Watkins Park, located off route 214 in Upper Marlboro, has always been one of our favorite parks. It has everything from a huge playground, nature center, little train ride, carousel, miniature golf course, farm with a variety of unique animals and lots more.
I was wary when I heard they were tearing down the playground to rebuild it because, frankly, I thought their playground was pretty awesome already. But wow did they kick it up a notch.
Everything on the playground has a Wizard of Oz theme. Even as you’re walking the path up to the playground, you go under a giant rainbow archway that lights up the ground under it with a colorful display. The ground is covered in that spongy, foam-like material which I love. A yellow brick road leads you in to one of the most creative, artistic, fun playgrounds I’ve ever seen!
I felt like a kid again, walking around mesmerized at all the details and aspects of the film they had incorporated. Apparently, I’m not the only one who was curious to see this new playground, which just opened in June, because the place was packed. I had a tough time keeping an eye on both my boys and was grateful to have my mother-in-law and sister-in-law with me as extra eyes.
Standing tall in the middle of it all is an “Emerald City” jungle gym that has lots of different climbing structures, slides and bridges. Below it are fun flower petals that kids can sit on and spin around. My kids had a hard time getting them to stop spinning though, and my 3-year-old flew right off. Luckily, the ground was soft! There are also dome climbing structures that are fun for all ages — crawling babies can pull up on them and older kids can play hide-and-seek in them.
One area represents the Kansas countryside complete with a tractor structure to climb on (which was very popular with a line of kids waiting to get on it). A giant red barn has slides, nets and even a chicken-coop area for little ones to climb through. A pretend corn field is equipped with a bed structure made of rollers that kids can slide along or try to wobble across. Our 2-year-old, Luke, loved that thing. He giggled like crazy as it probably tickled his back while he rolled his way across. There are a couple small ride-on structures shaped like farm animals that little ones can sit in and bob back and fourth. Even Dorothy’s house is there, slightly askew, with painted witch legs coming out from under it.
Two giant “Ruby Red Slipper” are actually metal slides that kids can zoom down extra fast. An amazing musical area sits in the back of the playground and has a variety of different chimes and bells the kids can ring with attached rubber mallets. You can hear the sweet tinkling sounds all throughout the park. A rainbow walkway circles the playground, which we strolled along to try and spot all the hidden faces that were on the surrounding trees.
A lot of the playground is shaded by the trees but much of it is not, so I was happy we were there early in the day as I imagine it could get very hot. There are plenty of picnic tables and pavilions around for some shade or a snack.
We absolutely loved this playground, and I was happy to see restrooms located right next to it. I don’t remember those being there before. It is a bit large and overwhelming, and with so many different things for kids to climb into, it was challenging to keep both my children in sight. But I imagine as they get bigger, this is going to be our go-to play spot. It really had something for all ages, even adults!
Note: While the playground is free, there is an additional fee for the train, carousel and mini golf. As of Aug. 15, the train was temporarily unavailable due to maintenance. Updated info Aug. 28, 2015.
For more information, visit the Watkins Regional Park website.
To check out other cool plagrounds in the area visit our Playground Directory.
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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, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.