Tag Archives: playground of the week

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation – Chicago Edition, Part 1

I may never catch up on my writing, but maybe I’ll finish the summer by the end of the year!

We traveled to Chicago for a family wedding this past June, but since it’s such a big deal to fly with littles we extended our trip for a fun (not restful) family vacation. Henry was great on the flight up: he colored, played quietly, and then watched movies or gamed for the duration of the flight. He also got hopped up on juice and skipped his nap, but that wasn’t too bad. Elliot, however, did not like to be contained since at one, he could finally move on his own and could not understand that he needed to sit still for the flight. It wasn’t the easiest, but still it went fairly smoothly since there were two of us to one of him. And as adults, we are bigger and stronger than him so we prevailed.

Keith’s cousin, Donna, graciously picked us up from Midway and drove us downtown to our hotel in rush hour traffic the week of her son’s wedding so we didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to get all our gear and the boys downtown. She even packed us a cooler with snacks and drinks for our stay – she is the best! The boys napped during the commute, and our hotel (Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront) turned out to be fantastically situated on the Chicago River. We especially lucked out and got a corner riverfront view – we had giant windows on two of our walls! We could people watch, boat spy, and check out all the cars, trucks, and buses to our heart’s content! In other words, it was a preschooler and toddler’s dream, spoiling us making all other hotel rooms pale in comparison.
 


After unloading our gear, we had two priorities on our first day: (1) eat and (2) find Maggie Daley Park. We decided to combine the two and get carry-out Chicago-style pizza for a park picnic, before running wild at the playground. The three of us determined that deep dish pizza is not our favorite, but Maggie Daley Park definitely is. This Park is a wonderful garden oasis with several playground areas for all kids. If you want to climb a rock wall – there is a giant one available. If you adore miniature golf, play your heart out on its course. If you want peace and quiet, there are plenty of nooks scattered throughout where you can have alone-time.
 
The Play Garden is 3 acres of amazingness for kids. It encourages imaginative play with trails meandering to hidden treasures, gigantic playground structures, and water fountains. Henry spent the majority of his time in the Slide Crater, dashing across the Tower Bridge, climbing the towers, and speeding down the slides. He had a blast running up and down the hills and playing tag with new friends. Elliot strolled with me through the Enchanted Forest, balanced himself across the tree beams, and tried his best to jump into fountains (despite it being chilly for us Floridians!)
 

Every day of our trip Henry asked to return to this park. It may be his favorite one ever! He still asks us when we will be returning. Unfortunately, it rained a ton while we were downtown, so we only made it back one additional time, in the rain. Still, totally worth it, and it wasn’t crowded when it was raining! This time we first focused on a couple of Play Garden areas we missed the first time around – the Sea and the Harbor – before returning to the Slide Crater for madness.


Located about a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel, we returned from Maggie Daley through Millennium Park and Pritzker Pavilion by way of the Bean. This area of town is truly a gem, and we will be returning for more fun on our next visit!



Playground of the Week – Philippe Park

Philippe Park (2525 Philippe Parkway, Safety Harbor 34695) is a Pinellas County Park located on Old Tampa Bay and shaded by gloriously large oak trees draped with Spanish moss. This combination makes the park particularly lovely for family photos, if you’re looking for a picturesque, Pinellas location.


The main playground (I haven’t made it to the climbing one) is mostly shaded and overlooks the water from a distance on a hill. It has many of the same features as the other county parks, most noticeably, the rideable green and purple dinosaurs. There are 2 infant/toddler swings in one section and at least 4 regular swings in a different area.
 
Henry liked the variety of slides to climb up (& then slide down) on the older kid (5 to 12) set, and both generally liked the equipment. We spent the most time accumulating sticks and climbing the centipede, which Henry mastered the art of dangling by our second trip. He still needed a touch of help climbing down the centipede after he rapidly ascended.
 

Dislikes for us include the distance to the park (it takes us about 30 minutes from Seminole), especially since there are closer county parks to us, and the lack of kids playing on a weekday morning. My boys love playmates, and often immediately judge a playground as lame if no one else is there.

History

Around 1,000 years ago, Tocabaga Indians feasted on clams and oysters, leaving the remaining shells which comprise the still-visible Indian Mound that is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. You can climb to the top of the Mound for a fantastic view of the Bay.
 
This 122-acre park is the oldest county park in Pinellas, having been acquired in 1948! Named after Count Odet Philippe, the man who introduced grapefruit to Florida, it covers the site of his citrus plantation (St. Helena). Philippe has the distinction of being the first permanent, non-native settler of Pinellas County (he took the land in 1862), and is an ancestor to the prominent McMullen and Booth families. His grave site is located somewhere within the park.

