During dreary winter days, I fantasize about picnics and lazy afternoons at the pool. But once the temperatures are soaring into the 90’s on a daily basis, a teeny part of me is starting to look forward to that first crisp fall breeze. Sigh. Instead of schlepping to the air-conditioned mall again, how about a shaded playground outing where the kids can get their energy out (without getting sunburned) and the adults can relax on a bench without breaking a sweat?
We spoke to our friends Amy and Sheila at the awesome NJ Playgrounds to get the scoop on where New Jersey kids and their parents can go to beat the heat: "We love summer, a time for BBQs, taking trips to the shore and exploring new playgrounds. There are tons of shady places to play in NJ to keep cool this summer!"
Staib Park (Hackensack, NJ)
We love parks that separate equipment for the big kids and wee ones and Staib Park offers fun climbing and sliding equipment for all age groups. The playground also boasts some fun extras such as a fireman’s pole, playhouse, circular monkey bars and rings. In addition, the park area has facilities for both basketball and baseball. The whole playground area and some of the surrounding picnic benches are fully shaded (even on hot summer days) by tall trees, with a light breeze rustling through. And if your kids are in the mood to explore, take the short hiking path from the parking lot to the adjacent Coles Brook and listen to the calming sounds of the flowing water. Please call (201) 646-8042 for more information.
Hacklebarney State Park (Chester, NJ)
A true hidden gem, Hacklebarney State Park offers families an outdoor summer experience that feels worlds away from bustling suburban life. Although there’s a quaint playground surrounded by a few picnic tables, parents say the real draw here is hiking along the red trail down to Black River. Dotted with a waterfall made of boulders, older kids will have a total blast climbing and everyone can splash and cool off in the calm brook down below. There’s also a small “island” right off the river where you can grill and take a lunch break. Between a dip in the water and the canopy of trees, this outing is sure to be an oasis on a scorching summer day. Even better, bathrooms conveniently situated near the river and grill site provide a place to change and regroup after an afternoon of “roughing it.” Please call (908) 638-8572 for more information.
Haworth Memorial Park (Haworth, NJ)
The wooden, whimsical playground in Haworth Memorial Park isn’t just great because it’s shaded – it’s also one of a kind. With bridges and winding steps leading up to two enchanted castles, balancing ropes and double tunnels, this creative structure will be sure to bring out the best in your family’s imagination. Though many of the structures might seem more fitting for older kids, they didn’t forget the little ones: pint-size swings and slides will keep toddlers safe and happy. Add in plenty of tables and benches to picnic on, nearby sports fields and batting cages and you’ve got yourself a full day of summer entertainment. Please call (201) 384-4785 for more information.
Taylor Park (Millburn, NJ)
This 16-acre park is a calm haven in the middle of Millburn and its surrounding neighborhoods. Home to the city’s basketball & tennis courts as well as their community center, you’ll also find walking paths, picnic areas for family gatherings and a playground shaded by thick trees. The playground includes all the usual equipment, including a few medium-sized slides, swings, rocking animals and even a sand box. Since the playground area is fenced in and relatively small, it’s a sure bet that younger kids will enjoy morning playdates here. Please call 973-564-7750 for more information.
Stephen R. Gregg Park (Bayonne, NJ)
On any given summer day, you’ll find moms with toddler in tow, pre-teens chatting on the swings and campers from the nearby JCC all having a blast at Stephen R. Gregg Park. This huge playground boasts six different play structures AND a pretty neat water play area (featuring a purple dragon that shoots water!), so it never really feels crowded. Wee ones will love the pretend school bus and police car and older kids looking for excitement will head straight towards the sky-high tunnel and twisting slides and swaying bridges. And if the playground isn’t enough entertainment, bring the bike or stroller and exercise along one of the many shaded paths or sports fields that overlook the Newark Bay. Please call (201) 217-5484 for more information.
Van Vorst Park (Jersey City, NJ)
Van Vorst Park is a blossoming neighborhood square located in a historic brownstone-lined section of Jersey City. The small playground area includes some fun slides, a bridge and a separate section for little ones to swing. Be sure to take a stroll around this 1.8 acre urban park and admire the beautifully kept community gardens, filled with roses and other seasonal flowers. Throw in a gazebo, fountain and plenty of benches all shaded from the summer sun and you’ve got a wonderful meeting space for family and friends. Van Vorst also hosts a weekly farmer’s market. Please call (201) 547-5000 for more information.
For a complete list of shady parks in New Jersey, visit the NJ Playgrounds website.
Image: Castle Park via NJ Playgrounds
Originally published 2012