The unstructured time spent exploring, conquering jungle gyms, and running through fields arms outstretched often prove more memorable than the art museums and monuments on your family's must-see list. Most of the time, any park will do but we wanted to let you in on some of the best parks we know of in some popular American -- and European -- cities. Here's where you'll find them:
Powell Barnett Park consistently gets named one of the top five parks in the Seattle and for good reason: after receiving a Starbucks Ultimate Park Makeover this magical place has a wading pool, basketball court, complex climbing structures, and creative play equipment you won't find anywhere else. It's especially good for families with kids of different ages. Preschoolers enjoy the smaller, sturdier climbing structures with plenty of small hand grasps and peek-a-boo holes. School-age kids have a blast on the more complex climbing structures and off-center whirligigs. Wobbly bicyclists can practice their skills on the paved trail that rings the park, with basketball courts and grassy fields rounding out the fun. The only downside is that you won't find a Starbucks or eatery nearby as this oasis -- the park is in a decidedly residential neighborhood.
The best playground on Hawaii and one you won't find mentioned in a guide book, this park was created by a community effort and continues to be a beloved place for Big Island families and visitors in the know. Built into a verdant hillside with a spectacular view and plenty of shade, the park was designed with both creative and historical play in mind. There are Hawaii-specific play structures like a wooden double-hulled Polynesian canoe and a Kona Sugar Co. 1897 model train, as well as chess tables, a horseshoe ring toss, a lifesized whale, a twirl machine, a baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts, and covered picnic tables. There is no web site for the park but it's located at 78-7300 Kuakini Highway in Keahou, Hawaii, 96739.
If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area and wish to get off the beaten track, check out Stulfast Park, 25 miles south of San Francisco in Redwood City. This park has an elaborate water feature (open May-October), lots of steep and twisty slides, great play structures, a sand area, picnic tables, barbecue pits, and plenty of shade. Best of all is that there are interconnected walking trails that run alongside a creek below the grassy playing field just after the play structures. On hot days kids can dip their toes in the creek, on rainy days they can watch the gushing water and hunt banana slugs.
Next: Monkey Bars, Ziplines, and Classic Cars