16 of the Coolest Playgrounds in the World

The modern playground is, to be honest, sort of boring. The bright-colored, safety-engineered plastic of cookie-cutter prefabricated jungle gyms can’t make up for the thrilling fun of admittedly rickety seesaws, slick metal slides that burned on sunny days, and super-fast merry-go-rounds. 

And that’s terrible for kids. Scientists have found that playing is integral to developing a healthy brain and body. One 2011 study from a pair of Norwegian psychologists concluded that taking risks (and overcoming them) during play is an important part of child development, and that preventing children from encountering risks may lead them to develop anxiety. Thus, playgrounds where children can climb high, spin fast, and potentially hurt themselves aren’t just more fun—they’re better for childhood development. 

A diverse range of playground activities is also important to keep kids active, which improves motor skills [PDF] and combats childhood obesity. In a study of schoolchildren in Denmark, concrete play areas encouraged much less movement than other playground types. Children playing on paved surfaces that weren’t marked for any specific games, like basketball, tended to stay sedentary, while kids moved more on grass and play equipment. 

Luckily, while most playgrounds have traded fun for lawsuit protection, there are still a few places in the world where unfettered childhood joy is possible. Here are some of the coolest playgrounds from around the globe. 

1. NEPTUNE PARK

A 30-foot-tall climbing pyramid (taller than most two-story homes) in Saratoga Springs, Utah opened in 2012.The pyramid’s structure is metal, and rope netting inside prevents kids from falling more than 6 feet. It designers tout it as the largest play pyramid in the western hemisphere. 

2. SWAROVSKI CRYSTAL WORLDS

Image Credit: Snohetta

Kids may not care about the history of the Austrian crystal company Swarovski, but the company museum offers a playground that makes any tour worthwhile. The four-story play tower features a trampoline, rope swings, a 45-foot-tall climbing net, and slides. 

3. LAKE MACQUARIE VARIETY PLAYGROUND

Image Credit: City of Lake Macquarie

This Australian playground is designed for children of all abilities, including visually impaired and wheelchair-bound kids. It’s got a 40-foot climbing tower, a 30-foot spiral slide, a zipline, wheelchair-accessible swings and a play boat, musical play equipment, and more. 

4. IMAGINATION PLAYGROUND 

At this playground in New York City, designed by acclaimed architect David Rockwell, kids make their own fun. This minimalist park is designed to get kids playing with little more than sand, water, and a set of blocks. Kids can stack, connect, and maneuver the abstractly shaped blue blocks into new playthings.

5. NAGASAKI SCHOOL

In Nagasaki, Japan, a multi-story urban school provides a new way to have recess. A playground on the roof deck of a school designed by architects Hibinosekkei has a climbing net that leads up from a playroom downstairs. Inside, there’s even a fireman’s pole to slide down! See it here.

6. HARRY THOMAS SR. PLAYGROUND

This Washington, D.C. playground is math-themed, taking its design inspiration from the Fibonacci sequence, a numeric pattern in which the next number is always the sum of the last two. The curves of the paths and play equipment are shaped in Fibonacci spirals. 

7. WOODLAND DISCOVERY PLAYGROUND

In a quest to create the playground of the future, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy in Memphis built a park within the woods where kids have to “look for opportunities to slide, climb, run, scramble, swing, build, find and discover,” according to the designers at James Corner Field Operations (also the architects responsible for Manhattan’s High Line). The designers worked with the input of local kids to determine how they wanted to play. The result is a playground separated into different “play nests” with slides, treehouses, climbing nets, sand, and more, all connected by a winding walkway covered in ivy. See it here.

8. THE LAND

Inspired by the junk playgrounds proposed by Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen in the 1930s, this Welsh playground is filled with trash. Largely unimpeded by adult supervision, kids play with hammers, climb trees, build dens, and light fires. The idea is that “adventure playgrounds” allow kids to learn how to take risks and cooperate with each other in ways that playing on a low-slung slide with a watchful adult hovering nearby does not. The trailer above comes from a documentary film about the playground that premiered this past April. 

9. NEW YORK HALL OF SCIENCE 

The New York Hall of Science’s Science Playground in Corona, New York is the largest of its kind in the country. The 60,000-square-foot outdoor play space is designed to let kids explore motion, balance, and simple machines. Kids can play with waterworks, clamber up a giant spider web, ride a giant seesaw—and of course learn the physics behind it all. 

10. WALLHOLLA

Image Credit: Goric

Designed to accommodate a large number of kids in a small space at a school in Purmerend, the Netherlands, Wallholla is the playground equivalent of a skyscraper. The structure packs a lot of activity in a space only a few feet wide. Ribbon-like platforms run throughout a wire mesh cage that 30 kids can climb in, out, and around at the same time. The structure is now being sold in the U.S., too. 

11. TAKINO SUZURAN NATIONAL PARK PLAYGROUND

Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam began turning her crocheted artwork into sculptural playgrounds in the mid-1990s. This one, at Takino Suzuran National Park in Hokkaido, Japan, opened in 2000. The rainbow net took three years to crochet. See it here.

