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
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.
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.
Park de la Cruz
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.
Lake Poway Playground
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.
SDSU River Park
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.
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.