hiking · museum · paid places · park · playground

Stamford Museum and Nature Center

Stamford Museum and Nature Center locates in Stamford, so it is a big of a drive, like 45 minutes from new haven without traffic. But it is such a fun place to spend a day with the kids. The admission is very affordable (adult $10, 4-17 yrs $5 as for 2017) and it is totally worth the price for a whole day of fun.

When you get in, you will first be amazed by what a giant park it is. You’ll first see the beautiful lake on the left side with ducks, geese and swans. On the right side, up the stairs, there is a giant castle, that used to belong to someone rich and now is a museum and kids can do crafting in it.

 

Keep walking down in the park, you will see some friendly otters, who really enjoys their meal time. Make a left turn, you might see turkey/chicken/unknown animal running around, away from the chasing kids. There are all softs of farm animals, pigs, goats, cows. Up on the hill, there are also horses!

 

In addition to the farm animals, there is also a vegetable garden and an indoor museum for snakes, frogs and turtles. The people who work there are super friendly. My 5 yrs asked so many questions and got so much fun!

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And there is more. If you walked straight after the lake, you will arrive at the one of the kind playground. It is mostly made of wood, and in the original wooden color. It takes advantage of being built on a hill and arranges in four levels! The top level has a big ‘bird nest’ for adventurous kids to go in and use it as a watch tower. The second level connects to a tower that goes up to the first level, and some slides to naturally go down to the third level, which is the ground level. Then below the ground level, hidden behind, there is a giant pirate ship! The playground is such a unique design and also so much fun.

 

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There is also a hiking trial around the area of the convenient store and playground. You can enjoy the quiet time listening to the little brook throughout the woods.

The center is like a combination of zoo, park and awesome playground. A great place to spend a day!

free activities · park · playground

The Esplanade Playplace in Boston, MA

We were in Boston and looking for things to do. Then I found this unique playground, probably the most unique I have ever seen, the Esplanade Playplace. If you happened to be in Boston, go check it out!

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The only trick is that it was a pain to find parking. The playground is along the side of Charles river, so it would be very convenient for residents to walk by, but a pain for out-of-towners to drive in. It is sort of close to Boston Common and the government and commercial center, probably a 10-15 minutes walk most, and there are plenty of parking there (for a fee or free). But we are dragging two small kids, so I decided to try to park nearby in the neighborhood. The parking signs were confusing. Some meters said not to park, but I saw many cars parked under. Finally we found one available meter not too far away. Then you would have to walk to a bridge that goes over the traffic to the river side. Then you are there!

I was stun when I got there. It has a gigantic climbing structure composed by only ropes! My 5 yrs immediately went in the middle of the rope puzzle and started climbing. But it seemed like he wasn’t big enough to go up! Then he saw another kid climbing from the side, which would be the same idea as climbing a ladder! This time he quickly got up! Then you slide down on a tunnel slide to get back for another run. Eventually my 5 yrs learned how to climb up from the middle. My 3 yrs’s legs were not long enough to do so, but had no problem climbing up from the side. There was also a little hammock connected to the climbing structure, perfect for babies.

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Then the playground has a zipline! We only had ziplines in paid activity center. And this is completely free! (Discounting the fact that you need to drive to Boston and find parking around there) The zipline is not far above from the ground, from 0.5 to 2 feet probably. It has a sturdy rubber rod to hold on and a rubber seat to sit on. You start from the 2-feet high platform, and then go zip! down to the end which is about 0.5 feet.

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It has a rock climbing wall on a fake mountain. It has a swing that can take a couple kids. Although most kids don’t like to share the comfy swing. It also has a spinning plate that holds a few kids.

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The day we went was right before July 4th, and we later heard that that was where they have fireworks at night! There is a little cart nearby with drinking water, but I’m not sure whether it is there just for the festival. If you are tired of the playground, go over to the river side and look at the beautiful Charles river and enjoy the wonderful breeze.

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I love this playground. It truly made me think how we could design play elements that are both innovative and fun.

free activities · park · playground

The lighthouse park– a corner of the ocean

The Lighthouse Park locates at the end of the stream of parks, following East Shore Park, Fort Hale Park and Seawall Park. It is a New Haven city park, so if you are not a new haven resident and want to come between memorial day and labor day during the day, you’ll have to pay to drive in. (It will still be free if you take the bus, or bike, or walk to go in.)

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It has large areas of green for any space-required activities, and it has many picnic tables and a lot of them are under the shade. It has a long beach-line, very peaceful during the off-season.

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It has a medium-sized playground on the sand that features a large play-set for 5-12 yrs and a small play-set for 2-5 yrs.

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You can swim in the ocean. There is a safeguard in the summer. You can walk on the jetty out to the ocean. You can pick some snails, or hermit crabs. It’s also a perfect place for watching sunset.┬áIt has a large sprinkler park! In the hot hot summer day, what’s better than cooling off in the cold sprinkler!

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Over the weekends during the summer, it also has a fancy indoor carousel for 75 cents a ride! (But it only runs every half an hour from 12 to 4 on weekends last time I heard in 2016).

There are also stores open in the summer selling food drink and ice cream! I have seen many families spending the entire day in the park, grilling, swimming, playing, resting and have a all-day fun!

Over the summer it has regular bathrooms. Otherwise it may have potter-potty. The playground is not under the shade.

free activities · park · playground

The Veterans Memorial Park in Bethany — a little paradise

The Veterans Memorial Park in Bethany is beautiful, peaceful and fun. It is a little out of the way from new haven, taking us almost half an hour drive. But it is worth the drive when you want to take the kids out for a safe summer swim! (And it is free!)

