Play is serious business for kids. As Fred Rogers once famously remarked, “Play is really the work of childhood.”
And there’s no better place for kids to carry out this important work than in spaces where they can run, climb, explore and imagine. These 11 Pittsburgh playgrounds offer all that and more.
Aspinwall Riverfront Park
285 River Ave., Aspinwall
The first thing most visitors notice about Aspinwall Riverfront Park is its striking “Playground” bronze sculpture. The 30-foot-by-30-foot-by-24 foot installation by artist Tom Otterness serves double-duty as a slide.
The 11-acre park includes the Highmark quarter-mile walking trail, native gardens and wetlands, an amphitheater and stage, free ice skating in the winter, and warm weather kayaking in partnership with Venture Outdoors and Kayak Pittsburgh.
But the playground’s connection to children runs deeper than its kid-friendly amenities. When it was established in 2011, nearly 3,000 people rescued what was then the Aspinwall Marina from becoming a commercial parking lot. They raised more than $2 million in a little over six months – and kids brought in $14,000 of that total.
Blue Slide Park
2005 Beechwood Blvd., Squirrel Hill
The centerpiece of this Frick Park attraction is—you guessed it!—a big blue concrete slide built right into the hill. But that’s not all this multilevel park has to offer.
To traverse the three sections of the park, kids wind through concrete tunnels, climb grassy hills, and swing and jump their way across several play structures separated by their age and ability level. There’s a separate play area just for toddlers and a dog park and picnic area nearby.
For maximum speed, be sure to bring along a flattened cardboard box for the slide. But there are usually plenty of extras to go around if you leave yours at home.
3501 Forbes Ave., Oakland
Located in nearby Schenley Park, Anderson Playground is better known as the “Dinosaur Playground.” It gets its nickname from a dino-shaped play structure with tunnel slides for legs and a skeleton comprised of climbers and monkey bars. A “baby dinosaur” structure lets toddlers in on the fun.
Other mini-playgrounds on-site include a castle-themed area—complete with a drawbridge and lookout towers—and more traditional equipment, such as a merry-go-round.
A rubber ground surface, shade and plenty of green space complete the kid-friendly features.
Kids Castle Playground
111 Ernie Mashuda Drive, Cranberry Township
Nestled in Cranberry Township’s Community Park, Kids Castle is divided into three themed areas focusing on the Cranberry of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
From classic playground equipment — swings, climbing areas, and spring-mounted riding animals — to modern amenities like a rock climbing wall and Evos arched play structures, this playground offers an array of activities for kids from 2 to 12.
Other features include fully accessible common areas, walkways and decorative pathways, terraced steps, a circular brick stage, picnic tables and benches, baseball fields, basketball courts, and restrooms.
The $500,000 project—named Cranberry’s 2013 Community Project of the Year—was funded by community members and local businesses. It has been described as “a playground fit for a prince or princess.”
1801 Dormont Ave., Dormont
Royal themes are prominent at Dormont Park, too. It’s known to locals as “Castle Park” because of the elaborate configuration of its playful wooden structures which have been around for several decades.
You’ll find a variety of classic playground equipment, from rings and monkey bars to slides and swings. There are even a few tire swings for the most adventurous.
Shaded, built-in benches provide respite for parents and younger kids, making this park a great choice for picnics. The 5.2-acre park also includes a ball field, soccer fields, and pavilion.
108 McMurray Rd., Upper St. Clair
In the neighboring community of Upper St. Clair, Wiltshire Park offers something for all ages, from toddlers to teens.
The playground features infant and standard swings, tunnel and open slides, horizontal rings, bar climbers and a merry-go-round. Surrounding areas of the park include two lighted basketball courts, a lighted street hockey court, a pavilion, and hiking areas, as well as a lighted walking path.
On especially hot days, families can enjoy a park atmosphere with a sandbox and the cooling perks of spray features.
Black and Gold Playgrounds
North Park and South Park
With double-wide ramps, specialized swings, handlebars and other interactive and accessible features, the Black and Gold Playground near the North Park swimming pool is another great choice for children with special physical needs.
Alongside the main playground, you’ll find two smaller playgrounds with swing sets and other equipment tailored to younger kids. Bonus: The area is surrounded by picnic shelters.
A second Black and Gold Playground is located in South Park. The fenced-in playground is adjacent to several other parks, a game preserve, and horse stables.
And just like their name implies, both parks display their Pittsburgh pride through a black and gold color palette.
War Memorial Park
625 Blackburn Road, Sewickley
Tucked away among trees and Hoey’s Run stream, Sewickley’s War Memorial Park features multiple playgrounds for kids of various ages.
The large playground—Hoey’s Hideaway—was designed with 5- to 12-year-olds in mind. Here you’ll find equipment for the young thrill-seeker, including a zip line and rock climbing wall.
A smaller playground tailored to 2- to 5-year-olds includes spring-mounted animals, train-themed play structures and swings for various ability levels.
Both playgrounds are padded with soft, rubbery ground covering, and the candy-colored equipment complements the bucolic setting. Nearby amenities include a gazebo and benches, a hiking trail, plenty of parking, and Hoey’s Run stream.
Blueberry Patch at Blueberry Hill Park
1604 Blaine’s Way, Franklin Park Borough
Fats Domino found his thrill on Blueberry Hill – and kids will, too! The 87-acre Blueberry Hill Park offers baseball fields, sand volleyball courts, pavilions, a historic log house, and three playgrounds.
One of those playgrounds, Blueberry Patch, boasts a huge, roofed sandbox filled with pails and beach toys.
Other equipment at this fenced-in playground includes toddler-friendly slides and swings, climbing structures and bouncy bridges, all atop a soft mulch surface.
675 Old Frankstown Road, Plum Borough
Part of Boyce Park in Plum Borough, O’Block Playground is all about accessibility, providing activities and equipment to visitors of all ages and abilities. Play components can be accessed by wheelchair, and the soft rubber ground surface makes it easy—and safe—to get around. Swings with high backs and harnesses allow children with special needs to join in the fun.
As an added bonus, exercise equipment is available for adults who’d like to fit in a workout while their kids explore.
The fenced-in park includes nearby parking, picnic tables and ample shade from surrounding trees.
Whether it’s visually appealing structures, accessible equipment, green space or just plain fun, Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities offer plenty of unique play areas.
What are your favorite playgrounds? Let us know in the comments below!