11 of the Most Unique Playgrounds in the U.S.

From St. Louis’s popular City Museum to the Little Debbie Park in Collegedale, Tennessee, these kid-friendly spaces put a fun twist on what playgrounds can truly be.
These innovative playgrounds are captivating for kids and adults alike.
These innovative playgrounds are captivating for kids and adults alike. / Courtesy of MONSTRUM Playgrounds

Who doesn’t love a playground? Kids get to run their energy out, see friends, and explore, while parents get to hang, watch their kids be wild, and sometimes even sit down. Playgrounds are also free (for the most part), making them a great spot for downtime whether you’re at home or on vacation—especially when they go beyond a good old-fashioned play structure or were created by designers who are pushing the boundaries of what a playground can be.

With an eye toward spring break, below are 11 of the most innovative playgrounds, which could be worth putting on your itinerary during your next U.S. road trip.

Domino Park Playground // Brooklyn, New York

Most unique playgrounds in the U.S.: Domino Park Playground in Brooklyn, NY is seen.
This playground has an incredible waterfront view, too. / Noam Galai/GettyImages

Domino Park, which is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits at the site of the old Domino Sugar Refinery, a building that was incredibly important to the growth of the borough’s waterfront. Designed by local artist Mark Reigelman, Domino Park Playground pays tribute to not only its site, but what they manufactured there, as the structure takes kids on a de facto journey through the sugar production process. 

It’s more fun than it sounds: Each structure on the grounds, from the Sugar Cane Cabin to the Sweetwater Silo and the Sugarcube Centrifuge, is designed to resemble a part of the original factory. The park also utilizes materials from the refinery, like reclaimed wood and salvaged valve wheels. Given that the playground sits along the East River and overlooks Manhattan, the view isn’t half bad, either.

Adventure Playground // Berkeley, California

For kids with a strong creative streak, Adventure Playground in Berkeley can elevate their play in a whole new way. They can run free and explore on their own terms, with access to kid-designed and built forts, boats, and towers. They can also use hammers, paint, and recycled materials to try and make their own contribution to the park. 

The result is a little anarchic—it’s definitely not as streamlined or clean as a traditional city playground, and you’ll need to sign a waiver to get in—but your kids could have a blast creating their own village of sorts, provided you’re able to sit back and let them. 

Life on the River Playground // Memphis, Tennessee

Most unique playgrounds: Life On The River Playground sturgeon is pictured.
This sturgeon-themed play structure is just one of many delights at Memphis's the Life on the River playground. / Courtesy of MONSTRUM Playgrounds

Crafted by leading artsy playground creators Monstrum, Memphis, Tennessee’s Life on the River playground is both functional and beautiful. It’s situated in the city’s Tom Lee Park and celebrates the Mississippi River ecosystem with oversized otter slides, a climbable salamander surrounded by a turreted trio of faux-cypress trees, a caterpillar to crawl through, and a sturgeon-themed play structure.

There are also bridges to traverse, places to hide, and slides a-plenty, and parents will find that the structures aren’t just fun to play on: They’re extremely photogenic, too. So make sure to take tons of pics, because no kid stays small for long.

Watkins Regional Park // Upper Marlboro, Maryland

You’ve got to love a themed playground. Maryland’s Watkins Regional Park pays tribute to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It has structures built to look like Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s Kansas farm, Emerald City, and even the hot air balloon Dorothy uses to try and get back home. Kids can slide down Dorothy’s ruby slippers, romp through the bumpy, climbable poppy fields, and even take a walk down the spongy yellow brick road that runs through the center of the park. 

City Museum // St. Louis, Missouri

Wildly popular on sites like Instagram and TikTok, St. Louis’s City Museum is part museum, part art installation, and part play structure. City Museum is housed in an old shoe factory and not only has four floors of full exhibits that kids will love, but also contains a massive playground structure that climbs and twists through, above, and around the entire building. There are more than 30 total slides throughout, including three on the roof and a five-story marvel that’s absolutely amazing. 

Beyond that, there are artificial caves to explore and welded-steel structures to climb, as well as a massive treehouse on the second and third floors. Outside, you can stagger through a four-story, wrought-iron Slinky before messing around in two old aircraft fuselages, then head to the roof where you’ll find both a vintage ferris wheel offering some of the best views in the city and a 3000-pound praying mantis sculpture. If all of that sounds wacky, that’s because it is, but in the very best way. Prices for admission start at $20 for the day, but children under the age of 2 play for free.

