10 of the Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

10 Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

Summer is the perfect time to leave the beaten path around the neighborhood park and explore some of the more unique playgrounds in the Twin Cities. We’ve been trekking to all corners of the metro to find and share new places to climb, slide, splash, swim and entertain your little bundles of energy this summer. Here’s our list of the 10 Best:

GET STARTED PLANNING YOUR BEST SUMMER!

Everything under the sun you need to know about family fun this summer in the Twin Cities. Beat boredom and fill your long school break days exploring the best the Twin Cities has to offer in the way of parks, swim spots, community entertainment and local festivals with our Ultimate Summer Events Guide. The Summer to Remember Adventure returns in 2021. Thanks to our Executive Partner AKASport, it starts June 14 and runs for nine weeks. The summer is full of eight different adventures with the last week as a bonus week. Each week, we choose a winner for that week. And at the end of the summer, we will choose a Grand Prize Winner.

10 of the Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

Last year, many of these playgrounds and beaches closed for health and safety reasons. We are not aware of any closures in 2021, but, when in doubt, we recommend calling ahead.

Round Lake Park | Eden Prairie

Girl playing in splash pad at Round Lake Park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota - One of the Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

Our kids have enjoyed being able to run freely between the marine-themed splash fountains and the treehouse-ish play structure adjacent at the Round Lake Play Area. The playground also features quite the unique merry-go-round. Makes us sick just to look at it, but it probably won’t faze your older kids. Those older kids also might find it fun to rent youth kayaks ($5/hr), stand-up paddleboards ($8/hr) or bike ride the one-mile path around the lake. Nearby is plenty of shaded picnic space, a sandy beach and the new Round Lake Skate Plaza.


Hyland Play Area | Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Bloomington Kids playing on the Chutes & Ladders and Ropes at Hyland Play Area in Bloomington, Minnesota - Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

The “Chutes & Ladders” playground is the well-known and well-deserved nickname of the huge Hyland Lake Park Reserve playground. There are myriad climbing and sliding opportunities for all ages here plus sand and a small spray zone. Just be prepared for crowds when school gets out and a challenge when it comes to locating your kids! Make a day of it just down the road at the Richardson Nature Center and Bush Lake Beach.


Elm Creek Park Reserve | Maple Grove

Girl climbing metal "dinosaur bones" at Elm Creek Park Reserve playground in Maple Grove Minnesota

You would be hard-pressed to find a kid who won’t like Elm Creek Park Reserve’s Play Area. Gianna’s family affectionately calls it the Rainbow Park for its bright color scheme and equally enticing play equipment. The area covered is large, but fenced in with a single opening to ease the worries of losing little ones among the climbing apparatus and sandy dino dig. If you’re up for it, next door to the playground is the sand-bottomed, chlorinated Elm Creek Swimming Pond. At just $5/pp admission to swim, that’s a full day of bargain family fun.


Schaper Park | Golden Valley

Boy at start of Schaper Park Challenge Course in Golden Valley Minnesota - Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

Attention parents of tweens and teens: this is a playground that will capture their interest as well as younger siblings! The Schaper Park Challenge Course is said to be designed for ages 13+, but we found that much younger kids also enjoy tackling obstacles that participants navigate over, under, around, and through as they race against the clock.

There are two “challenges” that can be timed by stop clocks – a 40 yard dash (2 participants at a time) and a series of obstacles in a switchback layout. The turf is very soft and forgiving throughout the park. The only true “challenge” we experienced is that there is often a short line for the stop clock and it can be difficult with many kids playing at the park to get a clear path through the course. Don’t let that stop you from trying!


Central Park | Maple Grove

Girl running through sprinklers at Central Park in Maple Grove Minnesota

Maple Grove’s Central Park is a delightful doozy.  It includes a huge and beautifully designed playground with plenty of challenging features for older kids, a garden, illuminated splash fountains, space to rent for birthday parties, trails and green space. The playground, carpeted with a forgiving rubber surface, is divided into seven separate play areas and includes a 24-foot climbing tower, a climbing wall that goes the distance, slides, swings and sand areas.

During the wintertime, take a spin on an LED-lit, refrigerated ice loop through the park. It is completely free to skate. Bring your own skates or rent from the pavilion onsite – which also has a fireplace for warming up.


