Saturday, May 28, 2016

Playgrounds: South Loop Playground Run-down

With so many parks in the South Loop, it is the hard to know which direction to travel. Below is the locals run down of our preferred (park titles are linked to addresses/information):

Mary Richardson Jones Park (AKA School Park)
Reason to go: Play areas for all ages, quiet area/community, Close to public transportation.
Had no idea there was an official name for this park other than "school park" until I looked it up just now.

This is great for all ages, as it has 3 sections:
1. Area with swings and a pretty good sized grassy knoll.
2. The west side is a toddler area with a train, station, a small slide and small riding cars.
3. The east side has a jungle gym area with slides and a variety of climbing and monkey bar options.

It is pretty easy to watch both kids and have them both happy.

  • No bathrooms on site. 
  • With zone restricted parking throughout, recommend public transit.  Easily accessible 5 min walk from Roosevelt Red Line; Orange Line; and Green Line.

Coliseum Park (AKA Space Park)
Reasons to go: climbing structures, unique, merry-go-round
This playground was transformed from a teeny tot playground to a more advanced playground with climbing structures and a turtle swing (not sure if this is the technical term). To access the larger slide, kids have to climb a spiderweb of ropes and/or a slender rubberized mat.

  • Some of the play options are 1 person at a time (turtle swing, turning seat thing), so there is a high demand for these and interesting parent/community dynamics can be a result.
  • If it is rainy or misty, the structures can get slippery.  Be careful.  
  • No bathrooms on site.

Mark Twain Park
Reason to go: Quiet, contained area, great for toddlers and younger children.
While this isn't an official park of the Chicago Park District it is very popular for those you can find this hidden gem on the corner of 15th and Prairie.  Great views of soldier field and local trains.

No bathrooms on site.  Recommend walking as parking is very difficult.

Roosevelt Playlot
Reasons to go: Shopping time mixed with play time.
This tiny park packs a solid "play" punch with it's unique playground equipment. It keeps kids of all ages entertained and if you work it right, one of you can sneak off to one of the retail shops and be back before the kids notice. Can even make a day of it if there is a movie you want to see and/or a coffee shop/restaurant that fits the bill.

  • Bathrooms on site 
  • Transportation: free or discounted parking depending on your shopping needs. Also about a 10 min stop from the Roosevelt Train Station.
  • The play area is not fully fenced off, so keep an eye on the kids.  We had one escape and run directly into oncoming traffic. Hats off to our friend who literally jumped the fence and grabbed him before any cars came by. We may still owe him some medical bill payments.

Cotton Tail Park
Reasons to to: sandbox, well enclosed
This park has a strong neighborhood feel. The kids like to use the large circle sidewalk to learn how to ride their scooter, bike, or whatever else has wheels these days.  Have yet to witness a hoverboard. In the center of the circle is a large grassy area used for any number of things: sports, parties, etc.

The jungle gym is good, but "quaint." There is also a two level pirate ship and a gazebo.

  • No bathrooms on site.
  • Sandbox toys are sometimes plentiful, but if you want to ensure your child gets a bucket or shovel, BYO.
  • Sunscreen. There is a high sun quotient here
  • Transportation: parking can be hard to find.

Chicago Women's Park & Garden (Outdoor/Indoor)
Reasons to go: Local park activities, indoor option, historical
This park is comprised of beautiful grass and gardens in the outdoors, nestled along Prairie Avenue -- a historic area of the city.  The Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance does a great job of hosting a variety of events throughout the year and as a result, their calendar entices the community and families to show up in droves!

The indoor area has some climbing and play equipment and is a nice getaway if you are tired of your home and looking for a free option out of the rain or snow (photos below):

It also houses an indoor/outdoor restaurant Spoke & Bird and Kids Science Labs.

  • Bathrooms on site.
  • Transportation: parking is hard to find.

Soldier Field Play Area:
Reasons to go: near the lake, lake front bike path, and museum campus.
We have never taken the kids here, as it is a bit of a hike for us.  The energy in the area is great as there are so many people around and there is a lot to see and do.  Would view this as a great pre or post museum or Soldier Field visit area to go to let the kids run around.  

  • Location - Nested between the Field Museum and Soldier Field. Not easy to spot from the sidewalk, as it is between rolling hills.
  • Transportation - Difficult if there is anything happening at soldier field. Parking is expensive.
  • Bathrooms are in the vicinity.
Did we miss your favorite or one to also highlight?  Let us know - happy to inspect a new location!

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