I love playgrounds. (What mom doesn’t?) And I’m always in search of new spots that spur my kids’ imaginations, encourage them to get some exercise — and let me relax a bit in the shade. The “Castle Park” along Denning Drive in Winter Park totally fits that bill. Its unimaginative official name is Community Playground, but leave it to creative kids to give it a more fitting nickname.
Designed by nationally known playground designer Robert Leathers (he also designed another of our favorite playgrounds), the playground features wooden structures that indeed resemble a castle and create a long, winding pathway through the oak-covered space. Kids can exit via multiple super-slippery metal slides, which stay cool thanks to the shade. There are even perfect little nooks for hiding and secret escapes that let you drop through a hole from one level to the ground.
A distinguishing feature of this playground is the designer’s use of recycled tires — a hugely popular tire swing, tire obstacles and a tire tunnel perfect for climbing and crawling or pretend sword-fighting. This is why my kids have dubbed it “Tire Park.”
And of course, there are the playground staples: swings for all ages, monkey bars and plenty of picnic tables for weary parents to take a break. A nearby water fountain and clean restrooms are a nice bonus.
The playground is bordered by Martin Luther King Jr. Park, a treat in itself. The gorgeous 23-acre urban oasis includes a beautifully landscaped walking path around a lake. Be sure to check it out, too!
IF YOU GO: You may lose sight of your kids at times, so either practice your free-range mama skills or plan on following them around. Parents of toddlers, keep in mind that the playground is designed for older kids ages 5 to 12. Closed-toes shoes are a must as mulch is used as ground cover. Cool off afterward with some frozen yogurt at Menchies, in nearby Winter Park Village. Park hours are 8 a.m. until dusk. Address: 255 S. Denning Drive, Winter Park.