Northeast Park (4630 East Bay Drive, Largo, FL 33764) is a City of Largo park tucked away from the busyness of East Bay. I can imagine the playground gets more use when parents are playing basketball or roller hockey on its concrete-jungle courts (they close at 11pm), but on a weekday morning we saw no one. Pine trees provided needed shade cover for the playground equipment, which varied from the usual swings and slides.
We loved the zip line swing that is the focal point of the playground. A challenge to get up the platform because of its steepness (teamwork with Henry allowed the ramping up to happen; he did a running Superman and then leapt and grabbed onto the rail, which allowed me to haul him up the rest of the way), it was totally worth it to hear the boys’s giggles as they swung down the first big drop and were whipped around the corners. They did a great job of taking turns.
They also ascended the yellow mountain climber, which required help for Elliot and panicking by Henry that he couldn’t do it (even though he did). It was a different type of climbing because they had to move sideways without great handgrips. A small jungle gym that looked older than the other equipment was quickly climbed, then forgotten. The boys liked the merry-go-round (safer than the one at Largo Central), but didn’t ask to be lifted up for the bigger kid spinner. Elliot, of course, loved the swings, but didn’t like only having baby swings as an option. I guess the zip line swing is supposed to provide all the swinging fun needed for bigger kids. Finally, my kids tested the workout equipment made for adults, which looks like it was recently installed.
Dislikes: On our most recent visit I saw an abandoned car in the overflow parking with a lot of gear (plus a bike). I saw no one else at the park while I was there. Previously (more than 3 years ago), the trails were overgrown and littered with needles and other trash. I didn’t try to take a stroll this time around because of that. Additionally, my kids ended up getting filthy dirty from the park because there is no mulch or other ground cover. It’s pretty much pine needles over Florida black sandy soil. Dirtiness doesn’t really bother me, but it was a LOT.
Overall, I’m sure we will return this summer because that zip line swing was so unusual and fun, but I don’t think we will regularly go (unless the boys ask).
My parents try to visit us every month since they’re retired with a flexible schedule, and we are not (with Keith’s pastoral duties and kids who don’t sleep well outside of our house and all). Sometimes we just hang out at playgrounds or around the house, but this visit included trips to the Florida Botanical Gardens and the Glazer Children’s Museum.
I love the Botanical Gardens; they’re never crowded (except at Christmas-time), and there are so many varieties of flowers and trees to discover along the varied paths. I like looking for ideas to plant at our house. The kids like smelling flowers and having free reign to explore so long as they (mostly) stick to the paths. My parents were big fans of the butterfly garden because they’ve been talking about growing one of their own for forever. It was a win for everyone!
I’d never been to the Glazer before, but it was three stories of awesome building toys, interactive experiences, and rubber sand and water areas. As MOSI members we received a 50% discount, which made it very affordable. Henry loved racing cars with Grandpop and seeing how far handmade paper airplanes could fly. He also enjoyed the sports area where he could race different animals; he was faster than them all except the bird sometimes. Its ridiculous how fast he can run. Elliot loved splashing in the water with Grandma, and playing in the confined toddler area pushing toys, knocking down towers, and driving a boat. I thought it was fantastic they included a nursing moms area that was in an upstairs nook. Everyone had a blast! Next time we will have to bring bathing suits so the boys can splash in the fountain outside.
We survived Christmas Eve service in the front row of worship and zero meltdowns. The boys behaved as if angels were whispering sweet songs into their ears the whole time, mesmerizing them and keeping them calm and happy. I’m sure it won’t happen again until they are teenagers, but I’ll take it!
Henry loved opening his presents, and Elliot tried his best to eat the wrapping paper. Everyone ate more delicious food than they thought they could consume, and love and laughter were ever-present as we first got together with my parents and then with the Walbolt/Miller clan. The remaining 11 days of Christmas were my favorite part because Keith had some time off to spend with us.
We spent our time playing with Henry’s new toys, walking around the lights of Lake Park (the model train and candy cane factory were two highlights), drinking beer at Green Bench Brewery with Brent, and going to Honeymoon Island State Park, because what else do Floridians do for Christmas break when it’s shorts weather?!
The beach has beautiful, powdery-white sand that even Elliot thought was too pretty to eat. He spent most of his time wrapped up in the k’tan so he didn’t have much of an opportunity to gobble it up. We checked out the nature center with it’s expansive views, but didn’t have time to hike the trails because little boys must take their naps or turn into dictators. Next time we’ll check out the nesting eagles and whatever other natural wonders the park offers up.
This week’s Playground of the Week isn’t a playground at all, but I don’t care because it is sweltering September and it has air conditioning. The George C. McGough Nature Center (11901 146th St N, Largo 33774) is one of our favorite places to visit year round. We love to check out the animals (rescued and otherwise) and learn all about them. There’s a sound board where kids can hear different frog and toad species, and now there’s an interactive touch screen system where kids can learn about the water cycle and wastewater runoff.
The past few times we have visited the staff has been renovating the building and exhibits so Henry’s favorite microscope wasn’t there this time, but the rescued bald eagle was hanging out, getting used to being on trained staff’s arms. I’d say that more than made up for it, especially when it kind of freaked out and tried to fly off (it can’t actually fly because of an injured wing, but it still tried.)
We fed the turtles, because you have to when visiting the turtle park, and we dug for fossils in the giant sandbox. We stayed away from the playground since it has a rubber ground cover and is in full sun. It will have to cool down for us to play there, especially with baby E. Come on Florida fall and winter, we’re ready for cooler temperatures.
