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. And we found tons to do! Here’s our list of the 10 Best Playgrounds:
Round Lake Park | Eden Prairie
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 a youth kayak ($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 Skate Park.
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Hyland Play Area | Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Bloomington
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 kiddos! Make a day of it just down the road at the Richardson Nature Center and Bush Lake Beach.
Hyland Play Area Closes for the Winter Months. Check here for Open/Closed Parks within the Three Rivers System.
Elm Creek Park Reserve | Maple Grove
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. There are plenty of tunnels, slides, and things to climb. 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.
The full park encompasses nearly 5000 acres, where a family good enjoy a nice hike. Other park amenities include a disc golf course, nature center with nature playground, archery tons more.
Elmcreek Area Closes for the Winter Months. Check here for Open/Closed Parks within the Three Rivers System.
Schaper Park | Golden Valley
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 adults and big kids — 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
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, walking trails and open spaces. 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. Restrooms are available from 6:30am-9pm.
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
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 the sports center – has a free splash pad with dumping buckets, nozzles and flower showers, and a space for smaller children.
Find our Full List of Inclusive & Accessible Playground Facilities Here
Wabun Picnic Area | Minneapolis
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
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 and their is a concessions stand 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 a canoe, kayak or paddleboard. You’ll find picnic shelters nearby.
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 new playground includes a sweet little “playhouse” structure perfect for toddlers. There are nearby picnic tables with shade umbrellas where parents can keep an eye on the kids.
The image below (courtesy of Three Rivers Park District) shows an overhead view of the new playground – including nets, mazes and watchtowers as well as a peek at the beautiful scenery that surrounds this playground.
French Regional Area Closes for the Winter Months. Check here for Open/Closed Parks within the Three Rivers System.
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, sand volleyball court, a dog park, and two traditional playgrounds.
18 thoughts on “10 of the Best Twin Cities Playgrounds”
Couldnt agree more, Robert.
These are beautiful parks. I live in the city. It’s quite a drive to get to any of these. I wish inner city kids could enjoy beautiful parks, too.
Agreed. Although, it is not that Minneapolis and St. Paul are lacking beautiful parks, they just don’t have the expansive playgrounds. I love taking my kids to North Commons to swim or to Mississippi Regional Park to explore and enjoy nature. The playground there is pretty nice, too.
Just look and J and Joy talk about race when it comes to a page on local community parks. Amazing.
It’s so sad, borderline pathetic to see people go there when in intent of this list is so pure. Grow up.
Right! I totally agree that it is pathetic that in 2022 we have to have these conversations. But we still don’t have destination playgrounds in less affluent neighborhoods even though the park systems could build them anywhere. It is awesome that many of our readers can hop in a car and drive to any playground they want to visit, but we are aware of the fact that this is not the case for everyone and we would like to see great playgrounds offered to everyone.
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
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
Joy covered it pretty much. To recognize that white neighborhoods get better playgrounds is not racist, just the truth.
These are in affluent predominantly white neighborhoods.
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.
Why did you use the term “unfortunately”? Curious.
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”.
Having parks like these can serve as powerful protective factors for adverse experiences, and there are communities of people who are needing community support. Playgrounds like these promote so many opportunities for developing brains to learn and operate in multiple domains at once! This is something that’s great for any kid; but for the communities that it would most greatly help, there is usually less access to wealth or resources (usually due to institutional bias or prejudice, risk factors, etc) and it is human to want us all to have what we need to thrive in life.
Thank you. That is well stated. Knowing this, we can use what the parks have learned from the destination playgrounds to add elements to playgrounds around the community, hopefully making the whole metro area stronger.
This is racism remark. You should not mention race here.
We, the owners of FFTC, have chosen to allow this thread to remain and believe this is a something that should be discussed. We simply ask that anyone continuing this thread is respectful to all others who post. But, please, feel free to NOT read the comments if it makes you uncomfortable. If anyone suggests a great park, we’ll share it in the body of the article.
This is not racist as it is pointing out that the better parks are within more white and affluent neighborhoods. Not racist at all, very true in fact.