Great Playgrounds In and Around Denver
Kids scale them. Parents covet them. Pop songs romanticize them.
Playgrounds abound in and around Denver. Many of them incorporate whimsical public art works and state-of-the-art equipment.
But it takes more than just those frills to make a great playground. It takes plenty of trees and shade and a little something intangible – a sense of community.
Great playgrounds engage kids’ bodies and minds – often with an imaginative theme – and keep them coming back. The very best have these things and then that something. Maybe it’s a panoramic mountain view or other nearby amenities such as a petting zoo, water park, skate park and sports fields.
With school out and kids looking for places to while away their summer, here are 11 Front Range playgrounds that consistently get high marks.
One hundred acres nestled in an idyllic foothills setting are punctuated by Inspiration Playground, which was designed to be universally accessible. It has a play surface that allows for wheelchairs, walkers and support braces, along with sensory- rich structures that encourage interaction between kids with and without disabilities.
Learning and play converge on this fossil- themed playground that includes a giant woolly mammoth, a prehistoric climbing wall, Ice Age water feature, Tar Pits Play Area and Adventure Island.
The rocket-shaped jungle gym and echo chamber set the playground apart at this park named after one of Boulder’s native sons, NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter. Kids love the space-themed equipment. Parents love the park’s Flatirons backdrop and easy access to the Boulder County bike path system.
This community deems itself “a crossroads of historical influences,” and that idea framed the 2006 renovation of this municipal epicenter. In addition to improved fields, parking and picnic areas, the playground reflects the town’s mining and railroad history. There’s a sculpted concrete climbing structure that resembles a mineshaft, the Argo, which looks like a wavy slide but is really a rocking tube, and a big spinning bowl.
The name says it all at this playground where designers aspired to fuse functional art with stimulating sounds, scents and textures. The result includes sound panels and etched boulders around the equipment, stainless-steel “drum” stools, and a water play area, all of which is intended to lure kids of various ages and abilities into romping around together in the same space.
Located on the historic site of the colorful Broadmoor Country Club and later the Aviation Country Club, this quiet neighborhood gem benefits from mature trees for shade plus a picnic shelter, sports field and horseshoe pit. The airplane- themed playground is accented by five modern kinetic sculptures produced by Colorado artists.
Some parents cringe at this new playground’s close proximity to busy Speer Boulevard. But its urbane locale – smack dab in the middle of the Central Platte Valley and steps away from The Pepsi Center, Elitch Gardens and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver – is exactly what city dwellers love about it. There are play areas for little kids and big kids. The funky-looking equipment on site now – like the climbable “Space Net” – is only Phase 1 in a plan that includes the addition of a sand play area, shade canopy, more seating along Cherry Creek, water features and more.
Attractions at this oasis in the city include a 30-foot-long, 10-foot-high climbing wall, the Supernova, which is a blue balancing ring, and an outdoor music space that functions as a sensory sound garden.
Look for this playground in the shadow of the towering yellow and orange water slides at Pirates Cove Family Aquatics Center. In addition to cool equipment like a reclining swing and a funky climbing wall, this playground is a stone’s throw away from a miniature train that’s only $1 to ride, and a petting zoo, only $1 to enter.
J. Utah park
Aurora’s largest and most popular park recently underwent a green renovation that includes a spacious 6,800-square-foot playground with swings, saddle spinners, a freeform climbing structure, crow’s nest overlook and a larger playground for big kids. The park’s nautical theme includes a wheelchair-accessible “Galapagos Island science lab” play structure and a raised sand table.
The scene is set for one of the premiere play spaces in Denver’s south suburbs by an artistic steel arch with bird and leaf cutouts. Between the water features, climbing structures – including one that looks like a giant hand – the “treehouse” play area, and three different age-appropriate playgrounds, toddlers to teens can find something to love about Westlands. Parents enjoy its fantastic Rocky Mountain scenery and ample trails.
By: Elana Jefferson
Photo: Central Park from Stapleton Denver
Please weigh-in with your favorite playgrounds in Colorado! If possible, include a link or approximate address.