Elm Creek Play Area – Minnesota’s Biggest Playground?

You would be hard-pressed to find a kid who won’t like Elm Creek Play Area in the Elm Creek Park Reserve. Our family affectionately calls it the Rainbow Park. Two different parks in Minnesota make this list of the World’s Largest Playgrounds — Elm Creek and Hyland Park. When, I originally shared this, Hyland Park was closed for repairs, leaving Elm Creek the largest playground by default. Now I guess, someone will have measure the two playgrounds and make a definitive call!

Elm Creek Play Area

After parking in the lot, you cross a bridge or run through the grass to begin this amazing playground experience. It has all the traditional fun of the playground fort and slides (but on steroids since the slides are 25 feet long).  Beyond that, though, there are so many other features of this playground that are hard to explain, but I am up for the challenge to try.

First of all, we call it the rainbow park because a big chunk of the playground is covered in recycled tires–whatever those rubbery mats are made of–laid out in a beautiful rainbow pattern. The colors are bright. The mat goes up a steep incline to the base of the slide fort. At the top of the incline sits a bench with a covering creating a perfect Parent Perch to look out over the entire playground and be close to the fort if someone needs help. Though the fort is designed so well that there is really no need; parents can join in playing with their kids instead of rescuing them. The whole play area is surrounded by a fence with only one opening, so it’s easy to protect your little ones.

Elm Creek Play Area

Right next to the incline is a retaining wall that created a perfect place for my 5 year old to practice her daredevil moves. There is a giant boulder that has a rope ladder descending to the rest of the playground. On top of the retaining wall and over to the side are three “swings.”  They don’t look like your typical swings. They look like saucers hanging down from 2 bungee cords that can easily fit 4 children. These are the only swings in the play area, but my kids couldn’t get enough of them. They never sat empty for long.

Elm Creek Playground

In front of the incline is a structure designed for younger children. It looked like a lot of fun, but my 2 year old was so happy that he could play almost completely unassisted with the big kids so I only caught him there once. At the foot of that structure lies a huge sand box. So bring your sand toys. Even if you don’t bring your sand toys, your kids will enjoy excavating a 30 foot dino skeleton buried in the box.

Girl climbing "Dinosaur" bones at Elm Creek Playground in Maple Grove, Minnesota


There are some rope contraptions for older kids to play on (or adventurous 2 year olds) including a big geometric double helix-type structure. Some sites call it a spiderweb, but it was like two pyramids wrapped together. The other rope-like construction is this egg shaped gizmo you sit in while someone spins you – might want to consider eating your picnic lunch after you’ve tried this feature out.

Off to the side of the main playground is another setup (orange and yellow) and down at the bottom of the incline was yet another (gray and blue). These constructions included a zipline with a seat, maneuvering devices, and other general playground fun.

The backside of the play area (behind the fort) are woods and there are walking paths that go around the playground through the rest of the park.  The playground even has plenty of green space with a lawn between it and the bathrooms and ample picnic tables.

We spent all day there–the only way we were able to leave was by promising them ice cream on the ride back.

Highlights of Elm Creek Play Area

  • Plenty of places to be able to supervise your children (i.e. Parent Perches)
  • Many inventive play structures
  • Overall safe environment
  • Lots of picnic tables–in shade and in the sun
  • Beautiful woods as a backdrop
  • Clean and easily accessible bathrooms
  • Spacious enough for crowds of children to play without running over the little ones.

Disadvantages of Elm Creek Play Area

  • So many choices mean if you’ve got multiple kids, it may be difficult to keep tabs on them.
  • The comfortable seating made it ideal to forget about your children and just relax
  • This is a popular playground in the summertime. With crowds of children, it’s easy to lose track of yours.

Other tips

Pack a picnic and your suits if you’ve got time for a swim. The man-made swimming pond is located close to the play area and costs a reasonable fee of $6/pp.

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Hours: 5:00 AM–10:00 PM
Phone: 763.694.7894 (Elm Creek Chalet)
Address: 12400 James Deane Parkway
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Save a Trip: Find open & closed information for Three Rivers Playgrounds here

5 thoughts on “Elm Creek Play Area – Minnesota’s Biggest Playground?”

    1. That is a good question, Rachel. No it is not currently closed. I’ve added a link to Three Rivers Playground page, where they list open and closed playgrounds.

  1. Mary Ann Spinler

    Is the play equipment area open for kids to play on during the corona virus restrictions? Thank you.

    Mary Ann Spinler

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