12. CHILDREN'S RAILWAY STATION 

Danish playground designers Monstrum created this indoor playground at the Danish Railway Museum, inspired by the local railway station in the town of Odense in the 1960s. The locomotive-themed playground has a ticket office, a control tower, a train with passenger carriages and an explorable engine compartment, and more. See it here.

13. ANTHILL PLAYGROUND

Monstrum is also responsible for an awesome forest playground at Klelund Dryrehave, a former hunting plantation in Denmark. There’s an 8-foot-tall slide shaped like a giant ant, an anthill to climb, a “lumberjack hut” to picnic in, and a 65-foot-tall watchtower to hang out in. See it here.

14. BOUNCE BELOW


Image Credit: Bounce Below

At Zip World in northern Wales, a Victorian slate mine has been converted into an underground playground with giant trampolines and bouncy nets connected by walkways and slides. The cavernous subterranean play space has different levels, with the highest chamber 180 feet from the floor. This past year, they introduced a kids’ experience that’s designed for young ‘uns 3 to 6 years old. 

15. CITY MUSEUM


Image Credit: Chris857 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

St. Louis’ City Museum is essentially one big giant playground. Inside, it has a giant treehouse and a 10-story spiral slide that you can use to whoosh into the building’s basement. Outside, there’s a 30-foot-tall Ferris wheel on the roof, multiple airplanes you can crawl into, a rope swing, and more. 

16. THE GREEN HEART AT SHAW PARK

Playgrounds don’t have to be just for kids. The Green Heart, an outdoor gym in Kingston upon Hull, England, is an adult playground. It has stationary bikes, step boxes, cross trainers, and more. The grown-up jungle gym is human-powered—it glows at night using energy generated by using the gym equipment. See it here.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

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Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40)

- Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition; $190 (save $30)

- Ninja OS301 Foodi 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer; $125 (save $75)

- Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville; $120 (save $60)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75)

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $80 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10)

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $16 (save $11)

- HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

- Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31)

- TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

- Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

- Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30)

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening; $40 (save $20)

- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity; $50 (save $10)

- Marvel's Avengers; $25 (save $33)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

- The Sims 4; $24 (save $20)

- God of Warfor PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

- Days Gonefor PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

- Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250)

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $335 (save $64)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $120 (save $79)

- Seneo Wireless Charger, 3 in 1 Wireless Charging Station; $16 (save $10)

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

- DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

- Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones; $120 (Save $80)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $175 (save $75)

- JBL Boombox; $280 (save $120)

Movies and TV

HBO/Amazon

- Game of Thrones: The Complete Series; $115 (save $89)

- Jurassic World 5-Movie Set; $23 (save $37)

- Deadwood: The Complete Series; $42 (save $28)

- Back to the Future Trilogy; $15 (save $21)

Toys and Games

Amazon

- Awkward Family Photos Greatest Hits; $15 (save $10)

- Exploding Kittens Card Game; $10 (save $10)

- Cards Against Humanity: Hidden Gems Bundle; $14 (save $5)

- LOL Surprise OMG Remix Pop B.B. Fashion Doll; $29 (save $6)

- LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle 92177 Expert Building Kit; $56 (save $14)

Furniture

Casper/Amazon

- Casper Sleep Element Queen Mattress; $476 (save $119)

- ZINUS Alexis Deluxe Wood Platform Bed Frame; $135 (save $24)

- ROMOON Dresser Organizer with 5 Drawers; $59 (save $11) 

- AmazonBasics Room Darkening Blackout Window Curtains; $26 (save $5)

- Writing Desk by Caffoz; $119 (save $21)

- SPACE Seating Office Support Managers Chair; $112 (save $116)

- Rivet Globe Stick Table Lamp; $53 (save $17)

- Christopher Knight Home Merel Mid-Century Modern Club Chair; $188 (save $10)

- Walker Edison Furniture Industrial Rectangular Coffee Table; $121 (save $48)

Beauty

Haus/Amazon

- MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light; $21 (save $12) 

- Cliganic USDA Organic Lip Balms Set of Six; $6 (save $4)

- HAUS LABORATORIES By Lady Gaga: LE RIOT LIP GLOSS; $7 (save $11)

- Native Deodorant for Men and Women Set of Three; $25 (save $11) 

- BAIMEI Rose Quartz Jade Roller & Gua Sha; $14 (save $3)

- Honest Beauty Clearing Night Serum with Pure Retinol and Salicylic Acid; $20 (save $8)

- WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Hair Conditioner Set; $30 (save $5) 

- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser; $15 (save $5)

- wet n wild Bretman Rock Shadow Palette; $9 (save $6)

- EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid; $25 (save $6)

Clothes

Ganni/Amazon

- Ganni Women's Crispy Jacquard Dress; $200 (save $86) 

- The Drop Women's Maya Silky Slip Skirt; $36 (save $9)

- Steve Madden Women's Editor Boot; $80 (save $30)

- adidas Women's Roguera Cross Trainer; $40 (save $25)

