My two boys and I have been on a mission to try out as many of the themed “imagination playgrounds” as we possibly can, located throughout Prince George’s County.
So far some of our favorites have included the new “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” playground at Watkins Park in Upper Marlboro, “Little Critter” playground at the Mitchellville South Park in Bowie, and the “Medieval Dragon” playground at the South Bowie Community Center in Bowie. There’s 25 in all, so we have a lot more to go! Luckily, I’m a stay-at-home mom with two small energetic boys, so there’s no doubt we will be checking them all out.
Recently on a windy but warm Monday morning, we ventured out to Capitol Heights to check out “Woodland Wonderland” located in the Walker Mill Regional Park. I was prepared for an extremely packed park since Prince George’s County schools were still on spring break, and it was the first glimpse of sun that we’d had in a few days, but I was astonished that the playground was almost empty.
As we parked, the kids’ jaws dropped looking up the hill at this amazingly creative playground structure. We entered through a giant “hollowed out log” tunnel that automatically plays music when you walk through. As we ventured up the winding path towards the playground, we passed whimsical, interactive statues of animals, insects, reptiles and gnomes — one of which told you jokes when you pressed its nose. Even before we set foot on the playground, the kids were giggling and ecstatic to be there. I was giddy too, feeling like I’d stepped into a fantasy world along with my kids.
As with a lot of these imagination playgrounds, the entire ground is made of a soft rubber surface, which I love. Everything was geared towards a woodland theme, which was so much fun for my insect-loving, tree-climbing, creative-minded little guys.
Right at the playground’s entrance there’s a sign with pictures of a couple woodland characters that you can find hiding within the playground. Doing a little scavenger hunt for them was a fun way to take a break from all the running, sliding and climbing. A few of my favorite cute details included a bear hiding in the cave under one of the hills, two hollowed out giant acorn seats and benches that look like leaves folded over onto acorns. It all comes together to create a truly believable wonderland.
The playground was fairly large with multiple climbing structures, over a dozen different slides, and an entire section called the “Walker Mill Misting Park.” At the time it wasn’t “misting” since it was early spring, but it looked like there were squirting statues, ground sprayers and a bucket that tips water.
This area also has a couple of large mushroom shaped picnic pavilions where we ate our lunch. I was pleasantly surprised that some of the tables included a smaller table at one end with a bench for little ones to sit at, as well as an infant seat that was built right in to the table. Clean, nice public restrooms are located right near the entrance. The park has plenty of shade but also sunny areas that kept us warm on the windy spring day. Based on the material that everything is made of, I wouldn’t imagine any of the equipment would get hot from being in the sun.
I wouldn’t recommend this playground for parents of little kids, since most of the equipment was geared for ages 3 and up. There also weren’t any swings. That said, my 2-year-old, Luke, had a great time but he’s also very adventurous and braver than I’m usually comfortable with. For example, there’s a large windmill structure that has a small slide attached to its base, but a very high ladder that leads to a much larger enclosed, twisting tube slide. I almost had a heart attack when I saw him climbing to the top, right behind his older brother. I stood at the bottom of the ladder, holding my breath as he fearlessly went up and came squealing down the slide, ready to do it again, over and over.
There’s also another tall slide that winds down a large hill, made with extra bumps to slow sliders down. It ends at a cool ant hill structure. As the kids climb back up the hill, they pass by over-sized adorable “ants.” My little Luke especially liked the smaller cabin structure that had hay bales to climb up on and a bridge made out of piano keys that actually played piano notes as you walked on them. (How cool is that?)
We had a super fun time at this playground, and I’m excited to go back again when it’s warmer to try out the misting park section. The entire park is very nice and includes multiple sports fields, a skate park, and a hiking trail and it’s all free. I hope no one really reads this blog as I selfishly loved having the park so empty, but I won’t blame you if you pack up your kids right now and head there. As Pete the Cat says, it’s all good.
For more fun places to play, read the story 7 nature play spaces in the Baltimore/Annapolis area
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.