Field Guide to Philadelphia Playgrounds

Seesaws? So last decade. The playgrounds in our area are as creative, entertaining and varied as the kids who love them.

Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

Kids Castle, Doylestown
Soaring eight stories high, with turrets and parapets and twirling 30-foot-tall slides, this Bucks County playground feels like it belongs in a sculpture garden. The community raised the money, chose the fairy-tale theme (in homage to the castle of the nearby Mercer Museum), and hammered it together in the late ’90s. This past fall, Kids Castle added elements like swinging bridges, climbing rocks, and other ways to wear the kids out. Go Here For: A day trip — make sure to stroll through Doylestown’s adorable downtown. Central Park, 425 Wells Road.

Herron Park, Pennsport
Even those of us with fresh blowouts can’t resist a run through the random sprinkles, arches, shoots and deluges of water at this large urban sprayground. Sensors control the flow, and softer streams are perfect for fledgling walkers. On the dry side of the well-kept park, there’s a playground for daredevils complete with a scooter on a semicircle track, climbing obstacles, and a fun electronic game where you race to turn off flashing lights hidden around the jungle gym. Go Here For: Cooling down without a pool. 250 Reed Street.

Jake’s Place, Cherry Hill
You’ll immediately notice what sets this cheery, shaded 10,000-square-foot play space apart — the many slides, ramps, spinners, swings and towers are all wide, low and super safe. That’s because this fun zone was built as an “all-access” playground, so on any given day you’ll see children of varied physical abilities — some with wheelchairs, others without — mixing it up together. The project (completed in 2011) was spearheaded by the family of Jacob Cummings Nasto, a local boy born with a rare cardiac defect, as a way to memorialize his life. It’s regarded as a model: The Cummingses now help others create boundless playgrounds. Go Here For: An experience beyond play. Challenge Grove Park, 101 Bortons Mill Road.

Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse, Fairmount Park
In 1899, about a century before “unplugging” was a thing, the wealthy Smith family planned a 16,000-square-foot, three-story brick mansion, called the Playhouse, after recognizing that the kids of Philadelphia needed a safe place to romp. It got a massive overhaul in 2004, and now it’s filled with trikes, books, puppets, and room upon room of things to discover. The surrounding six acres boast a playground that goes way beyond your basic swing set: The tot lot has a climb-in pirate ship and train; the big-kid area has robot-like articulated swings and an enormous climbing spider web; and the 39-foot-long coffee-sack wooden slide will make even Grandma squeal. Go Here For: Indoor and outdoor fun. (Plus, it’s free!) 3500 Reservoir Drive.

Lulu’s Casita, Ardmore
This adorable, upbeat romper room has 4,000 square feet of indoor space with places to jump in a ball pit, read stories, build on Lego walls, play dress-up or zoom around in cars. The owners weave their heritage into the experience: Story times feature books in both English and Spanish, and snacks include taquitos. Go Here For: A break. There’s a cafe for parents with La Colombe coffee. 6 Cricket Avenue.

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  • Melinda Engel

    So many great playgrounds you are missing including Seger Park!

  • Sharon Whitney

    Kid’s Castle in Doylestown has a pavillion you can reserve for a picnic or private party, even if you don’t live in the municipality. I had a child’s party there years ago, and it was awesome, and not particularly expensive.

  • wiselatina2theright

    Kids Castle in Doylestown is worth the trip!

  • Larry Mendte

    Thanks so much for this. I am taking my kids to every one of these listed. It is wonderful that you took the time to put this together. Any suggestions of things to do with children on a weekend are much appreciated.

  • Why Oh Why can’t Philadelphia Magazine title their stories Philadelphia AREA guide to playgrounds. They claim they don’t kowtow to ‘the counties’, or the Main Line, and yet right away they list Doylestown, Cherry Hill and Ardmore. Or they could just list Philadelphia playgrounds, with an alternative list of ‘outside of Philadelphia’.
    C’mon youse guys, you already mess with us in your BEST [and worst] Of Philadelphia
    magazine edition.