- Line & Dot Women's Elizabeth Sweater; $74 (save $18)

- Levi's Men's Sherpa Trucker Jacket; $57 (save $41)

- Adidas Men's Essentials 3-Stripes Tapered Training Joggers Sweatpants; $28 (save $12)

- Timex Men's Weekender XL 43mm Watch; $32 (save $20)

- Ray-Ban Unisex-Adult Hexagonal Flat Lenses Sunglasses; $108 (save $46) 

- Reebok Men's Flashfilm Train Cross Trainer; $64 (save $16)

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A Hair-Raising History of the Flowbee

The Flowbee revolutionized the highly suspect idea of cutting one's own hair.
The Flowbee revolutionized the highly suspect idea of cutting one's own hair.
I Love Fun, YouTube

Like many great ideas, there is some confusion surrounding how California-based carpenter Rick Hunts was struck by inspiration for the Flowbee. The infomercial sensation of the late 1980s is a vacuum cleaner attachment that straightens hair, munches on it with clippers, and then sucks the trimmings into the canister.

In one version, Hunts is beguiled by a television show he saw in 1979 that demonstrated a person getting their hair cut while hanging upside-down, freeing their locks for clipping. Another has Hunts using a vacuum to get sawdust from his workshop out of his hair and having an epiphany.

The latter sounds more like the kind of mythologizing that accompanies inventors—one questions the wisdom of using a vacuum to remove sawdust from their hair rather than simply showering—but it doesn’t matter much. However he came upon the notion, Hunts’s vision of an at-home substitution for a barber was the Soloflex of hairstyling. It promised convenience, affordability, and the novelty of boasting your hair had been trimmed by a Hoover upright.

Hunts’s device, which he initially dubbed the Vacucut, took six to seven years to develop. By one estimate, he went through four prototypes—the last one involving 50 modifications—before he perfected the vacuum attachment. (Hunts’s children—or, more specifically, their hair—were used for testing.) The Vacucut took hair anywhere from a half-inch to six inches in length and, thanks to the suction of the vacuum, pulled it straight in the same way a stylist holds hair between their fingers. Once extended, clippers inside the attachment trimmed the excess, which wound up in the vacuum.

It required no skill and no additional pairs of hands; the length was adjustable using the included spacers. Owing to the air flow and the fact the device made a buzzing noise similar to a bee, Hunts decided to rename it the Flowbee, with a bumblebee-esque black and yellow color scheme.

Hunts, who raised more than $100,000 from investors and even sold his cabinet shop to obtain additional funds to mass market his creation, clearly felt the Flowbee would be a slam-dunk. He approached major personal grooming companies like Conair, Norelco, and Remington to see if they’d be interested in the Flowbee. He also approached beauty salons to see if they’d consider selling them to customers. He later recalled that all of them said the idea was nuts. In the case of the salons, they were afraid the Flowbee might actually work as advertised and see a reduction in foot traffic from people content to cut their own hair. 

Dismayed, Hunts took to trying to move product out of his garage. He also went to county fairs, where he would have a volunteer come up on stage. One side of the person’s head would be trimmed with scissors, the other side with the Flowbee. The results were comparable, and Hunts began selling a modest amount of inventory at $150 each.

The reaction of the county fair crowd may have been on Hunts’s mind when he saw an infomercial one evening for a food-sealing product. The program-length paid advertisements were really just barker shows broadcast to a mass audience. The Flowbee, Hunts knew, needed to be demonstrated. So Hunts spent $30,000 to produce and buy airtime for a 30-minute spot that began airing in 1988. Soon, the entire country was watching people aim a vacuum nozzle at their heads and clip their own hair.

The Flowbee entered popular culture, getting mentions in films like 1992’s Wayne’s World, where Garth (Dana Carvey) is menaced by a Suck Kut, and on shows like Party of Five. Imitators like the RoboCut and the Hairdini appeared to bite into market share, but the Flowbee enjoyed brand recognition. A Flowbee Pet Groomer was introduced, and Flowbee barbershops were considered. By 1992, the Flowbee was being sold in major retail chains. By 1993, Hunts’s San Diego-based company, Flowbee International, had sold 200,000 units. By 2000, the number was 2 million. While that may not sound like a lot, consider that this was a vacuum cleaner attachment selling for $69.95 to $150 retail that was intended for use on one’s head.

While millions of people enjoyed the Flowbee’s kitsch appeal, some people thought it sucked. Stylists believed it lacked the artistry of a professional, while others complained it wasn’t effective on hair longer than six inches or on curly locks. It was also difficult for the Flowbee to trim the sides or around the ears. George Clooney, however, swears by it; in December 2020, he admitted that he's been using one to cut his own hair for decades.

While they no longer air infomercials, Flowbee International is still in business—and has seen increased interest in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as people avoid salons and look for alternatives to becoming Howard Hughes. Unfortunately, health concerns have prompted a cessation of activity at the Flowbee factory in Kerrville, Texas. They don’t intend to ship new product (which now sells for $99) until things settle down. The RoboCut, however, is still shipping.