Lions Park Playscape // Greensboro, Alabama

Lions Park Playscape in Greensboro, Alabama, is an architectural feat to behold. It’s constructed almost entirely out of 55-gallon galvanized drums (3000 to be exact) that were originally used to hold mint oil. The maze-like structure created is great for kids to run through, but there is also an airy canopy, which provides cover from the sun. There are traditional playground fittings in the playscape, like swings, steps to climb, and colorful poles to wander around, and you can teach kids important lessons about reuse and design while traversing within Lions Park’s shiny, steel walls.

Silver Towers Playground // New York, New York

Most unique playgrounds in the U.S.: Silver Towers Playground in NY.
This bronze figure's legs double as slides. / Daniel Lobo, Flickr // CC0 by 1.0

Artist Tom Otterness has designed a number of pieces of public art in New York, from the “Life Underground” figures in the 14th Street/8th Avenue Subway Station in Manhattan to the Big Girl Playground in Yonkers. 

His Silver Towers Playground, which sits on 42nd Street in Hell’s Kitchen, features a 30-foot-tall cartoonish bronze figure that kids can climb all over. With legs that double as slides, a lookout tower on his head, and outstretched hands that are a perfect place to kick back, the Silver Towers Playground is a true example of fun meeting function.

Downtown Container Park // Las Vegas, Nevada

Most unique playgrounds in the U.S.: Downtown Container Park Las Vegas is pictured.
The Mantis near the front of the park's entrance is 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide, and as part of a show, can release fire flames. / David Butow/GettyImages

Perched in the middle of an open-air shopping center on Fremont Street in Las Vegas, the playground structure at the Downtown Container Park is another smart example of both reuse and functional design. 

With a three-story treehouse, a 33-foot slide, multiple bridges, and interactive surprises galore, this playground weaves around and through a 40-foot shipping container standing on its end. Local businesses surround the playground, which is accessible to both kids and adults—meaning parents won’t have to shrug off invites to accompany their little ones down the slide. They’ll want to go, too, as digital sensors set in the slide activate trippy visual displays as you zip by, as well as blasts of air and sound. 

Maggie Daley Park // Chicago, Illinois

Maggie Daley Park’s Play Garden is a relatively recent addition to downtown Chicago. It uses natural landscaping and spatial design to create a number of different playground areas for local littles. 

There’s The Sea, an 8500-square-foot play loop that boasts a large metal play ship with ladders, nets, and a captain’s wheel, as well as both a whale and a lighthouse tower. The Watering Hole, which is meant for younger kids under 5, is a play hub that’s animal-themed. There are three small structures to sit on or climb, all of which have small water features—something you’ll undoubtedly welcome in the hot summer sun. The Harbor, another attraction at the park, has a raised boardwalk, covered central marina, and three full-sized play boats, while the Enchanted Forest emphasizes creative outdoor play and sensory exploration with its upside-down tree archways, mirrored kaleidoscope maze, and massive Turning Stone. 

If that’s not enough, there’s also the 12,000-square-foot Slide Crater, with its kid-friendly suspension bridge and ring of slides, and even bigger Wave Lawn, which has rolling cushioned hills that kids can climb, roll down, or perch on for a snack. And if, after all that playground, you still have even a little bit of energy, fret not: There’s also a Chicago-themed miniature golf course in Daley Park, complete with baseball, Willis Tower, and Chicago Theatre-themed holes.

Chapman Adventure Playground // Tulsa, Oklahoma

Chapman Adventure Playground is a five-acre, kid-centric wonderland perched in a corner of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Gathering Place riverfront park. With seven big, iconic towers, a safe spot for crawlers called Volcanoville, and a Fairyland Forest full of little cottages and castles for kids to explore, there’s something for everyone. 

In Land Of The River Giants, Monstrum built two massive blue herons that double as slides, as well as a climbing-friendly paddlefish and a forest of wooden reeds to traverse. There are swings, suspension bridges, sand pits, and zip lines, and slides that go underground. Beyond that, there’s also a splash pad called Mist Mountain, which has water cannons, mist areas, and even a water maze. In other words, it’s basically a mini-amusement park, but it’s open to the public and very, very free.

Little Debbie Park // Collegedale, Tennessee

While Little Debbie Park might not have all the bells and whistles of, say, a Maggie Daley Park, it does have something especially sweet going for it. With play structures modeled after Nutty Buddies, Cosmic Brownies, and Oatmeal Creme Pies, the Chattanooga-area park sits on land donated by the McKee Foods, the company that makes Little Debbie products, among other delicious treats.

There’s a major Little Debbie factory in the area, too, making this playground both a point of civic pride for the city and the company’s employees; it’s also a particularly unique spot you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re interested in learning more about the company’s history and finding out a bit more about the real Little Debbie, there are also a number of information stations spread around the park so you can check them out while walking around.

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