Playgrounds are the perfect destination for a warm, sunny day in New Jersey. Your kids get fresh air and exercise...for FREE! But what happens when your school-aged children decide they’re too cool for their once-favorite neighborhood parks? My 8-year-old former playground-enthusiasts have recently begun to turn their noses up at the local swings and slides. And if I do talk them into a playground visit, we last about five minutes.
Playground moms—don’t give up yet. I haven’t! There are some destination playgrounds in New Jersey with features and contraptions novel enough to satisfy even the pickiest playground cynics. These play areas include zip lines, crazy slides, Spiderman-type climbers, and other structures that will challenge the ages 7-and-up crowd. We've rounded up some of our top picks across the state, and please note: these playgrounds all feature plenty to entertain the younger siblings as well.
Find more romping spots in our Parks & Playgrounds Guide for Jersey Kids.
Hilltop Playground. Photo courtesy of Designed for Fun, Inc.
Hilltop Playground at Holmdel Park – Holmdel
Highlights: flying saucer swing, suspended bridge, rope climber
I spent my childhood on the metal swings and slides at Holmdel Park. Today’s Holmdel Park is home to the jazzed-up, modern Hilltop Playground. After flying around on the saucer swing, bigger kids will enjoy tackling the multi-level rope climber, which leads to a shaky wooden bridge that connects to another play structure with a twisty slide. Holmdel Park’s lush grounds also feature hiking and fitness trails, another playground, a pond, and Historic Longstreet Farm.
Jackson Jungle – Jackson
Highlights: twisty slides, bouncy bridge
Welcome to the jungle! A well-designed playground with innovative wooden structures, Jackson Jungle is a giant maze of towers, tunnels, rope climbers, and super-twisty slides. Monkey bars and a bouncing bridge add to the fun.
RELATED: 20 Best Things to Do with Jersey Tweens
KidStreet rope zip line. Photo by Kaylynn Ebner.
KidStreet – Bridgewater
Highlights: rope swings, rope zip line, giant slides, tire swings
Hands down, this is the cream of the crop for my picky playground-goers. This massive playground, with structures comprised of wood, ropes, and tires, is one of the most imaginative around, and one of the few my kids actually ask to go to. The rope swings and rope zip lines are the highlight of the bigger-kid attractions. Also featured for the older set are a swinging tire net, rocking benches, tire climbers, and a large, slippery slide. Read our full review of this destination playground.
Morgan Pellowski Playground at Colonial Park – Somerset
Highlights: rocking boat, rope obstacle course with crawl-through discs, standing see-saw
This bright, colorful playground has its own section for the 5–12 crowd, complete with unconventional challenges. There's an obstacle course of ropes, crawl-through discs, and climbers, and a standing see-saw, LunarBurst rope climber, and Sway Fun rocker add to the fun. The daytrip-worthy Colonial Park also houses gardens, paddle boats, and a dog park.
Newport Green Park – Jersey City
Highlights: giant climbers, man-made beach, splash pad
It’s a playground; it’s a beach. And it’s smack between two urban downtowns. With views of Manhattan and access to the Riverwalk to Hoboken, Newport Green features an awesome play area designated for 5–12-year-olds. Featured attractions are a rope climbing dome with suspended sitting areas, a rope bridge, large slide, climbing wall, and spinning apparatus. Warm-weather visitors will love the splash pad, carousel, and the Hudson River’s only urban beach. Read our full review of this destination playground.
Overpeck County Park Playground – Leonia
Highlights: intricate rope web with trampoline, shaky bridge
You can't beat a playground with a trampoline. The ginormous rope structure at Overpeck has towers, a connecting web, and a trampoline in the center. Getting through the rope maze is a challenge in itself. Climbing walls and spinning structures add to the older-crowd attraction. The sprawling park also features boating, walking and biking paths, and views of the Manhattan skyline.
RELATED: Zip Lines and Adventure Parks for Jersey Kids
Ponderosa Park rope tower. Photo by the author.
Ponderosa Park – Scotch Plains
Highlights: twisted tube slides, rope pyramid, splash pad
This fairly recent addition to Union County has two distinct playground areas. The one designed for the mature playground crowd includes a climbing wall, twisty tube slide, tunnels, and a rope bridge. A supersized rope tower and a spinning contraption add to the adventure. Ponderosa also has water features, fields, and bike paths.
Zelley Playground at Fullerton Park – Moorestown
Highlights: spinning monkey bars, castle climbing structure, rope bridge
Castle-play isn’t exclusive to the younger crowd. The complex, castle-themed climber at Zelley has rope bridges, slides, and a steep sliding pole. Monkey bars that spin, a starry climbing wall, and a rubber bridge round out the older-kid area.
Top photo: Newport Green. Photo courtesy of LeFrak.