See how our neighborhood playgrounds rate for this expert panel of 6- to 9-year-olds
When people have babies in North Oak Cliff, and those babies grow to be toddlers, their parents take them to play in the “toddler park,” as moms and dads call Annie Stevens Park, at Plymouth and Oak Cliff Boulevard. It is what an elementary-age kid might call a “baby park,” safe and fun for the little ones, a total snore by second grade. Once children grow older, there are many more choices in our neighborhoods.
Public playgrounds mostly are designed by city governments with cost and safety high on the list of priorities. When City Councilwoman Delia Jasso was on the park board, she says, she attended park and recreation conferences every year to see the latest and greatest in playground equipment. That is how she procured the two famous (if you’re under 10 and live in Oak Cliff) playground apparatuses at Kidd Springs Park — the big climbing rock and the pyramid of climbing ropes. She negotiated a good price because they were unwieldy displays that the vendor didn’t want to have to haul back to his home base.
Having good playgrounds is important because they’re one of the few affordable sources of recreation for young families. “We’ve got families with four or five kids who can’t afford to take their kids to the movies,” Jasso says. “Parks really are the main recreation, especially for a large family.”
But which Oak Cliff playgrounds are the best? Which are the most entertaining? The most fun? What makes a good playground? In an effort to answer this question, we compiled a panel of 6-to-9-year-olds to play in our neighborhood playgrounds and give us their ratings.
In an effort to answer this question, we compiled a panel of neighborhood kids to play in our neighborhood playgrounds and give us their ratings.
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Lake Cliff Park
1200 N. Zang
Playground features: Three spaceship-themed play structures include a small one for little kids and a big rocket ship about two stories high.
Bonus: It’s a good place to walk or run. One trip around the park is about a mile.
Drawback: Profane graffiti on some of the equipment
What the critics say:
Luis: Bumped his head on the tall rocket ship, which nearly ruined his day.
D’Arcy: Also bumped her head. She says the slides on the tall rocket ship are fun.
Aubrey Cate: A pole and rope for climbing make the medium-size equipment fun, as well as a small rock-climbing wall.
Ian: He likes playing on “the giant rocket” but he and John noted the profanity. “I’ve seen some pretty bad words,” Ian says.
Plymouth and Sunset
Playground features: Swings and a small climbing structure with slides
Bonus: A large grassy area and a small path make this park ideal for playing catch, kicking around a soccer ball
or walking laps.
Drawback: No bathrooms
What the critics say:
The younger boys played most of the time in the dirt instead of on the playground equipment. After the two bigger parks, the kids were less impressed with this one, but they still played on the swings and slides. Luis had a bee stuck in his curly hair and even though he wasn’t stung, he didn’t want to play after that.
Kidd Springs Park
Cedar Hill Avenue and Fifth
Playground features: A pyramid of climbing ropes, a huge climbing boulder and a maze of monkey bars and slides
Bonus: Plenty of benches and a working water fountain with a dog fountain
Drawback: No shade
What the critics say: The three 6-year-old boys played in the drinking fountains for the first 10 minutes, and the big climbing rock is the main attraction; the ability to climb it is a rite of passage for older kids.
D’Arcy: “It’s fun because you can be creative. Kidd Springs Park is the best because there are more things to do.”
Aubrey Cate: “I like the wobbly bridge. It can bounce you.”
Colin: He liked the big slide and the pyramid of climbing ropes, which some kids described as “the Eiffel Tower” or “the Christmas tree.” Hiding from the girls and “spying” on them was a main activity for the younger boys, and Colin says this park allows fewer spots for espionage.
John: Regarding climbing the rock, “you can just relax up there.”
Playground features: A big play structure with slides, climbing ropes, monkey bars and more, plus tactile, hand-eye coordination toys built in. Swings, see-saws and smaller play structures for little ones.
Bonus: Kiest Park has a lot to offer, including a running path, tennis courts and bathrooms.
Drawback: Can be crowded
What the critics say: By the time we made it to Kiest Park, most of our critics had fallen out. But this was the busiest playground we visited. It held the interest of toddlers who had just started walking, up to sixth-graders. It was the only playground we visited that had a shade structure. One parent noted she doesn’t visit the playground at Kidd Springs Park in the heat of summer because it’s too hot, but at least half of this playground was in the shade. It also features a soft ground surface. Sammy Armstrong of Oak Cliff says he brings his granddaughters, 11-year-old Maya and 5-year-old Christian, to play here every weekend. “This is the best one in the area,” he says. “It’s the biggest. They don’t get bored.”