Amenities

  • 9 picnic shelters
  • Restrooms
  • 2 playgrounds (one is a rock climbing playground)
  • Boat launch ($6 with trailer, $2 without)
  • Tocabaga Indian Mound
  • Softball field
  • Fishing (saltwater permit may be required)

Playground of the Week – Seminole City Park

Since my Playground of the Week posts have essentially been sporadic park posts whenever I get around to it, I’m going to do a few playground posts in a row to make up for it, starting with one of my favorites. Seminole City Park (7464 Ridge Rd, Seminole 33772) has long been a top park for our family, but the playground has been closed all summer for a complete renovation (I think its last major renovation was in 2001.) The ribbon cutting for the new playground was supposed to occur last Friday, September 8th, but a little hurricane named Irma (haha, just kidding – it was a monster) cancelled the event. Despite the hurricane on the horizon, the City of Seminole kept the park open up until the day before the storm, so we had to stop by to play beforehand. After the storm, public works’ employees worked hard and cleared the debris from the park so the littles could quickly enjoy the playspace when so many of us were displaced or had no power.

My boys LOVE the playground! Henry said, “It’s my new favorite; I could play here for six hours!” Their shared favorite is the seesaw swing (for lack of a better name) – Elliot joyfully rode in the toddler side while Henry did the leg-pumping work on the other. Henry liked standing on it to swing and alternatively, sitting. I’m going to try to find a similar one for our swing set; it was that awesome.
 

There are two playground structures, aspects of which are similar to Lake Seminole Park, the Sunshine Playground, and Largo Central Park, but this playground makes them feel unique. On the smaller structure, Henry created an obstacle course route while Elliot jammed out to music on the drums and bells. On the larger one, Henry searched for the hidden animals, finding 8 out of 10 – we have to do better next time!
 



He loved being the Flash and running around the climbing merry-go-round, and hanging upside down while spinning. We all practiced our climbing on the spider web-orb structure, feeling the wind blow through our hair. There’s also a small zip line, but Henry was too small (at 4, he will grow into it) to hang on the whole time.

Finally, I love the turf instead of the small rubber pieces as the groundcover. I don’t have to worry about Elliot trying to eat the rubber, or it getting stuck in my kids shoes, and I feel better about it when my kids inevitably remove their shoes to play. My only complaint with the playground is the lack of shade covering the equipment. It’s Florida and it’s HOT at least 6 months of the year. The surrounding trees provide some shade, but a tent overhead would help immensely.

The official ribbon cutting is going down this Friday, September 15th at 6:30pm before the kickoff of the City’s Music in the Park series at 7pm. This week’s concert is Voice of Jazz, a Dunedin-based big band featuring classic jazz and swing music plus modern arrangements of popular tunes. I’ve never been to the concerts before, but I’ve heard they are fun for the whole family and free so we are going to try to make at least one this fall.
 

Amenities

  • 2 playground areas, including swings 
  • Band shell
  • Right on the Pinellas Trail
  • Trailside Restrooms
  • 3 picnic shelters
  • Mear Lake (where you can feed the birds, which I try not to do because being surrounded by birds terrifies the crap out of me)

Upcoming Music in the Park

  • September 22nd – Gloria West and the Gents
  • September 29th – Charlie Souza and Titewad Band
  • October 6th – Ellie Lee and Blues Fury
  • October 13th – Sounds of Soul

Playground of the Week – Helen Howarth Park

This week’s Playground of the Week is located in Pinellas Park – Helen Howarth Park (6301 94th Ave N, 33782). I tried locating the playground when we first moved here a couple of years ago, but never found it since I ended up driving around the recreation center and Henry fell asleep. We tried again this week, and I’m happy we did.


The playground has so many things to climb – Henry climbed up, down, sideways, diagonally – he couldn’t stop. There was a smaller structure with a tiny slide for the 2 to 5 year olds, and a larger structure sans slide. Henry fully explored both. Another section had four swings, two baby and two regular, all in the shade when we were there.


I liked how half the complex was shaded as well as the rubberized ground cover. The playground was in view of several picnic shelters, the baseball complex, and a bathroom, so it would be convenient for parties and for parents with multiple kids who go to baseball games (and need to get the energy out of their other kids afterwards). 


My main issue with the park is that the bathroom was locked, and Henry had to go. Luckily, he’s a boy, but they really should have been accessible in the middle of the day since it’s a public place. I plan to go back, and hope you all will, too.

Playground of the Week – Safety Harbor City Park

This week’s playground of the week is located in the town of Safety Harbor, which has a cute Main Street full of shops and restaurants, a wonderful inn and spa where you can “take the waters” or just relax, and several parks within walking distance. We have visited its City Park (940 7th St S, Safety Harbor 34695) a few times now and love it.

