Add these amazing playgrounds to your family’s travel bucket list.
Playgrounds are a welcome sight for weary parents looking for a place for their kids get a chance to expend some energy. While a simple park with a slide and swing set will usually do the trick, visiting unique play spaces can also be an interesting way to explore new destinations.
From whimsical, hand-crocheted climbing nets to play sets featuring oversized animals, these wow-worthy playgrounds around the world are worth adding to your family travel bucket list.
Climbit at the W5 Children’s Museum
WHERE: Belfast, Ireland
A climbing sculpture built to reflect the shape of a Celtic dragon winds its way through several stories of this children’s museum in Belfast. Kids can navigate through the structure by climbing on a series of 96 curved platforms steps that are surrounded by vinyl-coated cables.
Designers Luckey Climbers have created varying sizes of these platformed climbing spaces in different spots around the world. The only difficulty with this one may be talking your kids into coming down when it’s time to go.
Dokk1 Library and Citizens’ Services Center
WHERE: Aarhus, Denmark
A series of four whimsical playgrounds surround this library and community center overlooking a harbor in Denmark. Danish designers Monstrum created scenes to display travel around the world at different compass points surrounding the building. Kids can climb on a giant wooden eagle, tunnel through a slide held up by an oversized bear, or explore the volcano or jungle play areas. A visit to the library might be slightly calmer after kids get some energy out on the playgrounds.
Watkins Regional Park
WHERE: Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Kids and parents can both delight in seeing a classic book and movie come to life at this Wizard of Oz-themed playground in Maryland. A giant yellow-brick road leads to the play area where visitors can slide down giant ruby slippers and play in structures modeled after Dorothy’s farm and The Emerald City.
The playground also features replicas of pages from the L. Frank Baum book, and giant word puzzles where visitors can search for words like “Dorothy” and “Wizard.” Caregivers can also rest on a spiderweb and broomstick bench while their little ones contend with the (thankfully, imaginary) flying monkeys.
Woods of Net Pavillion at Hakone Open Air Museum
WHERE: Hakone, Japan
Textile artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam has been hand crocheting brightly colored netted play areas throughout the world for several years. At the Hakone Open Air Museum, kids can bounce on or hang from one of MacAdam’s designs, which is hung inside a wooden pavilion. The fiber materials are designed to stretch and give as children interact with them, and adults and kids will both appreciate the fanciful, Dr.-Seuss like designs.
“The Land” on Plas Madoc
WHERE: Wrexham, Wales
Since many kids can stay happily entertained with a cardboard box or a giant pile of dirt, not all play areas need artful designs. “Adventure playgrounds” offer children a chance to literally get their hands dirty with unstructured play. “The Land” in Wales is filled with junkyard items like tires, wood, and hammers, and kids are encouraged to interact with materials in self-directed play. Children build with and even destroy the myriad items in the playground.
There are three to five adult Playworkers are on hand at the playground at any given time, and while the workers won’t make the kids follow a list of strict rules, they might actually help them start a fire. Kids five and over can be left without parents and kids under five can visit with a caregiver.
The Lorber Family Playground at Jackson Square
WHERE: Boston, MA
This playground in Boston contains a “Walholla” play structure – a narrow vertical play space with wire mesh walls. In the giant hamster maze-like space, kids can enter and exit through different holes and traverse an orange ribbon-like path. If the children tire of running in the 10-foot play area, the playground also has a zipline and swings.
LEGO House Playgrounds
WHERE: Billund, Denmark
Little brick builders will love exploring The LEGO House that opened in 2017 in Billund, the city where the toy was invented. The immersive play experience gives kids a chance to explore unique LEGO exhibits in a multi-story building that looks like a life-sized creation built with the famous bricks. The nine brightly colored playgrounds also allow kids to play out scenes like dodging a sea monster in a bright yellow submarine to balancing on surfboards near an oversized shark.
Inflatable Island Playground
WHERE: Olongapo City, Philippines
This unicorn-themed inflatable playground floating off the coast of the Philippines has a play space as big as eight basketball courts. Visitors can rock climb, jump, and slide on different inflatable attractions, which are decorated with unicorns and rainbows. There are different areas for kids versus more “advanced” playground users, so people of all ages can get in on the fun.
Sunbird Park Playground
WHERE: Vail, CO
This park, perched above Lionshead Village in Vail, has oval nest-like structures for kids to play in along with rope bridges and slides. Little visitors can climb into the cocoons and peer down on ice skaters in the winter or water fountains in the summer. Vail playgrounds often include artists as part of their design teams, and Sunbird Park designers were inspired by bird habitats when creating this park.
Cadboro-Gyro Park Playground
WHERE: Victoria, British Columbia
This waterfront park has a beach, a zipline, and giant concrete sea creature sculptures to play on. Visitors can slide down an octopus tentacle or climb on the giant green sea serpent named Cadborosaurus, or “Caddy” for short. Caddy draws on a local legend of sightings of a sea serpent in Cadboro Bay in the 1930s.
Lion’s Park Playscape
WHERE: Greensboro, Alabama
Thousands of 55-gallon drums were used to construct this playground in Alabama. Rural Studio, a design program affiliated with Auburn University where architecture students work on community projects, created the playscape using donated steel drums. The repurposed drums form a shade structure and play space for kids to climb, jump, and swing.