Playgrounds are a little like bars. They all essentially perform the same function but their design and overall appeal can vary markedly.
Here in Hamilton we have just about as many playgrounds as we do bars (still no bar/playground combo, yet) but are they all the same?
We sent out Hamilton mother-of-three Angela Cuming into the wilds to compile the definitive Tron Playground Power Rankings for the winter of 2017.
# 1 Steele Park
Corner of Cooke and Grey streets, Hamilton East.
The Steel Park playground only opened in June but it’s already top of the Power Rankings because it’s just so darn wonderful.
It’s got a real community feel and a good mix of equipment, including those annoyed in-ground trampolines that kids love and parents desperately try and avoid falling into.
What makes this one so great, however, is that unlike a lot of other playgrounds it is actually near shops and cafes and stuff, and that means it is near COFFEE.
Yay: Being next door to Duck Island Ice Cream.
Boo: Being next door to Duck Island Ice Cream (try waiting until your kids are on one of those trampolines and sneak away).
# 2 Claudelands Park
Boundary Road, Claudelands.
This is not a very fashionable or trendy playground and that’s why I love it so much because you are always guaranteed a good mix of parents who don’t want to parent that day and are happy sitting on one of the benches and letting their kids go nuts running around.
It’s a good place for a bit of hands-off parenting because it’s basically in the middle of a big field and your kids can’t run off anywhere or get up to mischief.
It’s actually three-playgrounds-in-one, with separate areas and equipment for babies and toddlers, primary school aged kids and bigger kids (and grown ups). There’s a flying fox and undercover tables and benches if you fancy bringing a picnic lunch, and it’s handily located right next to Jubilee Park if you want to combine a walk through some stunning native bush while you are there.
Yay: There’s a flying fox and you can watch grown men and women relive their childhood in varying degrees of success.
Boo: The genius who designed it decided to landscape the garden beds with millions of tiny little gravelly rocks. Expect at least one of your children to eat some of it.
#3 Potter Children’s Garden, Parana Park
Memorial Drive, Hamilton East.
Small but perfectly formed, this park is like a Victorian fairy tale come to life, with bird aviaries, giant statues and sculptures for children to play with, gorgeous gardens and a front row seat of the Waikato River. There’s not a lot of traditional playground fare like swings and slides, but trust me you kids won’t mind.
Yay : The fountains and shallow ponds your kids can play in.
Boo: The fountains and shallow ponds the ducks like to play (and toilet) in.
#4 Hamilton Gardens
Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton.
If I could have designed a playground when I was seven years old this would have been it. It’s whimsical and wonderful with a giant stage, caterpillar statues, decorative bird houses and a wonderful giant worm to slide down.
There’s also an amazing tree house that only big kids can climb up into, giving parents a much-needed break from bored teens asking to be dropped off at McDonald’s while the little kids play.
Yay: You can bribe kids into leaving early by promising them an ice cream from the nearby Hamilton Gardens cafe (also sells coffee).
Boo: It is smack bang next to a car park so you have to be on red alert for wandering toddlers.
#5 Minogue Park
Tui Avenue, Forest Lake, Hamilton.
First up, do not rely on your GPS to find this park because you will quickly enter Dante’s little know seventh circle of Hell: a tired and bored toddler in the back seat repeatedly asking where mummy is driving to.
But once you do find it this playground is pretty special, with a mix of old school stuff like roundabouts and swings and cool new stuff like those great/annoying mini trampolines. There is also lots and lots of sand, plus this great big wooden structure that funnels water along a series of channels. It’s got a bike track that runs around the perimeter of the playground so a good option for older kids.
Yay: Because it’s a bit out of the way it doesn’t get as crowded as other playgrounds.
Boo: The bike track means you are constantly freaking out that a kid on a BMX is going to knock your toddler over.