We first heard of the park because one of our friends had a birthday party there. The party was great. The food and decorations were awesome. The playground was big and had everything. After the party, you could jump in the lake and have a real swim!

When you first arrive the park, you would see this beautiful lake. It is a quite large lake, surrounded by a trail that has a little bridge. We haven’t gone on the trail, but we have seen a few times that a horseman walking on the trail gracefully.

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Next to the parking lot, there is a tennis field, a pavilion, and a playground. The playground has a fun fishing-bone stairs to climb on, and a spiral slide. It also has a small rock climbing wall, and plenty of place to run on and off. There is a big spinning plate that can make 10 kids screen. There is a smaller play-set for smaller kids, a decent-sized sand-box. Two baby swings and two flat-bottom swings. It also has a rocking crocodile between the slides and the play-set.

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Next to the playground, there is a large soccer field. Then it comes the swimming area! During the summer time maybe over the weekend, there are even life guards there. The deepest water inside of the swimming area is probably 3 feet. So my 5-yr-old can mostly tip-toe most of the way. (It would be a great way to persuade him to take the swimmie off and learn real swimming!)

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Also, adults could swim outside of the swimming area, on your own risk of course. My husband and I have done it a few times. It is just so nice and so rare to be able to swim in the nature.

What’s more fun is that the park seems to have some animal residents as well. A herd of geese always swim around the lake or pecking around the fields. They are NOT afraid of humans. Actually we told the kids not to mess with the obvious baby-geese who were protected by the parent-geese.

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If you go in the water, you’ll happily encounter some fish. They once even gave my husband a small pinch. All the kids LOVE to see the fish.

Even sometimes with a birthday party, so maybe the playground and pavilion can be a bit loud, since the majority of the space in the park is the lake and the soccer field, the whole park still feels very peaceful. It is a little paradise that isn’t known by many.

free activities · hiking · playground

Fort Hale Park at the east shore in new haven

The Fort Hale Park is the park that is almost next to the East Shore Park that holds the Hannah’s Dream playground.

The playground has free parking. It is not under the shade. It is right next to a fishing pier that got destroyed in a hurricane, and was said would get fixed soon. The playground is tiny, with a tiny play-set, and only two swings.

However the two swings might be the best I have ever seen. The are tall, adult sized swing. And they face the ocean. When I push my kids up on the swings, they always shout that they were flying over the ocean! It is just so nice to swing high up facing the ocean feeling like you are flying.

You can take a small hike from the playground. It brings you on a little hill, around a small dog park. The top of the hill has fences. When you stand near the top of the hill, you can look down at the rocky beach watching the waves rushing on to the shore. At the end of the hike is another surprise. It is the Seewall park!

I can’t recall very well, maybe in the middle of the hike, you also pass a large green area that holds a very large pavilion. Behind the pavilion there is a secret patch of lawn that drops down from the ground level, and surrounded by bushes, a perfect picnic spot for us.

free activities · playground

The Wooster-square playground in new haven, another shade in the summer!

We first went to the playground in 2015 to have a play day with a friend who lived nearby. I surprisingly noticed that it was completely in the shade! What a big plus for the hot summer days!

The playground locates in the Wooster Square area in new haven. It’s right in front of “Little Italy”. It is a neighborhood playground, so parking can be a bit tricky. Just make sure not to park on the side of the street that has zone limits which are only for the residents of that area. Since most people who go to the playground live nearby, so we never had much trouble finding street parking.

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The playground itself has sufficient equipment to make it fun. It is fenced-in. On the left side of the playground, it has two baby swings and two regular flat-bottom swings. On the other side, it has a play-set that features a rock-rope climbing wall, a tower-climbing wall, a twisty slide and two smaller slides. It also has a metal bouncy ring that can fit at least 4 kids.

There is more green space in the playground, so kids can run around. The playground is often visited by the residents who are always very friendly.

Across the street, there is a coffee shop called “Fuel”. I have heard people saying good things about it before I ever went in. One day I had to go in, because my kids needed to use the bathroom. So we went in and used the bathroom. After that, when I was trying to pick some food to buy to compensate for the usage of bathroom, the owner of the shop took out two hot-coco and gave them to my kids, for free! He said that he had kids too. That was a wonderful experience.

free activities · playground

The East Rock playground in New Haven

Almost forgot about this one. The East Rock playground is located at the bottom of East Rock. You can usually easily find street parking along the park on the orange street, and maybe coldspring as well.

The playground is inside of a large park. It is really special to have such a large green area in such a population density region in new haven. The park has lots of super-tall trees. It has areas that can be used for soccer fields. It has a basket field as well.

It has a fenced-in playground, which features a large play-set and a large sandbox. The sandbox has a rocking turtle for kids to ride on, and a car for kids to climb in and “drive”. It also has a little house that you can send sand through the pipes along the wall. There are seating along the whole playground. The sandbox is mostly in the shade.

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A bit away from the playground, there are four baby swings. Some more distance away, there are four regular flat-bottom swings. They are the best swings I have ever been on (except maybe the ones in the “rainbow playground” in the Fort Hale park), because they are so tall! I don’t think they are made for kids per se. They are probably meant for teenagers and adults. Although my 3 and 5 yrs are not afraid of the swing. When I push them high up, their go over my height and swing “all the way to the moon”!

The park is very nice and peaceful. It has water fountain and lots of shade. (Even though part of the playground is not in the shade). It has bird feeds, even though squirrels would try to steal the food. Chipmunks are often seen dashing across and into the bushes. It is a popular destination for families live in East Rock. I think it is also the place some community summer camp happens. Some organizations also hold soccer class there.