Recommend a Chicagoland playground?
April 1, 2024 7:44 AM   Subscribe

2 families (kids are 6, 8, and 8) are hoping to rendezvous at a park in greater Chicago next Tuesday. Can you help us find somewhere, given the following snowflakes?

*Family 1 is staying the the South Loop area
*Family 2 will be en route from MO to WI via I-39.
*Both families will have cars.
*Family 2 will have a small cargo trailer, so a decent parking lot or easy street parking is desired.
*8-year-olds have seen a lot of playgrounds, so an extra-large structure, or some unique outdoor amenity would be ideal.
*Family 2 will have dogs in the car. Weather will probably be fine to mostly leave them there, but if they can take a walk too, that would be great.
*Bonus points for some kind of interesting take-out food nearby.

Maggie Daley Park would be ideal playground-wise, but probably not the greatest given trailer and dog situation (plus, Family 2 would love to avoid driving all the way downtown if possible.)

Thanks for your ideas!
posted by juliapangolin to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (7 answers total) might suit!
posted by anotherthink at 8:50 AM on April 1

Best answer: I would avoid playgrounds by highways by the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/I-94 in Chicago itself) because of the construction if coming from out of town - about half the lanes inbound are shut down unfortunately.

With that said, Rehm Park in Oak Park has a massive playground. Street parking only, but should be pretty easy on a Tuesday. Sandlot playground in Oak Brook is nice and so is Ty Warner in Westmount.

Horner Park in Chicago has pretty good parking and a nice playground as well.

Hope this helps!
posted by allthethings at 9:14 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

Welles Park in Lincoln Square might work, though parking is less easy than at Horner Park; the playground in the northwest corner is new-ish and there's a nature area at the southwest corner of the park, with lots of green space in between.

If you're looking for nature spaces, the West Ridge Nature Preserve (entrance at 5800 N Western) has easy paths and a nature play space with logs and branches for building. Horner Park mentioned above also has a nature space in its southwest corner.

Another possibility for nature without the playground - North Park Nature Center, at Pulaski and Peterson; it has trails around a pond and a few resident deer. The building at the entrance has a bunch of animal bones, antlers, etc. to handle and identify.

I'll come back if I think of any others. Best food options are near Welles Park or Horner Park, in my opinion.
posted by sencha at 9:48 AM on April 1

Which family should travel further? I-39 to Chicago is a bit of a trek especially if they're coming east to the city and then going back to I-39. Maybe you want to meet halfway, like Joliet, Plainfield, or Aurora?
posted by hydra77 at 11:06 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

I39 is pretty far west from the city, so I'd recommend something in the far south western suburbs such as Naperville or Aurora. I am not familiar with playgrounds in that area but found this article about some great award-winning playgrounds in that area. Starved rock state park is out west too and great for hiking and food but not sure about playgrounds around there.
posted by j810c at 11:37 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

After checking out a map of I-39 the question is - how far is Family 1 willing to drive? If the answer is "over an hour" then Starved Rock State Park is a pretty good meeting point. I don't remember the state of any playground equipment there but there's a nice hike to a small waterfall and a lot of green space for running around. From the South Loop, Naperville and Aurora/anywhere along the Fox River Valley is about an hour's drive in good traffic, and I'd second j810c's suggestion to find a good playground candidate from their link.
posted by sencha at 7:17 PM on April 1

Response by poster: Rehm Park worked out great for us! It didn't feel too far out of the way for the northward drivers, playground was awesome, and street parking was a piece of cake. Thank you!
posted by juliapangolin at 12:06 PM on April 10

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