The backyard, the local park or neighborhood school are always good bets when the kids need some outside playtime, but what about when the kids (or you!) want a change of pace? Here are just a few great playgrounds to check out in Southeast Wisconsin.
1. Kayla's Playground: Franklin Woods Nature Center, 3723 W. Puetz Road, Franklin
Kayla's Playground is an all-accessible, all-inclusive playground built by Kayla's Krew in 2015 "to enable all who have special needs to forget about the challenges that they are presented with daily while teaching others the value of friendship and compassion..."
The playground includes interactive toys in a specially designated area for kids from ages 2-5, and lots of play equipment for older kids of all abilities, including rope climbs, monkey bars, tire swings, expression swings for kids and parents to ride together, liberty swings for children in wheelchairs and stainless steel slides that are electrical interference-free for kids with cochlear implants. There's also a special "hide-and-seek area" beneath the slides with plenty of space for tunneling and crawling -- all designed to be free of pinch and choke points.
2. Fort Cushing Playground: Cushing Memorial Park, 600 N. Cushing Park Road, Delafield
This playground is the place to be for those kids in your life who love to play pretend. The playground is made up of giant wooden structures that resemble forts. Lots of little rooms to play house in, plenty of obstacles to stage adventure games and opportunities galore to stage a pirate ship battle!
3. Possibility Playground: Upper Lake Park, 498 N. Lake Street, Port Washington
This playground in Port Washington is another accessible playground built for kids of all abilities to play together. Rather than wood chips or tire chips, the surface is made of a latex-free smooth material that allows those with mobility challenges to get around easily. There's double-wide ramping to accommodate both wheelchairs and strollers. And the pirate ship includes waves, a rain wheel and a motion platform.
4. Whitnall Park, 5879 S. 92nd St., Franklin
This gigantic park in Franklin is home to walking trails, an archery range, a golf course and the Boerner Botanical Gardens. A bonus is that as you're exploring the park, you're bound to come across one of the many playground structures located throughout the park. This includes "the big blue playground", as it's called by local kids, which has structures for both big kids and little kids, swings and a sandbox. Another favorite play area is located at the Wehr Nature Center, which includes logs to climb on and a playhouse fashioned to look like a wooden cabin.
5. Imagination Station: Roosevelt Park, 100 E. Forest St., Oconomowoc
Yet another playground accessible to those with all abilities, one of the great features of this playground in Oconomowoc is that there's only one entrance and exit. So, even if you don't immediately see your kids as they're having a blast in the multiple tunnels, hidey-holes and secret passages, as long as you have eyes on the exit, you'll know they haven't escaped!
6. Atwater Park: 4000 N. Lake Drive, Shorewood
This playground has all your standard play equipment with benches for parents to sit and watch the fun. Also, while the kids enjoy themselves on the playground equipment, parents will feel called to put down the cell phones for a minute or two to enjoy the amazing views of Lake Michigan and take a stroll around the playground reading the fascinating signs describing the shipwreck right below the water's surface. And when the kids are done on the playground, there's a perfect opportunity to cool off -- just take the steps down to the lake and do some wading!
7. Fox River Park: W264 S4500 River Road, Waukesha
There's lots of great great playground equipment to enjoy and picnic areas as well, but the highlight of this playground has got to be the 32-foot slide built right into a hill -- the kids will go down over and over again, and it's fun for the adults too!
8. Kenosha Dream Playground, Petzke Park, 3100 14th Ave., Kenosha
Kenosha's first fully accessible playground was built by volunteers in 2015. It has a lot of the same features as Southeastern Wisconsin's other accessible playgrounds (such as ramps and smooth surfaces for easy navigation, Liberty Swings for kids in wheelchairs and climbing walls and slides in various heights). There are also braille and sign language displays, musical instruments and even replicas of Kenosha icons such as lighthouses, a ship, a street car and an AMC Rambler car.
Email Amy Schwabe at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute your picks for top Milwaukee area playgrounds!