Henry has been asking to go to new parks lately, and we really lucked out when visiting this one – Ridgecrest Park (12000 Ulmerton Rd, Largo 33774) for our Playground of the Week. It was fenced in, shaded by beautiful trees, had bathrooms nearby (one only open on weekends, the other set open daily), and overlooked lovely ponds. There were a couple of playground structures, a climbing turtle, and swings, plus a baseball field that will be fun to play on when Henry gets older. It also had two big covered picnic areas, perfect for parties or family reunions, and several other tables spread out in the shade with adjacent grills. We will definitely be adding this park to the rotation.
This week’s playground of the week is brought to you by sunny Eagle Lake Park (1800 Keene Rd, Largo 33771). This county park is the perfect place to play on sunny winter days because it provides little in the way of shade. Located towards the back of the park, its playground is surrounded by a wooden fence and has three play structures, perfect for climbing. There is room to run around, plus swings. Henry could literally spend all day swinging at a playground, and he has many times over (the boy loves a good swing).
Other awesome features of the park include a wide, paved trail, picnic shelters (including one adjacent to the playground), and public bathrooms (again, right next to the playground). People who visit the park regularly also know that turtles and birds frequent the pond behind the playground, and it is a fun treat for the little ones to feed them. Henry loves taking them bread and lettuce (I really hope these things are okay for these animals to eat; I guess I should have checked first)!
Last Wednesday, Henry I visited John R. Bonner Nature Park (14444 143rd St, Largo 33774) for our Playground of the Week. We love this park! It is tucked away into a neighborhood in Largo, and backs up into the intracoastal waterway so it is beautiful and quiet. There are a few nature trails, one with a sidewalk-like surface and another with a soft surface, and there is a boardwalk leading out to a covered deck on the intracoastal. Henry likes to stop and watch the fiddler crabs on our way out to the deck where he can then watch birds, boats, and fish play. I like that deck is shaded and cool with a Gulf breeze.
The park also hosts a good-sized playground in the shade. It has two sections, one for 2-5 year olds and another for 5-12 year olds. Henry likes both, of course, and also loves the swings. It’s not fenced in, but we’ve never had a problem with Henry running into the adjacent parking lot. There are bathroom and covered picnic facilities, which are always nice to have around especially with kids, but they also are frequently used by City employees. There is a big grassy field that we haven’t used yet since it is in the full sun, but looks like a good place for playing baseball or soccer. The Largo parks department just opened a kayak/SUP/canoe launch on the waterway, so we will have to check that out sometime, too. Every time we visit this park I think, “we need to come here more often.” It’s that lovely.
For yesterday’s Field Trip Friday, Henry and I visited the Highland Family Aquatic Center in Largo and had so much fun we didn’t even take pictures of the place until afterwards from a distance. This place is great! There are a two pools, one for bigger kids and adults with a 3-story speed slide and a 214 ft corkscrew water slide (you have to be 48 in tall and a swimmer to use) so clearly this was not the pool for the Hen. The pool we used (& loved) had a zero-depth entry area meaning Henry could walk right in. He could also walk all around this area with its play structures, 3 slides (small frog, blue corkscrew, and yellow enclosed), animal squirters, and waterfall-like fountains. Separated by a rope divider, the other section of pool has two corkscrew slides you need to be able to swim to go down. Henry definitely wanted to try them out, and couldn’t seem to figure out why we weren’t going over there. There is a variety of seating, from picnic tables to lounge chairs to covered areas, and the bathrooms and changing areas were very clean. There is also a snack bar and shop for aquatic apparel, but we didn’t check these places out.
Three mornings a week (MWF), from 9:35 to 10:35am, they offer Itty Bitty Splashtime for the littles under five for $1.50 a person. The fountains we kept off for the first half, which really helped Henry adjust to the water because when they turned on, it was like a super soaker nightmare…no one was safe. And Hen thought it was awesome, yet scary. Overall, it was a mini-water park, perfect for my little Hen.
Afterwards, we ate our snack at the playground behind the pool area and played there for a while because it is awesome and in the shade. We will definitely be back to both places.
This week’s playground of the week is PlayWorld at the Highland Recreation Complex in Largo (400 Highland Ave, 33770). It’s a three-story indoor playground for children 11 and under and it is amazing. There are two sections: one for kids under five and then one for bigger kids (but little kids can try it out, too). The younger kids area has tunnels, padded stairs, climbing sections, and giant exercise-like balls to bat. The older kids area has multiple slides (including a 3-story twisting, tunnel slide), platforms to climb, balance beams, hanging climbers. It also has a small rock climbing wall.
Did I mention it is air conditioned?! A/C is my favorite, especially during summertime in Florida. Henry loves the slides, mostly in the bigger kids area. He needs help climbing up to the middle-sized slide, and luckily doesn’t even know how to begin to climb up to the 3-story one, but he giggles with glee each time he slides down. He also likes the tunnels in the little kids area, as well as swinging Tarzan-like on punching bags.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 9-10:30am, they have “Itty, Bitty Playtime” only for kids five and under for $1.50 (it’s normally $3 or $4, depending on whether you have a rec card). It’s so affordable, we may be going here weekly until the heat lets up. I’ve heard it can get incredibly busy during the summer, so it’s great they have a separate playtime for the littles.