Worth The Drive: 10 Destination Playgrounds in NJ
There's no doubt that New Jersey is home to countless parks and playgrounds, but some go above and beyond, with design features that make them more of a destination than the basic park down the block.
If you've been to your neighborhood playground so many times that the slides and swings have lost their thrill, now's the perfect time to switch up your kiddo's routine. Spring has sprung, and these 10 amazing playgrounds are worth the trip!
From cool play spaces featuring awesome jungle gyms you won't find anywhere else, as well as playgrounds with water features, zip lines, a carousel, and even a zoo, these stellar playscapes allow kids to slide, swing, splash, climb, and imagine the day away. Pile into the car and visit each at least once—but we bet you'll want to return again and again.
The Community Park Playground reopens on April 27, 2019. Photo courtesy of the park
Community Park Playground – Montville
Back and better than ever, this sprawling playground reopens on April 27 after a nine month–long renovation. What’s new? More swings, as well as slides that are twice as wide, allowing special needs children, or toddlers, to slide with an adult. What remains is the playground’s adorable farmer theme, as well as the flexibility it offers with so many play structures for kids of all ages. Relax and recharge in the new picnic area, where you can keep an eye on your kiddos as they run about. But don’t worry, the entire playground is fenced in, too.
Dorbrook Recreation Area – Colt’s Neck
While other splash pads have sprinklers a plenty, Dorbrook’s sprayground is a veritable water park with sprayers, water troughs, and cool “raining leaves” to keep your crew cool on a warm day. Don’t forget your beach toys for the sand area! Just beyond the fenced-in splash area is Challenger Place, one of the first universally integrated playgrounds in NJ, featuring wheelchair-accessible soft surfaces and signs in Braille. Home to tennis and basketball courts, an inline skating rink, athletic fields, and 2.5 miles of paved trails for bikes or scooters, this 535-acre site makes a fantastic day trip.
KidStreet Playground is a cool wooden play village. Photo by Kaylynn Ebner
KidStreet – Bridgewater
Not your average playground, you’ll find lots of wooden structures and special equipment you won’t come across just anywhere else at this fantastic play village. Obstacle courses, rope swings, and zip lines are the highlight of the bigger-kid attractions. Little ones will make a beeline to the enormous climbing structure with a police and fire station, cars, and more—all with interconnecting tire climbs, slides, and bridges. Worked up an appetite? Grab a bite a nearby Bridgewater Commons Mall, making this park the perfect pit spot for a funday afternoon.
Newport Green – Jersey City
Where else can you find a playground, splash pad, and a sandy beach, all with amazing views of the Manhattan skyline? A trip to this urban oasis is a must for families and kiddos. After working up a sweat on the playground’s rope climbing dome, rock walls, and steep slides, cool off at the park’s vibrant splash pad, complete with sprinklers and dumping buckets. No need to fight shore traffic for a beach excursion! Dip your toes in the sand at the playground's small, man-made beach. Before heading home, enjoy an easy, scenic stroll to downtown Hoboken along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.
Overpeck County Park – Ridgefield Park
This Bergen County park stretches out over four towns, but it’s the playground inside the Ridgefield Park section that your thrill-seekers will want to visit again and again. You can’t beat a playground with a trampoline, and you’ll find one in the middle of a massive spider web climbing structure that soars up to 15 feet high. A sprawling play structure allows kids to monkey around on the monkey bars, slide down slides, and navigate their way across wobbly drawbridges to their hearts' content! The location is a bit remote, so pack a lunch or snacks because we bet your kiddos will want to stay a while.
Ponderosa Farm Park has separate play areas for younger and older crowds. Photo courtesy of the Scotch Plains Township Recreation Department
Ponderosa Farm Park – Scotch Plains
Two adventures in one? Done and done. With both dry and wet features, Ponderosa Farm is the perfect park combo. Separate play structures for toddlers and school-aged kids help little ones feel more secure. Equipment for the more mature crowd includes a climbing wall, twisty tube slide, tunnels, and a rope bridge. A supersized rope tower and spinning contraption add to the adventure. When you need to cool off (and you will, since the playground doesn’t get any shade), water lovers can get wet in the motion-activated spray fountain at the center of the play area.
Regatta Playground – West Orange
Ahoy, mateys! You’d be forgiven for thinking this waterside playground is called “Pirate Ship Playground,” since it’s anchored by a grand sailing vessel. Beneath the towering masts, pirates-in-training can climb rock walls, zip down slides, and peer through portholes. The playground was recently refreshed with a cushy new surface to prevent scrapes, and we also love that there are tons of swings (which means no waiting). The playground is a destination unto itself, but the South Mountain Recreation Complex, home to the Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Treetop Adventure Course, and more, also make it worth the drive.
A day at Tony's Place Playground is a beachside treat for kids. Photo courtesy of the park
Tony’s Place Playground – Long Branch
It’s only natural that a beachside playground offers an ocean-themed place to romp. Seal statues, a shoreline-inspired surface, boat structure, sea cave–like rock structures, and fishing shack take this universally accessible play area to the next level. The surfaces are wheelchair-friendly, and all signage includes Braille. Picnic on the grass or picnic tables with a picturesque ocean view. Located just a few steps from Seven Presidents beach, the playground is also close to Skateplex skate park, making it perfect for families with both older and younger kids.
Van Saun Park – Paramus
This Bergen County park is the golden ticket to a day-long visit filled with fun. The huge playground features climbing structures for big kids, small slides for toddlers, plus lots of balance beams, swing sets, and rock walls galore. Even more, the entire play area is ADA accessible so all kids can play. Not to mention, it’s next door to a spectacular splash pad, old-fashioned carousel, soccer field, and miniature train ride. Need more? How about a zoo, home to lions, reptiles, and farm friends? There really is something for everyone here.
Verona Park reopened last May with brand-new play equipment and enhanced safety features. Photo by Elaine Quicili
Verona Park – Verona
After much anticipation, Verona Park reopened last May with brand-new play apparatus and enhanced safety features. There's still plenty of wide open space for kids to run, but now the playground itself is enclosed by a fence for security. Round blue climbers built into the hillside challenge kids both big and small, while the disc swing is a definite crowd-favorite. A mister provides a quick cool-down on hot days, and after complaints about the sun baking the playground's metal slides, an awning was installed last September to provide shade and prevent the equipment from getting too hot for kids to play on.