Madison’s Place Playground | Woodbury

Kids playing on the all-abilities playground - Madison's Place - in Woodbury, Minnesota - Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

What makes Madison’s Place Playground stand out is its unique, all-abilities-are-welcome design. Sun-shaded play decks, swings, sensory play equipment and ramps for wheelchair access all take into consideration the needs of a very special set of families. The playground was brought to life through the Madison Claire Foundation whose continuing mission is to set a standard for how people think about and plan for inclusive play.

During the summer season, Madison’s Place – located on the campus of the HealthEast Sports Center – has a free splash pad with dumping buckets, nozzles and flower showers, and a space for smaller children.


Wabun Picnic Area | Minneapolis

Children splashing in wading pool at Wabun Park Pool in Minneapolis - Family Fun Twin Cities' Best Twin Cities Playgrounds

Wabun is home to one of our personal favorite park pools – one of those hybrid options that feature the zero-depth entry and spray features that parents of younger children love along with a little deeper water to practice swim skills. The park also has terrific playground equipment that was recently installed to replace the old, worn-out stuff. My youngest loves the shaded sandy play area and the swaying vintage camper trailer, a nod to the park’s roots as an auto tourist camp. There is also ample covered picnic space at Wabun, perfect for that power lunch before, middle or after a rousing day at the pool and playground.

Bonus idea: If you think your kids might be up to the walk (it’s also possible to drive and park closer to the visitor center at 5000 W River Pkwy, Minneapolis), there’s a path that will take you from the Wabun Park Picnic Area down to Lock and Dam No. 1 on the Mississippi riverfront. The Visitor Promenade is open daily during park hours and little ones might enjoy spotting watercraft moving through the locks from a birds-eye view.


Shady Oak Beach Community Play Area | Minnetonka

Family Fun Twin Cities' Best Twin Cities Playgrounds - Shady Oak Beach

Spend a day digging in the sand; there’s no shortage of it at Shady Oak. There is sand carpeting much of the play area (heads up, the equipment is best appreciated by kids under 8) and a sandy beach spanning 76 feet across the shoreline of a clear spring-fed lake. Lifeguards are on duty when the beach is open. The lake is deep enough to allow the beach a high dive if you’ve brought older kids along. Visitors can also rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards.


French Regional Park | Plymouth

We dearly loved the old French Regional Park playground with its maze of climbing nets and wooden watchtowers. But while it’s sad to see it go, Three Rivers took the community’s love of the mazes and nets into account when creating the replacement.  The image below (courtesy of Three Rivers Park District) shows an overhead view of the new playground – including nets, mazes and watchtowers.

French Regional Park
The newly upgraded playground. Image courtesy of Three Rivers Park District.

Carver Lake Bike Playground, Woodbury

We’ve heard great things about the bike playground at Carver Lake Park in Woodbury. It is quickly becoming a reader favorite. Kids of all ages can choose between a tot track, pump track or an advanced loop. In addition to the bike playground, find a beach and two traditional playgrounds.

7 thoughts on “10 of the Best Twin Cities Playgrounds”

    1. You are absolutely right. They are. Our Parks Directory has parks in every neighborhood in the Twin Cities, but unfortunately, the biggest playgrounds have been built in affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods.

        1. Thanks for asking, Dwayne J. First, I believe that publicly funded parks would best serve less wealthy neighborhoods. In my experience, the neighborhoods with the best parks also tend to have the best backyards and the most resources for entertainment. Second, we have had comments left from people in the neighborhoods of these parks that they don’t really enjoy sharing their parks with the general public. It seems that we would best serve the most people by funding public parks in less exclusive areas. That is my personal opinion and not necessarily the opinion of Anne & Gianna. Nor is this really the place for a deep political discussions — it is a website to help all parents find the appropriate fun for their families — but, since you asked, that is my reason for the word “unfortunately”.

  1. Quit with the racist comments troll. Move there if you prefer to be near these parks. If you prefer the north Minneapolis parks, go There instead

    1. I disagree that J’s statement was in anyway racist, which is why I chose to leave it. We also do not condone the use of the word “troll” to describe people with opinions other than our own on this site. It is too often used as a way to shut people down who speak uncomfortable truths. Please keep your comments respectful if you want to join the discussion.

      There is room for

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