    Kids Kingdom and Fantasy Fountain splash pad

    Conveniently located just a short drive from I-5, this is a perfect stopping point if you have kids and you’re making a long road trip! Kids Kingdom playground has recently undergone a major renovation and is set to reopen in late June 2017! Though the old, wooden fortress play structure was a lot of fun, it experienced a ton of wear and tear and needed to be replaced. The new structure will no longer be made of wood but will offer more all-inclusive options so children of all abilities can play here! There is also a wonderful splash pad here that is open in the summer months. So, don’t forget to pack the towels!

  4. Harold Turpin Park and Splash Pad in Ridgeland, SC:

    Harold Turpin Park and splash pad
    For so many reasons, Harold Turpin Park and splash pad are well worth the visit. One of the main reasons for playing here is that it’s just a short drive off of I-95. This is truly a great place to let the kids get out and stretch their legs while road tripping down to Disney World or the beach. The awesome treehouse structure will delight kids and adults alike!

  5. Washington Park in Winston-Salem, NC

    I must confess: Washington Park in Winston-Salem is one of my kids all-time favorite playgrounds and apparently other people like it, too! It’s the fifth most popular playground on our app/website. Not only is it a very cool, dinosaur-themed playground but it’s also conveniently located just a short drive from I-40!

So, there you have it! The best playgrounds of 2017. We hope you will get out and explore these wonderful playgrounds and share your favorites with us. Do you have an amazing playground that you think should make next year’s list? Please add it to our app or website and let us know about it. We can’t wait to get out there and play and discover even more great playgrounds to share on next year’s list!

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3 thoughts on “The Best Playgrounds of 2017

  • Cindy Wannall

    The Kenosha Dream Playground is the the result of one woman’s dream and a three year fundraising effort. All the money raised was used to build this playground which was almost exclusively built by volunteers working incredibly organized and planned shifts over s period of about 2 weeks. The community built this inclusive playground from the ground up.

  • Mathew Wright

    This is a great list. Thanks for this. What one notices is that each of these playgrounds have invested in safe equipment. That is one of the major factors that makes these playgrounds among the best in the country. There are such great options for non-toxic, safe play equipment, not to mention the huge variety of equipment, available today, that choosing the right stuff for children has become a breeze.