Pinellas County’s first certified official “boundless playground,” it is the largest park in Safety Harbor at 21 acres. There is a skate park, baseball fields, a dog park, volleyball courts, basketball courts, a huge field, and boating access to Alligator Lake. It also has bathroom, which are definitely needed for toilet training toddlers. But we didn’t visit this park for all of those things – we love its giant playground!


There are two main playground jungle gyms protected from the sun by huge tents. They have so many things to climb (including a dinosaur!) and lots of slides, plus ramps and steps to run up and down. There are two bouncy race cars to pretend to drive, a climbing obstacle course for bigger kids, and a ton of swings. Only the main jungle gym structures are protected by the tents, however, so the other areas get hot. There is plenty of shade to cool down – under trees, beneath the tents, or in one of the picnic shelters.


 
As for safety, most of the playground is mulched (parts have that packed-down, recycled rubber material), so if your kid likes to collect and/or eat that kind of thing it is perfect for you (not so great if you’re a germaphobe and don’t like your kids putting mulch in their mouths). There is a fence around the far exterior of the park, not the playground area, but it shouldn’t be a problem to safely contain your kid from the street since the playground is set back from the road. I think this park is perfect for kids of all ages, and for all seasons.

Playground of the Week – George C. McGough Nature Park

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. 

Playground of the Week – Highlander Park

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these postings, but I’m hopping back on my playground of the week train starting NOW. This week’s playground is Highlander Park, located at 1920 Pinehurst Rd, Dunedin 34698. It’s a drive (30 minutes or so) from where we live in Seminole, but is totally worth it (especially in the summer).



My favorite thing about this park is the Kiwanis Sprayground, which is totally free and fenced in, plus it has covered benches for some lucky, early-rising parents to claim as theirs. Great for toddlers, the variety of fountains ranging from a sprinkle to full on downpour (and a small slide) make it a cool way to spend a morning.

Adjacent to the splash pad is a small, shaded playground that Henry likes even better than the water. It doesn’t have anything special or awesome, but is a nice, cool space for kids to play. The swings are in the sun, so they are best enjoyed when it’s not a million degrees. Pack a lunch, because there are lots of picnic tables around to sit and eat in the shade. There’s also a pool for bigger kids and families, but that costs money (of course). I love this park, and wish it were closer to where we live.

Playground of the Week – Ridgecrest Park

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.
   
    
   

Kissimmee Vacation, Part 1 – Playground of the Week – Lakefront Park

Let’s flashback a few weeks to that time we took a super short (little less than 48 hours) trip to visit my brother and his family in their new place in Kissimmee. They’ve been there since October or November, and hope to buy the cool, old house they are living in. It’s in downtown, historic Kissimmee, with tree-lined brick streets, and within walking distance of their church, restaurants, and parks. If you’re going to live in the Orlando area, it’s a pretty sweet setup.

   

   
I know I posted a playground of the week yesterday, but that was officially last week so I’m going to do another one back to back. This week’s playground of the week is brought to you from Kissimmee’s Lakefront Park, located at 201 Lakeview Drive, 34741. This park was awesome! It has two playgrounds adjacent to Lake Tohopekaliga, as well as a splash pad. We only visited the southern side’s playground, but there was plenty to do including the typical climbing, swinging, and sliding. It is next to the bathrooms, and there were benches and chairs for parents to sit and watch. Henry’s favorite part (maybe favorite thing ever as he is still talking about it) was blasting off stomp rockets in the large field in the park. If it hadn’t been lunchtime and the weather had been better, he could have played all day with his cousins.

   
    
 

Playground of the Week – Pinebrook Park

This week’s playground of the week was a pleasant surprise. Pinebrook Park, located at 7202 118th Avenue North in Pinellas Park, looked nearly unrecognizable from the photos posted on the City of Pinellas Park’s website, and this was definitely a good thing.
  

The playground equipment looked entirely new, with some sunsails providing portions of shade. Bright colors of climbing apparatuses stood out; Henry found some of them challenging but kept trying anyways. The ground was made of rubberized mulch affixed to the earth, so parents who have babies/toddlers shouldn’t be afraid of them eating the surface material. It was a totally fun place to be.

     

   

   
There were a couple of drawbacks, however. The swings were not in the shade, and have regular mulch underneath, but the mulch looked fresh and the swings were brand new. There were no bathrooms (the horror of being pregnant without a bathroom in sight is real, everyone!), so make sure to go before you play. 

  
Other exciting recreation opportunities include basketball, racquetball, and tennis courts, a baseball field, and two covered picnic areas with grills. I recommend this park for fun, and will make sure to go back when I don’t need the bathroom every 20 minutes.