Reports and studies seem to come out almost daily telling us how kids these days are more interested in watching TV or playing on their smart phones than they are in riding bikes and climbing trees. And while that may be true, one fact is certain – put kids on a playground and suddenly their imaginations come to life. If you’re looking for a good way to get your kids out this summer – and have a little fun yourself – these 9 playgrounds in Virginia are the perfect place to start.
1. Clemyjontri Park, McLean
This unique park not only provides LOTS of playspace (two acres, to be exact), it provides special features that make sure anyone can play. Featuring equipment that allows children with special needs to be part of the fun at every turn, this park offers ramps, rubberized surfaces, high-backed swings, and much more. In addition to 4 themed play areas, kids will get a kick out of the full-sized carousel and "Resource Railroad Train" that offers rides every 20 minutes in the spring and summer. With a focus on sight, sound, and sensory fun, Clemyjontri Park has been named one of the top playgrounds in the nation time and again and delivers a fun-filled day for kids of any age (that includes you, parents.)
2. A Dream Come True Playground, Harrisonburg
This amazing park in Harrisonburg has something for everyone - including children with special needs. The "Liberty Swing" is specially designed to allow wheelchairs access to full swinging heights - and is the only fully lockable swing of its kind. With separate playground equipment for 2-5 year olds and 5-12 year olds, you don't have to worry about the little ones getting run over - or the big ones getting bored. Featuring a drawing wall, rainbow arches, shade features, a hammock swing, a pavilion, and family areas, this park really does have it all.
4. Kidsburg at Mid County Park, Williamsburg
If the real Jamestown is a bit too much for the little ones, have no fear, Kidsburg offers a Jamestown theme, complete with ships and forts, that will keep their imagination active for hours. Complete with picnic shelters and 30,000 square feet of lighted playspace, this park is the perfect place to wear your little explorers out.
5. Rocky Run Park, Arlington
This playtime oasis is located in the heart of urban Arlington. The playgrounds offer unique climbing gear, webbed swings, and a giant tube slide that you'll have a hard time resisting. Featuring 2 acres with 2 playgrounds, a synthetic, lighted soccer field, picnic shelters, and more, the whole family will stay active, regardless of their ages.
6. JT's Grommett Island Park for EveryBODY, Virginia Beach
Commonly known as Grommett Island Beach Park and Playground, this park came about when Virginia Beach surfer, Josh Thompson, developed ALS and was confined to a wheelchair. No longer able to access his beloved beach front, he and his family created the idea for a park that would allow anyone to access the sand and sun. Featuring 15,000 sq feet of ramps and decking, a shaded play area, soft play sculptures, wheelchair-accessible play equipment, and cushioned play surfaces, the park makes sure that everyone has their day on the beach. The Virginia Gentlemen, a local charity group, hosts the annual JT Walk and Beach Party which not only raises money for ALS research, but funds the park, as well.
7. The Children's Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond
The Children's Garden may not bear the traditional name of "playground," but it offers fun at every turn. Full of interactive activities, this garden is ALL about playing, learning, and imagining. The garden's permanent features include an International Village and Adventure Pathway with a tree house and overlook designed for universal access (including those with disabilities), special gardens, a spray park (during warm months), an Activity Station, and so much more. As if the Botanical Gardens weren't beautiful enough, the children's area is the icing on the cake.
8. Discovery Ridge Adventure Center at Wintergreen Resort, Nelson County
For a playground that includes activities to satisfy thrill seekers of all sizes, Wintergreen Resort's Adventure Center is a one-stop shop. Featuring a bungee trampoline, miniature golf, a mechanical bull, a zipline, summer tubing, a 25-foot climbing tower, and inflatable playgrounds, the center gets the whole family involved. No, it doesn't come for free, but it's hard to put a price tag on this kind of fun.
9. Hand-in-Hand Playground, Blacksburg
This park may not have all of the bells and whistles of some of the other parks, but when it comes to pure play and creativity, Hand-in-Hand Park makes it happen. Also known as the Caboose Park, the park is 35-acres and features 3 playgrounds, open fields, picnic shelters, tables, grills, and gazebos. The main playground offers large wooden, castle-like play equipment, mazes, slides, and climbing galore. Two smaller playgrounds offer equipment perfect for smaller children, as well as climbing and swings for bigger kids -- and of course, an old railroad caboose.
It’s hard to beat a day at the park – especially when there’s plenty to keep you entertained and the kids come home ready for a good night’s sleep. We would love to hear about more playgrounds in the state that are worth the visit. Tell us about your favorites in the comments below!