Alright, Grand Rapids parents, caregivers and kids-at-heart … Earlier this week we gave you the first five of our Top 10 list for Great Grand Rapids Playgrounds. (We hope you’ve been busy checking out at least a few of them.) Now it’s time to present our remaining five contenders … here they are!
10 Great Grand Rapids Playgrounds You GOTTA Take the Kids to this Summer … Pt II
6. John Ball Zoo Playground (1300 W. Fulton St, Grand Rapids) – The nice part about this playground is that you don’t have to pay admission into the zoo to to access it – not that the John Ball Zoo isn’t an awesome place for kids and families to spend the day, but some days a simple stint on the swingset is all you need – especially if you already live in close proximity to the zoo. Besides, there’s something just kind of cool and magical about doing the usual playground stuff in such close proximity to the animals. It’s a nice, large place with plentiful shade trees, lots of equipment to suit all ages, and room to picnic or just sit out and enjoy the sunshine. Listen carefully and you may just hear the lions, tigers and bears roaring in the background!
7. Ada Township Park (1180 Buttrick Ave SE, Forest Hills) – Located in one of the most beautiful areas of town, this park spans 57 acres and features tennis and basketball courts, soccer and softball fields, fishing spots and nature trails in addition to the playground. Fishing is restricted to those under age 12, senior citizens and the physically challenged, making it an especially perfect place to give little ones the chance to cast a line for the first time. If picnicking is part of the playground plan, you’ll find plenty of free tables and grills, plus a pavillion and two gazebos that can be rented out for special gatherings. Parents and kiddos will both love coming here!
8. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park – Lena Meijer Children’s Garden (1000 E. Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids) – While you will have to pay the Gardens’ admission fee in order to access its playground, the experience is so unique and enchanting that we promise the looks on your kids’ faces will make it worth every penny. Where else can they explore a treehouse village, launch a boat in the “Great Lakes”, put on a puppet theater, dig for fossils, navigate a labyrinth … whoa, we’re running out of breath! And your kids will be, too, as they make their way through every last nook and cranny of this magnificent children’s play place!
9. John Collins Park (650 Lakeside Dr SE, East Grand Rapids) – OK, so it’s not technically a playground, but this peaceful little park along the western shore of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids offers children a wonderful new kind of play and discovery experience. The park isn’t much more than a stretch of lawn dotted by shade trees, with a few park benches here and there, but the calming expanse of the placid blue Reeds Lake makes it a perfect spot to reconnect with the wee ones in your life while enjoying the great outdoors. Check out the ducks that paddle along the banks, scan the lake for swans, watch a boat set off from the on-site launch or laugh as people let their dogs off leashes to romp in the water. Host a “book picnic” with your kids in this quiet, delightful setting, and afterwards treat them to ice cream at Jersey Junction in the adjacent Gaslight Village … Don’t forget to grab a coffee from the nearby Starbucks for yourself!
10. HONORABLE MENTION – Pinewood Park (2000 Wolfboro Dr SE, Kentwood) – Early in the morning hours of November 22, 2012 – Thanksgiving Day – the famed large wooden play structure section of Pinewood Park was intentionally set aflame and destroyed within minutes. The spectacular fairy-tale-like playground was built by residents of the neighborhood surrounding the park several years prior and resembled a sprawling castle, with bridges, towers, secret passageways and maze-like hideaways, along with a sandbox area and handicap-accessible swings. Although burned to the ground, it gets an honorable mention from us for the community collaboration that’s arisen from the aftermarth, as the neighborhood has come together once again and is currently in the process of rebuilding the entire structure. Pinewood Park also has a small picnic area and traditional play area with slides and climbers, as well as a splashpad and skate park with various ramps and jumps. Hang ten!
No matter which playgrounds you hit up this summer, remember that sunshine, fresh air and romping in the great outdoors is part of what makes a childhood great. So give your kids some memories to keep forever on their summer vacation … Send them outdoors to play in this beautiful, bountiful city we call Grand Rapids!
Of course, the Grand Rapids area has MANY lovely playgrounds, parks and picnic areas, most of which were not mentioned in this blog. If you have suggestions for some favorite playground spots, please contact the Steve Volkers group at (616) 284-1528 so we can help tell the world about it!