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5 New San Diego Parks and Playgrounds to Check Out

Ziplines, tree forts, carousels, and cornhole are all a part of the city’s coolest new hang out spots for families
Tecolote Shores South park at Mission Bay, San Diego with kids on a jungle gym
Courtesy of Schmidt Design Group

Gone are the days when every playground was just a few slides and a few swings. Now, they’re designed with a huge variety of activities, from ziplines to carousels and interactive musical instruments. Plenty to keep kids, from toddlers all the way through elementary school children, engaged with new experiences to try.

Recently, San Diego had a bumper crop of cool new playgrounds popping up, with even more in the works that will open in the next year. So if you’re looking to mix things up and try something different, check out one of these five new playgrounds.

Tecolote Shores South park at Mission Bay, San Diego featuring shaded picnic tables and kids on a jungle gym in the background
Courtesy of Icon Shelter Systems

Tecolote Shores South

Mission Bay

The Tecolote Shores North’s upgraded playground reopened in November 2022, and now there’s the Tecolote Shores South playground just a few feet away (both designed by Schmidt Design Group). North has new play equipment, plus an adult fitness course, shade structures and updated bathrooms.

The South playground just opened in December. It has a big raised play mound in the middle that’s carved with winding pathways that helps even the smallest kids reach the tallest points of each play structure. 

Then there are real kid pleasers, like a big spinning merry-go-round, two ziplines–one with a safer seat for smaller kids–and rockers, a mix of types of swings, and plenty of places to climb

Best new San Diego playgrounds and parks including the Children's Park in downtown featuring a rendering of the park with slides, trees, and jungle gyms by the Convention Center
Rendering courtesy of Civic Communities

Children’s Park


Across the street from the downtown Children’s Museum is the new Children’s Park that reopened in November. The park originally debuted in the mid-1990s, and the park’s revamp had been in the works for years by downtown and city leaders, says city spokesperson Benny Cartwright. 

“The park’s makeover includes a new children’s play area, picnic tables, adult exercise equipment, an off-leash dog area, public restrooms with an attendant booth, a multi-use lawn area, a new walkway through the Civic Pond and a vendor building,” he says.

The park looks a bit like an old-school tree fort with lots of wooden towers to climb and massively long slides to rocket down. Plus, San Diego-based artist Miki Iwasaki created a public art piece called “Petrichor,” a sculptural installation that looks like a cloud floating above the park. It’s a fun and imaginative space

Best new San Diego playgrounds and parks including Park de la Cruz in City Heights featuring a community garden, a colorful mural, and people gathering gardening supplies
Courtesy of the City of San Diego

Park de la Cruz

City Heights

The Park de la Cruz Community Center opened in June 2021, taking over a former YMCA building. The center has been transformed with a public gymnasium, fitness room, recreation room, sensory room, computer lab, multipurpose and community spaces, a kitchen and space for the Parks and Recreation Department’s Therapeutic Recreation and AgeWell Services programs, Cartwright says.

Then in September, the Program Garden opened outside the community center. It took over a vacant lot and now has accessible gardening activities, with garden beds, benches and shade coverings. 

“Participants will be able to learn gardening skills, harvest fruits and vegetables, and enjoy the tranquil outdoor space,” Cartwright says. “To enhance the space further, a mural was also painted on the walls surrounding the garden. The mural was designed by a local artist and community members assisted with the painting.”

To use the garden, or for more information, contact the Park de la Cruz Community Center. 

Best new San Diego playgrounds and parks including Lake Poway Playground featuring a gathering of families and kids playing on the jungle gym underneath a shade covering
Courtesy of the City of Poway

Lake Poway Playground


This revamp of a playground built in the 1990s opened in December at the Lake Poway Recreational Area. It’s designed to fit in the rustic space, which has a lake and Mount Woodson nearby.

The playground is mostly covered with shade sails, plus natural shade from trees. The play space looks like it’s made of trees and rocks, even with little hidden chipmunks tucked into stacks of logs. 

There’s also a boat and a dock that are accessible by wheelchair, plus a play snack bar and bait shop that look like the concession building at the lake—the perfect place for kids to pretend to buy and sell snacks and whatever else their imagination comes up with. 

Best new San Diego playgrounds and parks including SDSU river park located underneath the San Diego trolley line in Mission Valley
Courtesy of San Diego State University

SDSU River Park

Mission Valley

The new river park accompanying Snapdragon Stadium had a soft launch in December, and now is a bustling spot filled with kids and grownups recreating.

The park has hardtop courts with four basketball hoops, including two half- and one full courts, as well as pickleball. There is also fitness equipment, plus places to play cornhole, ping pong and teqball (or soccer pong), where players hit a soccer ball across a table with any part of the body except arms and hands. 

The playground itself has a rope climbing tree and play structures with slides and monkey bars. Most of it is tucked under the trolley tracks, making it a shady spot when the summer comes. There’s a huge climbing net, twisty slides, and a thicket of what look like bamboo trees for kids to climb up and between.

Around the park is a two-mile paved loop for walking, running and biking. It has markers every quarter mile decorated with plants vital to the native Kumeyaay people.

Be warned, parking can be a challenge. Two-hour parking is available on River Park Road, but on weekends that’s often full. The rest of the parking is metered through SDSU’s PayByPhone mobile app. A better choice? Take the trolley, hop off, and explore the playground directly underneath the tracks.

By Claire Trageser

Claire Trageser has been writing for San Diego Magazine for 10 years. She also is a reporter at KPBS and writes for The New York Times, National Geographic, Marie Claire, Elle and Runner's World.

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