In March of 2021, a year or so into the Covid-19 pandemic, our family felt like we had reached our limit of “indoor togetherness”. Netflix had been binged, board games had been played, and “The Easiest Healthy Kid-Friendly Recipes” had been tried (or thrown out). While grateful to have spent the majority of the pandemic safely inside our home, we worried about what continued isolation might do to us all. Our mental health was beginning to suffer and our son and daughter were desperate to connect with similar-aged children. We knew that alongside the myriad of other signs of spring, we, too, were due for a refresh!
With the snow thawed just enough, our family ventured outside one late winter day. We went to a local playground and played until our fingers nearly froze off. We had so much fun. After returning home and putting the kids to bed, my husband and I reflected on how badly we all needed that impromptu adventure. It was easy to consider, “What if we did this more often?”
Lo and behold, an idea was born. We quickly added a deadline to help keep us on track, and voila! Our first family pandemic challenge: visiting 50 unique Vermont playgrounds by Halloween.
Our Vermont playground challenge was designed to help us get outdoors after a long winter, and also provide some motivation to keep us going. As it turned out, the playground challenge ended up giving us so much more than we bargained for. It was an opportunity to dip our toe back into the community again and get to know our surrounding neighborhood, all while also helping to get out our daily wiggles. It helped us worry less about how we were going to fill each weekend because instead, we focused on what new town or park we could discover. Most importantly, it was free (minus the cost of gas!)
Along the way, during our Vermont playground challenge, we learned so much.
Our infant daughter, for instance, went on her first swing… and then repeated said action again and again and again. She also learned how not to eat wood chips or random things found on the ground.
Our two-year-old son practiced how to greet other kids and take turns on equipment. He learned how to pick himself up after a hard fall. He even learned how to spot a playground from a mile away… the unintentional consequence of visiting so many new playgrounds in such a short amount of time!
My husband and I even learned a few things. As parents, it was great to see just how easy it can be to see your kids have fun (even really little ones). Fun didn’t involve buying an expensive membership or spending hours the night before worrying how we were going to fill yet another weekend. It simply meant hopping in the car and seeing how long it would take us before we hit the next playground or asking a friend which playground they’ve really liked and adding it to our list.
Finally, we all were reminded of the power of community that still exists in the midst of a pandemic that bred fear, isolation, and social distancing.
By visiting so many Vermont playgrounds, and interacting with so many different people, we were reminded just how alike we all are. How we all want to still connect, see our kids play together, or simply share a smile from across the monkey bars.
I hope your family will feel inspired to take on a similar challenge this year, or simply get out and enjoy some of the playgrounds we have come to love. To help you get started, I’m sharing the 50 playgrounds we visited below, sorted by location, with you with recommendations on some of our favorites to help turn it into a whole day of fun! Please note: only visit school playgrounds when school is not in session.
City of Burlington Playgrounds:
- Appletree Point Park, Burlington, VT
- Champlain Elementary School, Burlington, VT
- Ethan Allen Park, Burlington, VT
- North Beach Park, Burlington, VT
- Edmunds Elementary School, Burlington, VT
- Perkins Pier Park, Burlington, VT
- CP Smith School, Burlington, VT
- Starr Farm Park, Burlington, VT
- Battery Park, Burlington, VT
- Calahan Park, Burlington, VT
- IAA School, Burlington, VT
- Roosevelt Park, Burlington, VT
- J.J. Flynn School, Burlington, VT
- North Avenue Alliance Church, Burlington, VT
- Oakledge Park, Burlington, VT
- Lakeside Park, Burlington, VT
- Pomeroy Park, Burlington, VT
- Champlain Street Park, Burlington, VT
- Sustainability Academy, Burlington, VT
Surrounding Towns (5-15 minute drive from Burlington):
- Maple Street Park, Essex Junction, VT
We love this park for its beautiful surroundings and a multitude of playground options. Stop by Sweet Alchemy, a plant-based bakery and cafe in Essex Junction, before or after your park visit for some sweet treats. You can’t go wrong with any of their baked goods and their “All American” breakfast/lunch option is a must order!
- Bayside Park, Colchester, VT
- Porter’s Point School, Colchester, VT
- Veterans Memorial Park, South Burlington, VT
- Airport Park, Colchester, VT
- Mallett’s Bay School, Colchester, VT
- Summit School, Essex, VT
- Rossignol Park, Williston, VT
- City Center Park, South Burlington, VT
This park feels as though you’ve stumbled upon a secret hideaway in the woods. A majority of the equipment is made out of wood, as opposed to plastic or metal, matching its surroundings perfectly. Great place to visit on a hot summer’s day as you’ll be sure to stay cool under the trees. On our way home, we stopped at Kestrel Coffee Roasters for a yummy oat latte!
10) Jaycee Park, South Burlington, VT
11) Orchard School, South Burlington, VT
12) St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT
13) Sandhill Park, Essex, VT
14) Cascade Park, Essex, VT
15) Saxon Hollow Park, Essex, VT
16) Winooski School, Winooski, VT
17) Chamberlain School, South Burlington, Vt
18) Pearl Street Park, Essex, VT
19) Essex Elementary School, Essex, VT
Don’t forget about all the amazing school playgrounds you’ll need to visit on your playground tour. This one is perfect for little ones, with a gigantic natural sandbox located next to two playgrounds aimed at elementary-aged children. It also has a cute gazebo, perfect for the picnic we packed and enjoyed while our children played.
20) Landry Park, Winooski, VT
21) Shelburne Community School, Shelburne, VT
22) Williston Central School, Williston, VT
23) Schmanska Park, South Burlington, VT
A little bit of a hike (20+ minutes from Burlington):
This playground is best known for its inclusive design, and it is able to be used by children of all abilities. We stopped by here first and then headed down to the waterfront for creemees at The Bay Store. The view of Lake Champlain didn’t hurt!
3. Center Chains Playground, Waterbury, VT
4. Bombardier West Park, Milton, VT
5. Bombardier East Park, Milton, VT
6. Volunteers Green Park, Richmond, VT
It’s hard not to fall in love with Vermont after visiting this park in Richmond. Nestled between the small downtown with a walkable coffee shop and a bridge in its backdrop, it’s a charming playground both kids and parents will love. Speaking of parents, swing by Stone Corral Brewery after visiting for some one-of-a-kind craft beers.
7. Milton Elementary School, Milton, VT
The exception to the rule:
- Krispy Kones Playground, Pittsfield, MA
Okay, we know this one isn’t in Vermont, but it deserves an honorable mention for being one of the coolest playgrounds we stumbled on during a long weekend away in MA. This playground is one big giant field featuring several different playsets made to look like helicopters, bulldozers, pirate ships, and castles! Plus, enjoy a quick meal or ice cream while there!