While we are currently enjoying the warm spring weather between frequent thunderstorms, our attempts at playing outside are preparing us for the long summer haul when we will have all day, every day to provide entertainment and keep the sanity. To do this, I recommend lots of fresh air, outdoor play, and wearing your kids out.
So prep your outing bag, grab the snacks, pack your new sunscreen, Band-Aids, and Neosporin. We’ve got some playground Recon to do!
Entertainment value (0-5): 0- Not Nap-worthy (it took longer to drive here than for my kid to get bored) to 5- SOOO Nap-worthy (kid had crazy fun, and will be napping before I start the car)
Safety concerns (0-5): 0 Band-Aids (a boo-boo free outing) to 5 Band-Aids (bring the Neosporin and ice packs, something’s going down)
Fantasy Playground, 12298 Cotton Mill Drive: Bring your children to Fantasy Playground and let their imaginations soar! The towers and tunnels and bridges foster creative play, and kids and parents certainly get their exercise from climbing around all the equipment. It has a small sand box, so keep a shovel and pail in your car, so beach toy drama doesn’t cause sand to fly.
Amenities: a fenced in parameter, picnic tables, a covered shelter.
- Bathrooms are in the shower room of the Tall Oaks Pool, so if the pool is closed, so are the potties!
- The ground cover is pebbles, making sneakers a must. The pebbles are frequently thrown by older kids, and put in the mouths of younger ones, so parents- keep your eyes peeled!
- Other than the picnic shelter, there is no shade on the playground, and the metal slide gets HOT!
- Summer camps and afterschool programs use this playground, and during these times, it gets crazy with older kids running around. Keep your eyes on your little ones!
Ratings: 5- SOOO Nap-Worthy, 4 Band-Aids
Lake Ridge Park Playground, 12350 Cotton Mill Drive: Located on the far end of the golf course parking lot, the Lake Ridge Park Playground offers a quiet respite from the craziness of Fantasy Playground. This playground is smaller, and easier for the under-three crowd to navigate where parents can always see them.
Amenities: picnic tables under the trees, mini-golf course (fun to explore when no one is playing), open space for picnics and running free, a mulch ground cover
- Bathrooms are at the golf course club house on site, but a long walk for little legs.
- The bridge on the playground is slippery, and the railings are rather high for a child under age three to hold onto. I’ve seen a child slip and fall from the bridge (2 ½ feet drop) at least five times!
- While the playground is not shaded, there are many shady spots under trees to cool off.
- Summer Camps use the playground periodically during the day.
- The hiking trail is fun for kids, and with a three year old, takes about an hour to walk.
Ratings: 3 -Nap-Worthy, 3 Band-Aids
Chinn Aquatics & Fitness Center Playground, 13025 Chinn Park Drive: I love going to a library story hour, checking out books and saying “Hi!” to Squirt the turtle, and finishing the outing with some quality playground time. This playground is super-appropriate for little kids.
Amenities: a rubber ground cover (very cushiony), fenced in, bathrooms in library and fitness center
- While the Chinn preschool and summer camps have priority at this playground, I’ve never had to skip the playground due to a group’s presence.
- Lots O’Shade! The playground has fabric sails that provide shade for the whole play area, meaning the slides are NOT hot! Love it. (FYI- When I took photos last week, the shades were not up yet)
Ratings: 3- Nap-worthy, 1 Band-Aid (because you just never can tell)
LRPRA Creative Preschool Playground, 12400 Oakwood Drive: This playground is also a favorite on those days when the sun is a scorcher! This playground is best for the smaller crowd, having wooden train cars, tunnels and a small slide.
Amenities: mulch ground cover, lots of shade, fenced in playground
- The preschool and summer camps have priority. Preschool finishes by 2pm, so afternoons are available.
- Bathrooms are available if the Ridgewood Pool is open.
Ratings: 2- Worth a short snooze, 1 Band-Aid (because you just never can tell)
Mohican Tot Lots, across from Edgemoor Ct and Stoneford Drive: While these playgrounds are on the smaller side, they both provide shade and are far less crowded than the other popular sites.
Burke Lake Park, 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, Va: a train ride, a carousel, ice cream parlor, and a playground! It’s a day of fun. The carousel, train rides and ice cream parlor open at 11:00 am. There’s a playground by the carousel, but the really fun and much larger playground is on the other side of the park.
A few things to note:
- Non-Fairfax county residents must pay $10 per car on weekends only. Weekdays are free!
- The park is only open weekends April- May, but will be open daily starting Memorial Weekend. Yipee!
Leesylvania State Park, 2001 Daniel K Ludwig Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22191: Just off Exit 156, Leesylvania State Park is a perfect outing on a sunny day. Fairfax Landing, by Shelter 2, offers shaded picnic tables, a bridge over a turtle pond, a playground, and is located on the water’s edge, so you could dip your toes in if you choose. Bathrooms are easy to find near each shelter. Cars must pay $4 on weekdays, and $5 on weekends.