Family & Pets

Top Playgrounds In Connecticut

December 7, 2013 8:00 AM

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File photo of siblings playing on a playground. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

What child doesn’t love to swing, climb and slide in a playground? Unfortunately, some children can’t do those things as not all playgrounds are built to accommodate children with physical challenges. Fortunately in Connecticut, there are many great playgrounds including many that are accessible to all or at least in part to all children regardless of their abilities, including two – Jonathan’s Dream in West Hartford and the appropriately named Accessible Playground in Ridgefield – whose groundbreaking designs have sparked similarly accessible playscapes around the country.

Wickham Park
1329 W. Middle Turnpike
Manchester, CT 06040
(860) 528-0856
www.wickhampark.org

Manchester’s Wickham Park has not one or two but three playgrounds. The largest of these is located near the park’s aviary and nature center, both of which are very popular not only with children but also with their older siblings and parents alike. The nature center has many interactive exhibits, and in the aviary, children are allowed to feed some of the birds. Wickham is a sprawling 250 acres of beautiful flower gardens interspersed with ponds, picnic areas, sports fields, woods, hiking and walking trails, tennis and volleyball courts and even an 18-hole golf course, thus making it a “play ground” for all ages. The three playgrounds all have swings and things to climb up and slide down and spin about, and on weekends there is a miniature railroad

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Ocean Beach Park Playground
98 Neptune Ave.
New London, CT 06320
(800) 510-7263
www.ocean-beach-park.com

Climb aboard the SS Ocean Beach playset, try to keep steady on the balance beams and swinging bridge or just slip down the slide into the soft, sugar sand: that is what the open year-round playground at New London’s Ocean Beach has to offer kids. There are also swings and monkey bars and a mock lighthouse to climb, and, of course, there is the beach itself, along with nature trails, picnic areas and lots of sand to make castles. During the season, there is a lot more to do, as Ocean Beach has many attractions, including amusement rides, mini-golf, arcades, water slides and a big 50-meter Olympic-sized pool complete with a “spray park” to keep little ones wet, cool and happy.

Hannah’s Dream
E. Shore Park
350 Woodward Ave.
New Haven, CT 06512
(203) 946-8027
www.cityofnewhaven.com

The City of New Haven maintains many beautiful parks and playgrounds, but perhaps the finest of them all is Hannah’s Dream in the equally dreamy East Shore Park. Hannah’s Dream has a number of big play structures for kids to climb about and play pretend, as well as a big sandbox area, six slides and numerous swing stations and other bits of equipment to play on. There are also tennis courts, playing fields and an ice skating rink right nearby – and of course, there is access to the water. There are many places nearby to find snacks and bathroom facilities, and the view from the shore is delightful.

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Jonathan’s Dream
335 Bloomfield Ave.
West Hartford CT 06117
(860) 243-8315
www.mandelljcc.org

The Jonathan’s Dream Playscape at the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford is a massive 25,000-square-foot playground – and it is open to the public and free. Designed in 1996 as a model play space of the “Boundless Playgrounds” initiative that would be accessible to children with disabilities, it is packed with so much to do that it is almost overwhelming, but in a good way. There are ropes and towers to climb, big and small slides, sandboxes, balance beams, ramps and, of course, swings and tires to swing about in and on, and all in a lovely park setting with shade trees and lawns and benches. Jonathan’s Dream was the first of the Boundless Playgrounds, and is named for an infant who was born with and died from muscular dystrophy. Since it opened in 1997, more than 100 similar playgrounds based on its design have been built across the nation.

The Accessible Playground
195 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT 06877
(203) 431-2755
www.ridgefieldparksandrec.org

For too many children in wheelchairs, on crutches, with leg braces or walkers or with physical challenges, playgrounds are not only dangerous but also totally inaccessible obstacle courses. Thankfully, there is a playground in Ridgefield where ALL children can play – the appropriately named Accessible Playground on Danbury Road. Built with funding by the local Rotary Club, this wonderful, majestic playscape is fully compliant with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means no curbs, no steps and with rubberized flooring and wood chips instead of sand. This is a park free of barriers, where children regardless of physical challenges can move about on its ramps and gentle grades, free to play on swings, monkey bars, bouncing bridges and sway rockers. Many sections are designed so that children in wheelchairs and with other support equipment can have fun and exercise while staying in or with their equipment. One of only six such sites of its type in the state, The Accessible Playground in Ridgefield is a shining example of what a community can do to make a playground fun for all of its children, regardless of their abilities.

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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