Fall is around the corner, and with it the reminder that, s – – – is in our near future. (Yes, that dreaded “s” word, snow!) The Active Times found Minnesota to be one of the top 15 “Outdoorsy” states in the USA , probably because we have a greater appreciation for mild days after enduring long, cold and dark winters! Perhaps, for this reason, we have some amazing playgrounds right in our backyard – so here is a nudge to get outdoors this month!
Here’s our school and child care’s list of the TOP 10 PLAYGROUNDS in the TWIN CITIES, all under an hour away from the south metro cities of Prior Lake and Lakeville!
A favorite for children who enjoy expressing their inner primate, there are 47 cargo nets to climb, in addition to a 29-foot tower, six slides and a splash pad for the summer. It is partially accessible. There are three lighted trails for winter/dusk hiking. Summer: visit the free but unguarded beach.
25-foot slides, almost fully fenced, ropes, climbing boulders, tunnels, sand box with a 30 foot dino skeleton, zipline (with a seat), and more! If you want to go beyond the playground, there are 4,900 acres to explore with 20 miles of paved hiking and biking trails and miles more of turf hiking trails. Summer: home to a chlorinated swimming pond (admission fee and lifeguards). Winter: cross-country skiing, tubing hill and beginner ski hills.
If you’re looking for something more natural, this park is filled with stumps and sticks, sand and water, and allows for creative interpretation. There is a sand play area, water pumps with rocky channels where you can build dams, obstacles to work on your balance, fort building areas, climbing net, tire swing, slide. Woods all around, so bring the bug spray in the warmer months. This playground is very much aligned with the Montessori philosophy!
Also known as “Chutes and Ladders”, this award-winning creative play area has something for everyone, with platforms, ropes, climbers and slides up to 50 feet long, a play area for 5 and under, sand play area, climbing nets, tire swing, and misters in the summer. Next door are seasonal rentals for kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and snowshoes, as well as 18 miles of paved and unpaved trails through woods and prairie.
Bonus: Just up the road, you can visit Richardson Nature Center to say “hi” to their resident raptors and amphibians, get some wiggles out in their small indoor creative play area, or opt for some more time outdoors on their many trails. In the summer months, head over to Bush Lake swimming beach.
With something for all ages, and part of the amazing Three Rivers Park District, there are slides, stairs, rock walls, bridges, ropes, tunnels and more with a rubber turf. Be aware there is little shade here. In the summer months there is an adjacent swimming pond (chlorinated, with lifeguards and an admission fee).
Bonus: a 7 minute drive to both Big Stone Mini Golf Course and Gale Woods Farm!
16,000 square foot inclusive playground with a zip line, bridges, monkey bars, tunnels, ramps and slides, swings, swinging and rocking boats, with a rubber turf. In warm months there is also a splash pad with a separate area for toddlers.
This “ninja” park is designed for ages 13+, but in our experience, kids as young as age 4 may enjoy most portions of this playground as well. Artificial turf cushions any missteps as children race over, under, around and through the obstacles on the course. There is a smaller play area to keep younger children entertained while the older children complete the course. The Luce Line Regional trail also travels through the park. Summer: limited shade.
Bonus: 3 minute drive to Theodore Wirth Regional Park, home to golf courses, gardens, paved trails, mountain biking trails, cross-country ski trails, swimming beach, disc golf, and a snow tubing hill and more.
Part of the Minnehaha Regional Park, Wabun has an inclusive playground (rubber flooring throughout) that pays tribute to its origins as an auto tourist cap back in the day. It features a classic car, glider, climbing features modeled after “tents” and equipment designed as a “camper trailer”. It also has a “tot lot” with a shaded sandy play area. There is also a scavenger hunt. In the summer, you will want to check out the zero-depth entry wading pool and splash pad. If you have time, take the path to the lock & dam on the Mississippi waterfront and you might catch a passing watercraft or barge!
Bonus: It’s just half mile to Minnehaha Falls with hiking trails, Sea Salt Eatery and Wheels of Fun bike rentals.
23,00 square feet and 82 pieces of equipment, and all on accessible surfacing. There are areas for all age groups, zip lines, glider, musical instruments, nature-based elements and sensory areas. Shaded seating areas available. Tennis and basketball courts, volleyball, ice skating and a paved path around the pond – all on 50 acres of land. There are both paved and unpaved trails for hiking.
Bonus: Whitetail Woods has 6-person camper cabins (with heat and a/c) available for rent, both cabins perched among pines and prairie cabins that are more accessible. These are in high demand but keep checking back for cancellations!
Designed for children under age 8, this park is home to slides, nets, tubes, bridges, climbing wall and more! Equipment shaped as a treehouse with a log slide, a train, and a “lift bridge” to resemble the Stillwater Lift Bridge, just down the hill from the park. And, of course, its name sake granite teddy bear.
Bonus: Walk along the St. Croix and see the Stillwater Lift Bridge, visit the Blueberry Fields of Stillwater or Aamodt’s Apple Orchard for some “pick-your-own” fun. And Nelson’s Ice Cream is nearby!