A couple of rusty swings. A creaky roundabout. A slide that was last slidey circa 1972. Let’s face it: most play parks are sorry affairs – unimaginative at best, dilapidated and downright pitiful at worst.
Do we really grow out of play parks, or do we just tire of riding the same rides, year after year? If playgrounds were more playful, we’d all be fitter, healthier and happier.
“But Dad, I want you to ride on the strawberry spinner with me!” What do you mean, your local park doesn’t have a strawberry spinner? Not all playgrounds are dull, sorry affairs; if you’re willing to travel, a fantasy world of adventure awaits. Hold tight while we take you on a ride through the world’s most unusual playgrounds.
Has anyone noticed the uncanny similarity between the Michelin Man and the Marshmallow Man?
Nishi-Rokugo, Tokyo, Japan
From making silage to faking Nessie, tyres have a multitude of uses. When the wheels come off, the humble tyre’s journey is only just beginning. In Tokyo’s Tire Park, 3,000 rings of rubber are used to create monsters, swings and bridges. (By the way, has anyone else noticed the uncanny similarity between the Michelin Man and the Marshmallow Man?) Provided your kids aren’t scared of ghostbusters or anthropomorphic tyres, Nishi-Rokugo will amuse and bemuse in equal measure.
Toffee Park, London, England
Does your local park have an Adventure Playground of the Year Award? If not, that’s probably because it doesn’t have a nature garden, treehouse and clay oven for making pots and pizza. With iPads, internet and pizza-making parks, kids these days don’t know how good they’ve got it. Be sure to remind them of this fact at regular intervals while you’re playing at Toffee Park.
Fantasy whales are a different beast altogether
Plikta Park, Gothenburg, Sweden
In real life, whales tend to be majestic overlords of the ocean or putrid carcasses on a beach. Neither of these models is particularly child-friendly. Fantasy whales, however, are a different beast altogether. Danish designers Monstrum raised the bar for play park designers everywhere with their life-size blue whale in Gothenburg. Take little Jonah to Plikta Park and he’ll have a whale of a time. Sorry, but some puns are mandatory.
Brumleby Playground, Copenhagen, Denmark
What is it with Danes and design? Oh yeah, they’re Scandinavian, aren’t they? OK, so there’s probably more to it than serendipitous geography, but let’s not over-analyse. Created by Monstrum, the same chaps who went-a-whaling in Gothenburg, Brumleby Playground is two parts Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” to one part “What did I just swallow?” Awesome, in other words. Several insane shades of awesome.
Fruit and Scent Playground, Liljeholmen, Sweden
The swings are made to look like cherries, the see-saw’s an orange and the slide is a banana. If you must brainwash your kids, brainwash them to believe that fruit is good. Then, when they’ve finished climbing the apples and pears, take them to McDonald’s.
Just kidding – take them to the greengrocers and then McDonald’s. Everything in moderation, right?
Teardrop Park, New York, USA
It’s easy to pillory local councils for a paucity of imagination, but it’s not always their fault – budget constraints also come into play. Teardrop Park cost $17 million to assemble – good luck raising that at your next Rotary Club car boot sale. It turns out that fistfuls of money buy you fistfuls of fun, including The World’s Greatest Slide (not its official title, but you get the drift), The World’s Greatest Sandboxes and The World’s Only And Therefore Greatest Bluestone Ice Wall.
Sculptural Playground, Schulberg, Germany
Take the kids to the park and you’ve got two options: you can browse Tinder while your progeny cry out for attention or you can pocket your smartphone and get stuck in. Bonus points to any mum, dad or kid who can swing their way across Schulberg’s Sculptural Playground without their feet touching the floor. Get set, go!
Airport Playground, Congo
Most of the playgrounds on this list were the product of innovative design and outside the box thinking. Then there’s Congo’s airport playground, which is the product of war, volcanoes and neglect. Its abandoned planes have been gathering moss since the early noughties, when lava washed through Goma Airport. With the passenger planes indefinitely grounded, the children’s imagination took flight, transforming these hulks of scrap metal into a de facto adventure playground. Your kids will never play here, but if they were to visit Goma Airport, rest assured they would love every hazardous minute of it.
The carousel has survived earthquakes, fire and the clammy paws of juvenile generations
Yerba Gardens, San Francisco, USA
As if endless sunshine, smart homes and dads with cool facial hair wasn’t enough, spoilt San Fran kids get to frolic in Yerba Gardens. Its centrepiece is the century-old carousel that has survived earthquakes, fire and the clammy paws of juvenile generations. With 130,000 square feet of play space, Yerba Gardens could accommodate the Waltons, the Brady Bunch and every other multi-sibling American family.
The world is your playground
Searching for adventure? From theme parks to playgrounds, HomeAway will place you at the heart of the action.Click for inspiration
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