One of our core strategies for getting acquainted with a new city is visiting its playgrounds. We’ve found no better way to meet other families, give our son autonomy and freedom, and discover neighborhoods that tourists often miss.
Many of the playgrounds we’ve frequented have been simple — they have staples like slides and swings, and are situated in welcoming greenspaces with cool shade and fresh air. But there certainly have been a few that have blown us away. Here are our five favorite playgrounds, across 3 different continents:
Tunnel Tops (San Francisco, CA)
I had to start with a gem in our home town! The relatively new Tunnel Tops playground is situated in the Presidio, with pristine views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. It’s filled with natural, varied play structures that cater to kids of varying levels of mobility. There’s also a ranger’s cabin where kids can learn about local ecosystems, and a space for reading and drawing.
Our son’s favorite feature: the log swing that can sit 1-3 kids at a time
What to wear: Layer up in an All-Season Sweatshirt. SF is known for its unpredictable weather, and a quick-drying sweatshirt is key after playing in the water features.
Plaza de España (Madrid, Spain)
The second you approach the Plaza de España playground, you’ll be blown away. The towering wooden structure has tiers of slides and climbing space at various heights, to welcome kids of all ages. Perhaps the best part of this playground is how heavily it’s used by locals: even at 9pm on a weeknight, the park is filled with Spanish kids, just ready to go home for dinner.
Our son’s favorite feature: the mid-level metal slides
What to wear: Even sweltering Madrid cools down for a late evening at the playground. Try an Original Adventure Long-Sleeve for a breathable, but warm-enough top.
Goatfarm Ridammerhoeve (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
One of the things we loved most about Amsterdam was how many petting zoos were available across the city! But Goatfarm Ridammerhoeve was more than just a farm — it offered a playground where kids and animals could explore together. Goats sat atop slides and napped beneath the swings, and you could purchase a small bottle of milk to feed them.
Our son’s favorite feature: the parked tractor repurposed as a climbing structure (and covered in napping goats!)
What to wear: We layered on an Any-Mess Bib for our visit, for just a little extra mess protection while our son fed and played with the goats.
Booran Reserve (Melbourne, Australia)
This converted reservoir in southeast Melbourne had the most diverse offerings of any playground we’d seen. Booran Reserve has a massive climbing structure, yes. But even more special are the 6 different ways kids can surmount that structure: there was a vertical climbing wall, steps, nets, an inclined climbing wall, stones, and a rope. Better yet, there’s a well-shaded water-play area for hot summer days.
Our son’s favorite feature: the zipline featuring a child seat so he could ride independently
What to wear: The Original Adventure T-Shirt is quick-drying for water play, while also providing excellent sun coverage.
Bathhouse Playground (Queenstown, New Zealand)
There are few settings more picturesque than the Queenstown shoreline, and Bathhouse Playground is perfectly positioned to let you soak in the views. The stream cutting through the two halves of the playground also leads right to the lake, so families can easily plan some beach time, while also having the playground available.
Our son’s favorite feature: The enormous tunnel slide that descends from the path through Queenstown Gardens.
What to wear: Queenstown weather is often sunny but cooler, and our Seawool Flannel is the perfect layer.