Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park

Best Playgrounds in Chicago: Destination Play Zones Worth the Trip

Chicago families are lucky to have a world-class parks system with hundreds of great playgrounds. Thanks to a city initiative, over 300 playgrounds in Chicago have been refurbished or newly built since 2013, with the goal of ensuring that every Chicago kid has a place to play within a ten-minute walk of home.

But even in a city packed with great parks, some Chicago playgrounds are a cut above the rest. The spots on our best-of list have plenty of space to climb, slide, swing, and play, while also offering something special or unique that makes them worth the trip. Check out our Chicago playground hall of fame, and get out to play at a new-to-you park this weekend.

31st Street Beach (Edwin Bill C. Berry) Playground — Oakland
This playground located on the lakeshore has a rubberized surface and curved blue climbing structures that seem to ripple and roll like the water itself. Whimsical climbers and colorful sculptures all contribute to a Dr. Seuss-meets-1950s-astronauts vibe. Stroll through the nearby marina for boat-peeping and to get an eyeful of the jaw-dropping skyline view.

Adams Playground

Adams Playground Park — Lincoln Park
The towering, kid-soaking water features and sprinklers at Adams Park are the big draw on hot summer days, but the giant shaded sandbox is a toddler magnet in itself. Leafy and compact, this playground has a neighborhood vibe and is close to lots of ice cream options. The old-school field house here hosts kid-friendly programming and concerts year-round.

Berger Park Playground — Edgewater
Appropriate for a spot with such gorgeous lake views, the refurbished playground in leafy Berger Park has marine themed play structures including a giant pirate ship with a lookout and wavy blue slides that reach impressive heights. Settle onto one of the pretty mosaic benches and watch the blue horizon—when you’re not watching your kiddos conquer the climbers.

Indian Boundary Park Playground — West Ridge
The unique wooden structures at this shady playground are rich material for imaginative play. For some kids, it’s a fortress, for others a castle, and for others, it’s a multilayered obstacle course. Sculptures, swings, a duck pond, and a wooden train add to the fun, and there’s a cute nature center to explore nearby, too. 

Julia de Burgos Park — Logan Square
Two words: Giant spider. But don’t let the creepy-crawly scare you off: He’s the friendly, climbable art installation (created by local artists) at the center of a huge turf spiderweb that’s perfect for imaginative play. The nearby butterfly and spiderweb-trampoline climbing structures are irresistible and just challenging enough. One of the main access parks for the multi-use 606 trail, Julia de Burgos Park is a great rest stop on a sunny day of biking and walking.

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Junior Playlot Park

Juniper Playlot Park — Lakeview
For its compact footprint, this nature-themed playground renovated in 2018 packs in a lot of fun. A giant sand play area (seriously, it’s enormous) features interactive water and sand tables as well as slides that dump you right into the action. Sit under the shady trees to watch your littles play in the sprinklers, or give them a hand on the rotating net climber. A woodsy exploration path made from salvaged natural materials, plus a collection of climbing logs and tunnels, make this a great park for adventurous preschoolers and toddlers. 

Maggie Daley Park Play Garden — Chicago Loop
It may be crowded, but for good reason: This playground is amazing. With six separate themed play areas, unbeatable downtown and lake views, and innovative, interactive features designed to challenge and inspire kids from toddler on up to tween, Maggie Daley Park is justly popular. When you need a break from the nonstop action on the slides, swings, sprayers, climbers, and pathways, explore the shady Enchanted Forest, or just take a well-deserved flop on the grassy lawn. The fact that it’s so close to mini golf, the skating ribbon, and tons of snack and ice cream options is a nice bonus too.

Margaret Donohue Park Playground — Wrigleyville
There’s no actual sign that reads “Cubs fans only” here, but let’s just say it helps to love the Cubbies at this fully-accessible playground, which was renovated with the help of a million-dollar grant from the team. A giant soft-surface play area covered with the Cubs team logo makes a fun run-around-until-you-drop spot, but kids will likely gravitate toward the play structures built to look like the Hancock and Willis Towers. The splash pad, near a beautiful mosaic art installation, is a kid favorite, with a rotating spout and arcs of spray.

Mary Bartelme Park — West Loop
Just one block by one block, but full of innovative design and fun, Mary Bartelme Park is probably one of the most Instagrammable spots in town thanks to its cool sculptural gates, which spray a refreshing mist on hot days. Near the water feature, a soft-surfaced playground with multiple levels and unique climbing features offers a welcome twist on the usual slides-and-bars. On the downside, there’s not much shade.

A. Montgomery Ward Playground — River North
Located along a formerly-neglected stretch of the Chicago River and tucked among new high-rises, the Ward Playground is built for climbing and jumping, with rolling turf hills, enormous rope climbing structures, and slide rails, all with a view of the river traffic going by. In summer, a towering spray structure gets kids good and soaked. 

Mount Greenwood Park Playground — Mount Greenwood
This award-winning, massive playground is fully accessible for kids of all abilities, and completely soft-surfaced. Separate play areas designed for older and younger kids are enclosed within a single gate, with climbing structures challenging enough for all ages. But the coolest features are definitely the interactive art elements, designed by local artists: Some are giant musical instruments, some are built to be conquered, and some are simply designed to inspire imaginations.

Oz Park — Lincoln Park
Sculptures of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and Dorothy (with Toto, too…and red shoes) are peppered throughout this park that pays homage to L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books. The wood play structures topped with peaked red roofs have a castle-like feel, encouraging kids to embark on their own brave adventures. The lush Emerald Gardens nearby are worth a quiet stroll.

Supera Playground— Lincoln Park
Ahoy, landlubbers: In this deliciously shady, tucked-away playground in Lincoln Park you’ll find a full-blown pirate theme, including two climbing structures that look like masted ships complete with wheels, lookout towers, and the old Jolly Roger grinning overhead. Palm trees double as water features at the playground’s splash pad, the sandbox is shaped like a rowboat, and rocking sea creatures bob nearby on the soft-surface turf. All that’s missing is buried treasure…and maybe a parrot. 

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Welles Park Nature Place

Welles Park Nature Place— Lincoln Square
The green heart of the Lincoln Square neighborhood, Welles Park has family concerts, a gazebo, and a huge playground with water features to jump around in. But the real draw here is the super-cool natural play space, with forts, paths, bridges, and climbing structures made from salvaged natural materials.

Photos courtesy of the parks

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