2018 was a crazy year! In January we went to India, April and May were spent in many countries that stretched from New Zealand to Japan, June through July we traveled through Egypt, Israel, and then worked our way to Germany in a roundabout fashion. In both May and August we took cross country road trips across the U.S.A. In December we took another road trip, and Jeremy and I finished visiting all 50 states! And this doesn’t count all the mini trips and solo trips that we did in addition to these.
In all our travels, we have come across a lot of playgrounds. When traveling with kids, there are only so many museums they can tolerate and a playground is a perfect way to break up the day. If we pass one and have the time to stop, we almost always take advantage of the situation and let them play.
Best Playgrounds of 2018
Christchurch, New Zealand
One of the best playgrounds that we have visited was the Margaret Mahy Family Playground, a playground in Christchurch, designed by children of the town, for children of the world. If your children are still toddlers, the equipment might be a bit too big, but the zip-line, the large twirly slide, and many other features made it perfect for our 9 and 11 year old. They could have spent hours there, but it was the end of the day and Jeremy and I were exhausted, so they played for a bit, then we checked into our apartment.
Konstanz, Germany and Kreuzlingen, Switzerland
If you were to ask us which playground contains our best memories, it would have to be the “Rock Park” in Konstanz, Germany, located near the Sea Life Aquarium. It is showing its age and has gone a bit downhill over the years, but I am sure that if you ask me in 40 years what playground had the biggest impact on our family, it would be this one.
When James was 2, we stayed in an apartment in Luzern and used our train pass to take some crazy long day trips. Early in the trip, we decided to take the train to Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, then walk to Konstanz. First, we came across the big, Swiss Spielplatz (a.k.a. playground) with super fun zip-lines and other equipment that might actually worth the trouble of getting to. Here is a picture of the boys in 2018:
Then, we came to the Rock Park, and James was delighted! A big gravel pit with ropes, pulleys, buckets, and platforms. It was a little boy’s dream. A few days later, we asked him what he wanted to do, and he responded with, “Rock Park,” so we got on the train and 2.5 hours later, we were at his favorite park:
So of course we came back whenever we were in the area, most recently, in 2018:
Note: it’s not that big, and probably not really worth a detour for, but it seems to be a tradition for us. You really should just go to the Swiss playground in Kreuzlingen instead.
For whatever reason, I really liked the playgrounds in Kiev. Even though the equipment tended to be a bit old, the visual appeal was still quite good. Once you got past the possibility of a bolt breaking on on a merry-go-round, sending your kid off into space, they were really fun.
Fortunately, many of the playgrounds seemed to be near the churches and cathedrals, so Jeremy while and I would go church hopping, the kids would go playground hopping. One of the kids’ favorite playgrounds was just behind St. Michael’s Monastery. Not only was there a fun playground, they also had a cotton candy stand. Win-win.
When we were driving through the Black Forest, there was a super cute playground near a bakery, so we knew we needed to make a stop. First we got pastries, then we let the kids burn off some energy.
Many of the playgrounds seem to have these hammock-like swings. I spent a while in this one: watching the clouds and admiring the mountains.
The Zip-line or Flying Fox
One thing that makes playgrounds in other countries so much better than American playgrounds is the prevalence of the zip-line (a.k.a. flying fox – if you are in Australia or New Zealand). This is a feature that the kids loved when they were 3, but now that they are much older, they are tall enough to really have fun on them. Both Europe and New Zealand seems to have them in vast quantities.
Oamaru, New Zealand
While in Oamaru at lunchtime, the penguins thwarted us by being out playing rather than home, in their colony, so we had to content ourselves with the playground instead. Not only did this playground have a zip-line, but it also had a giant hamster wheel that we managed to injure ourselves on.
In Oberammergau, Jeremy and I got to look at beautiful pastoral scenery while the kids enjoyed their zip-line.
In Kitzbühel, we found another zip-line in town. While waiting for the kids, I got to enjoy watching the horse-drawn carriages that were driving around.
Plus, at the top of the Hahnenkammbahn cable car ski lift, we found yet another playground where I got to enjoy more amazing views:
The Spider Webs
When John isn’t on a zip-line, his next favorite activity tends to be the spider webs. The foreign versions tend to be much bigger, and sometimes more rickety than in the U.S.A. I remember that we found one in the Swiss Alps that was a cross between a spider web and a merry-go-round. Yikes! But John loved it.
Rotorua, New Zealand
While in Rotorua, we were exploring the geothermal features of Kuirau Park, we had to stop here:
And while the kids played, I spent some time soaking my feet in the hot mineral water:
Of course, not all playgrounds in other countries are super elaborate. This one near the Government Gardens wasn’t much more than a teeter-totter:
While visiting the Martin Luther and Bach sites in Erfurt, Leipzig, and Wittenberg, the kids were always happy to find playgrounds like the one in Leipzig. They only have so much patience for things like, “This the the church that Bach’s parents were married in.”
At this playground, things got even better when they discover another family with American kids! Language issues are one of the hardest things for kids to deal with while on extended vacations. Most adults in the major cities of other countries will speak at least a little English, but it is really rare for that to be true of other children.
In Vienna, the kids loved a playground that was either near or in the Volksgarten, that consisted of a pump and troughs that they could divert water into. While we cringed at the idea of how dirty their clothes would get, they had a lot of fun.
As we have traveled, we have notice that many cities have “exercise parks.” What is an exercise park? Well, it is basically gym or gymnastics type equipment that does not require electricity and is resilient to the weather.
Taipei had an excellent example of an exercise park. The resistance was a bit looser than the average adult might like, but the kids had a ton of fun.
While in Milan, we decided to rest in a park for a bit. Our boys saw the high schoolers working out, doing pull-ups and push-ups, but decided that they were too tired of walking to participate and we enjoyed some down time in the grass.
Speaking of exercise, trampoline parks are always a hit. We randomly came across one in Paris, then a few of the hotels/apartments we stayed at while in New Zealand seemed to have them. We have spotted a few others, but we didn’t take the time to enjoy them.
Twizel, New Zealand
While in Twizel, near Lake Tekapo, our holiday park had a nice trampoline.
And there were also some nice sheep for the boys to enjoy as well:
Public Transportation Playgrounds
One of the biggest surprises we had was on the Swiss trains when James was two. As it turns out, they had a playground car that was perfect for small children.
This year, when we were on a ferry from St. Goar to Bacharach, we encountered a ferry with a playground:
Upon returning to Bacharach, the kids decided that they also needed some time at the playground near the ferry terminal:
And even when there is no playground in sight, the kids will often make their own: