Best Playgrounds in Southeast Michigan
Family fun in the sun is a breeze in metro Detroit, the Ann Arbor area and beyond with these cool amped-up outdoor play spots
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Waterford Oaks, 1702 Scott Lake Road, Waterford
After $250,000 and a year of construction, this revolutionary structure built to mimic Michigan's natural landscape is now a big family lure. It has a challenge course, a tree fort, a log cabin, an imitation beach and sand dunes and a ground surface designed to look like Michigan's waterways. Plus, it meets the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to promote play for all levels of ability.
Red Oaks, 1455 E. 13 Mile Road, Madison Heights
Equipped with four slides, two towers, a coaster climber and bouncy scientifically engineered Fibar-brand mulch, it's easy to see why this primary-colored play station made our list. It's officially for kids 5-12, but according to Sue Wells, Oakland County's parks and recreation operations manager, preschoolers and adults can have a good time at this playground, too – which also boasts a rock climber and three "tilted sky runners."
2525 Joslyn Road, Lake Orion
This park caters to both big and little kids. There are two play structures – one for ages 2-5 and another for 5-12. The little kids' structure has a couple of small slides, ladders and a bridge (be sure to check out the dino slide!). Over in the big kids' structure, you'll find some taller slides – including a spiral tyke – and crazier ladders; there's even a mini zip line toy. The park hosts two sets of swings, too – one of which includes baby swings. (And if you stop by during the winter, there's a great hill nearby to go sledding on.)
Washtenaw and Platt roads, Ann Arbor
Old MacDonald might have had a farm, but it hasn't got anything on this dream-like homestead playground. With animal feed troughs, a 25-foot working windmill, red-and-white-trim everything, play sheds and rubberized turf designed to look like growing crops, it's the most barnyard fun kids can have without actually visiting the real deal.
There's standard equipment like slides, a tunnel, a rock wall and a climber that will keep kids busy, but it's also got two 24-by-20-foot shade structures – in the shape of a butterfly and a flower – to add whimsy aplenty. A fresh toddler area is a standout, featuring a play John Deere tractor, horse and bumble bee spring riders, straw bail climbing blocks and a ton more moving elements, park planner Jeff Dehring says – plus beefed-up water features.
Timber Town Park, M-52 and Shelby Road, Chelsea
According to Amy Mitchell, a member of the park's advocacy group, Friends of Timber Town, the playground's got something to offer every active youngster. Built in 1996 as a mock-up of the city of Chelsea, the 12,000-square-foot playground has a clock tower, theater and a train depot, as well as a police car and a water-shooting fire truck added during a 2007 remodel to honor two of the city's fallen heroes.
3200 Jennings Road, Whitmore Lake
Go wild at Independence Lake Park with three separate playscapes! The large, handicapped-accessible structure has multiple components including slides, bridges, climbers and tunnels, as well as a track ride. There's a separate swing area, too. A Spray Zone also is open for public use during the summer season, with variety of water features that shoot, spray and gush. It's for kids 12 and under, but all ages can enjoy the refreshing splashes.
Belle Isle Park, Jefferson Avenue and East Grand Boulevard, Detroit
We can't decide what we love best about this king of all playgrounds. There's its half-acre expanse and up-to-standard safety. And, of course, the bright colors, bouncy turf, giant slide and its "double-decker merry-go-round" (encased in netting, so kids can't fall off.) And let's not forget the centrally located family comfort station – and concession stand.
But ultimately, the one element that sets it above all others is its location. Part of the city of Detroit on Belle Isle, Kids Row is a hidden oasis glimmering in the midst of our industrial metropolis. It's in the heart of downtown, yet it's close to the beach. It's got the old standards like slides, climbers and towers, as well as some pretty cool animal statues. It's great for kids 2-12, but it's got enough to keep older kids entertained for hours.
Tattan Park, Carlson Street and Orr Drive, Westland
"My daughter loves it. She calls it the rocket-ship park," says mom Michaele Eckridge of the enormous Westland play structure. The gargantuan space-themed playscape is a tangle of slides, pods, towers, ramps, climbers and basically enough red and purple equipment to keep your youngster occupied for hours.
801 N. Denwood St., Dearborn
This patriotically colored structure is actually a two-in-one. According to deputy park director Eric Peterson, one structure is a little bit lower to the ground for smaller tykes, and the other is taller for 5-12-year-olds. It's got lots of climb-y, slide-y, hang-y parts and a blanket of pea gravel, so even the most accident-prone kids will have a hard time hurting themselves.
Hines Park, Six Mile Road between Northville Road and Edward Hines Drive
Parents can chill in the large, sheltered picnic area while watching their kids play on the structure and enjoying the pleasant scenery by Middle Rouge River. This interesting play structure was imported from Belgium – and almost resembles a sculpture you'd find at an art museum. Its pieces are good for climbing, jumping and sliding. There's even an old-school tire swing.