Tag Archives: playground

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

Going Home to Jacksonville Part 2 – Mandarin

My parents wanted to take us to Clark’s Fish Camp on our visit because it has delicious seafood and stuffed animals. I thought they meant weird looking Care Bears, but they meant taxidermy stuffed animals in a “lovely room of death” (to quote Ace Ventura). Actually multiple rooms of death, I felt totally creeped out and saddened by the dead animals. The seafood was on point, though. Shrimp for days, plus tasty sides (I brought my Grandma my shrimp since she wasn’t feeling well enough to come out with us. She actually smiled, she was so stoked. 


But backing up a bit to before we went to the restaurant, we hit up Mandarin Park first. Keith couldn’t believe we were still in Jacksonville after driving for one hour to get to the park. Oh, but we were – Jacksonville is the largest land area city in the United States. It’s freaking huge! And also explains why I have no idea where things are outside of Arlington and some of the Beaches, Riverside, and Southside areas.
 
Mandarin Park is beautifully shaded right on Julington Creek. Keith and I watched the boats sail and motor down the river, taking off from a small dock on the property. Henry napped in the car (watched over by my Mom), and Elliot played on the shaded playground with my Dad. We sat on a bench in blissful silence, enjoying every moment. It was like a date (if by date I mean it was a break from parental responsibility for all of 20 minutes before the littlest came looking for us.)

The playground had swings, slides, and things to climb – all in the shade! Elliot liked the swings the best, but we couldn’t rouse Henry to get him to play. His sleep schedule was all out of whack being out of town and all. If we lived in Mandarin, I would definitely return to this park often. 

Asheville Adventuring with the Littles

Let me first start by saying that everyone needs a friend like Amber in their lives. She’s one of the best, and we are lucky to have been friends with her since college. It’s one of those friendships that can pick up after not keeping in touch well (on my part, she’s always the one reaching out to say hi) and it seems like no time has passed. Additionally, she was kind enough to invite all four of us to stay with her for a week while Keith was at his conference and she was teaching. Adding our four-person level of craziness to her quiet home was probably an adventure in itself, but then we ventured out!


She recommended a playground in Asheville called Carrier Park which was incredible! A velodrome surrounded the playground area so we had fun watching bicycle racing before playing. The playground itself was a wooden castle, with climbing tunnels, swings, slides, and an airplane! In two sections – one for older kids and one for the smaller ones – we spent equal time in both. Henry loved playing hide and go seek against me and Elliot because there were so many spots to hide. We also took a walk alongside the French Broad River to relax before heading back for lunch and a nap.


The next day we headed into downtown Asheville to get awesome books from Malaprops, the local bookstore. The kid’s selection was on point – we got four excellent books. Then we attempted to go to the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Unfortunately, all the schools and everyone with kids (at least that’s how the crowded  parking situation seemed) had the same idea, so we didn’t even make it past the parking lot. There was a playground nearby so we hung out there until lunchtime. Are you sensing a theme? When all else fails, a playground always makes things better.


The final day of Keith’s conference occurred on Saturday, so Amber had the day off to play with us! We visited the Hands On! Children’s Gallery in nearby Hendersonville and had lots of rainy day fun. Henry loved creating energy by peddling a bike, selling ice cream in the ice cream shop, making lego cars and racing them, and rapidly running from exhibit to exhibit. I think everyone took naps after this.

Road Trip To North Carolina

Keith has been wanting to attend the Catechumenate conference for a few years now, but never managed to go. This year’s one was hosted by Nativity Lutheran in Asheville (our friends and family’s church), so we decided the whole family was going to road trip it up to Amber’s house and spend the week working and playing. But first we had to get there, and that is no easy feat with a 4yo and almost 1yo. It’s about a TEN hour trip, without stops (and we knew there would be stops) so I researched potential stopping points along our route so the kids could play and we could get an “are we there yet” break.
 
The Play Across America Blog was particularly helpful once we hit I-95 because it had a descriptive listing of playgrounds to be found within a few miles of road exits, but first we had to make it out of Florida. Which takes HOURS. The only real place to stop for a picnic lunch along the route from Seminole to the Georgia border via US-301 was the town of Starke. I drove through this place all through college (it’s about halfway between Gainesville and Jacksonville), but have never really stopped. Except for that one time I toured the Florida State Prison located there, but that’s another story. The town of Starke had a small park a few blocks from downtown with clean bathrooms, picnic tables, and some playground equipment. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked for us. Henry had fun climbing and making up games while we ate in the 90+ degree weather.


The kids were getting stir crazy as we crossed the South Carolina border, so we stopped at one of the coolest playgrounds ever in Ridgeland – Harold Turpin Park. It comprised nearly a whole city block surrounded by quiet, tree-lined streets, and just looked how a playground was supposed to look (you know what I mean-picturesque). The whole playground was a wooden treehouse, and it had slides, fun swings (including a spiderweb swing), and a zip line! E loved the little splash pad to cool down. We would have spent more time here if we could have, but had to hop back in the car for the last stretch to Amber’s house where she was waiting up for us.
 

The day took a little more than 12 hours, but it was totally worth it to us to take these two long breaks for everyone’s sanity. 

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 – 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.
   
    
   

Playground of the Week – Eagle Lake Park

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)!

   
 

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation (Part 3) – SGI Playground of the Week

This week’s Playground of the Week is located on St. George Island at the foot of its lighthouse at the beach. We rode our bikes along the island-wide paved trail every night to the playground so Henry could get the last of his energy out. There were swings, slides, games, balance beams, and things to climb – with the sea breeze keeping things cool and the bugs (mostly) away. It was never crowded, had public bathrooms, and was a perfect spot to end our days.    
    
    
    
   
One evening we road bikes to the foot of the bridge connecting the island to the mainland to watch the sunset. It’s weird to watch the sunset over the mainland when we are so used to watching it set over the Gulf where we live. Weird, but still beautiful and worth the extra ride. I loved how we could visit anywhere on the island by bike (a lot of people used golf carts – not as cool as biking!), and we definitely took advantage of that.