Not going away this summer? Why not “park it” at your favorite local playground? The best thing about playgrounds is that they require little to no planning on your part, and can open up a world of play possibilities for kids ages 1-12.
Playgrounds each have their own personality. It’s important to pick your playground wisely. How long you want to stay? How far are you willing to drive? Are you looking to combine lunch, swimming, hiking, or other activities with your playground adventure?
If you are looking for a beach day:
- Great Island Common, New Castle
- The panoramic views alone will captivate you! Choose from two play structures, run around in a large, grassy area, and bring a picnic. Then walk down to the small, sandy beach and dip your toes in the water. The park has an entrance fee ($4 per adult), but is well worth it. There is a bathroom and plenty of parking. This venue is perfect for younger children who might not be able to handle several hours at a beach. Bonus: Tour a lighthouse and watch boats sail by all day long!
- Hampton Beach playground, Hampton
- If you go at an “off” time, you might be able to pull into a parking spot (metered) right by the playground on Ocean Boulevard. The play structures are located in an enclosed area on sand, close to the Seashell stage and right along the sidewalk bordering the main beach. Bonus: You have your pick of ice cream, fast food, and t-shirt shops!
- Short Sands Beach/ Ellis Park, York
- The swings and playground are also located in an enclosed, sandy area adjacent to Short Sands Beach. Park your car in the metered lot and wander over when the sand gets too hot or the kids are tired of playing arcade games. There are bathrooms and changing facilities, and you can sample snacks from several eateries. Bonus: If you are really motivated, walk down to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom, enter the amusement park area for free and pay to go on the rides you want!
If you are craving a dip in the pool:
- Peirce Island, Portsmouth
- There are two playgrounds on Peirce Island, just around the corner from Prescott Park. Parking is free, and non-residents pay just $4 for an adult and $2 per child for the use of the Portsmouth Outdoor Pool and changing areas. Bonus: Feel like lobster? Walk down to Geno’s Chowder & Sandwich Shop for fresh lobster rolls.
- Planet Playground, Exeter
- A wooden structure, Planet Playground offers a myriad of slides, tunnels, and climbing opportunities for little legs. They playground also has benches for adults and tennis courts. Admission to the Daniel R. Healy Outdoor Pool is nominal, ($4.75 per adult) for non-residents. There is even a splash pad! Bonus: You won’t have to travel far for ice cream. There is a concession stand open at the pool that offers lunch, drinks, and cones!
If you want to take a hike:
- Stratham Hill Park, Stratham
- There are two separate playgrounds at this park, one for older children at the main entrance, and one for toddlers at the Jack Rabbit Lane entrance. There are miles of hiking trails open to children, bikes, and dogs. For a detailed map, click here. Bonus: Pizza in the Park on Thursday nights from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.!
- Odiorne Point State Park, Rye
- Drive into Odiorne Point and head towards the water and you will come upon a playground that looks upon the ocean and a pebbly beach. Parking is $4 per adult, $2 per child, and there are bathrooms close to the playground, as well as flat, hiking trails. Bonus: The Seacoast Science Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the same area, for a separate fee (adults $10, but kids under 3 are FREE.) Beat the heat and learn about marine life when you are through with the swings.
If you want to try a splash pad:
- Noble Pines Park, Somersworth
- Two large playgrounds on wood chips flank a splash pad and a large ball field. Parking is free and there is a pavilion for picnics. There are no changing or bathroom facilities. Bonus: If you live in Strafford County, Noble Pines is a quick drive from Rochester, Somersworth, or Dover. Also the splash pad is open until 7 p.m.
- Also, see Planet Playground.
If you want to ice skate:
- Jackson’s Landing, Durham
- The indoor ice rink is closed for the summer, but opens in October. The playground at Jackson’s Landing is tucked away off of Route 4, heading into Durham. Although it offers no bathroom facilities, there is plenty of free parking, two major play structures, and a sandbox with toys that always seem to stay put. Bonus: Plenty of shade and access to a boat launch!
What did I miss? What’s your playground pick, and why?