Play Garden Hours & Accessibility Info
- The Play Garden closes daily at 9:00 pm
- Accessibility: The Play Garden features a poured in place soft surface base and play elements that meet or exceed ADA minimum standards
Play Garden Rules & Regulations:
- Play Garden is for children under 12 years of age
- Ball playing is not permitted
- Dogs and bikes are not permitted in the Play Garden
- Sit in swings
- Put trash in containers
The southeast section of Maggie Daley Park is anchored by a 3-acre Play Garden, a first of its kind in Chicago. In the spirit of Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, play and plantings are intentionally different from usual garden and park settings, capturing the imagination, engaging different senses in all seasons of the year, and integrating landscape with custom-designed play structures and sculptures. The Play Garden has diverse opportunities for fun, adventure, exploration, and learning for children of all ages.
The unique space opens the door for choice, invention, relaxation, extroversion, introversion, and experimentation for children of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds. In the Maggie Daley Park Play Garden, play features are integrated into the larger landscape narrative. Children discover different play features through an unfolding series of interconnected spaces. The Play Garden offers the thrill of unexpected surprises, such as the short cut leading from the small intimate spaces of the Enchanted Forest to the high prospects within the Slide Crater.
Play Garden Spaces:
The Sea (Ages 5-12)
“The Sea” is an 8,500 square foot play loop that features a large-scale custom built metal play ship with multiple points of accessible entry and exit as well as downs and ups, ladders, nets, a captain’s wheel, and multiple different vantage points. Further along in the Sea’s shifting wave-like topography of blue play surface, children will encounter a Whale and Lighthouse Tower that includes kid-powered light generation, talking tubes, viewing scopes, and a spiral exit slide.
The Watering Hole (Ages 2-5)
“The Watering Hole” is a 1,200 square foot animal-themed play space for younger children (ages 2-5) with three animal figures that can be sat on, petted, conversed with, or otherwise engaged. Small spray features are interspersed amongst the animals. At the center of the Watering Hole is a multi-purpose low wooden platform for sitting parents, or to be used as a stage for impromptu imaginary plays, and a large shade structure that provides protection from strong southern and western sunlight.
The Harbor (Ages 2-5)
Between the two swing areas, nestled in among the garden’s lush plantings, is the access boardwalk to “The Harbor”. This boat themed 2,000 square foot play area includes a slightly raised boardwalk, a covered central marina area, and three full-sized play boats that can be occupied and moved around a bit. The grading of the blue play surface that defines the bottom of the Harbor allows for direct accessible access from the entry boardwalk, while also dropping away slightly so that the marina platform is raised in the center of the space, with an additional ramp down to “water” level.
Enchanted Forest (All Ages)
The Enchanted Forest is a 3,590 square foot network of pathways and play zones dedicated to imaginative outdoor play and sensory exploration. Overhead along the Enchanted Forest pathways are archways defined by upside-down trees, where major branches touch the ground at multiple points and a single trunk rises skyward.
Distinctive tree species, like the Weeping European Beech, have been planted to add to the sense of an extraordinary place defined by natural materials. Within the Enchanted Forest is a Turning Stone, which is marked by a mammoth upright stone that rotates around its vertical axis, so that even a small child can cause it to move with a bit of effort. Other notable destinations within the Enchanted Forest include a very big circular tea party table with eight bench seats, set in a circular space surrounded by plants, and an open mirrored maze, called the Kaleidoscope, set in a grove of Quaking Aspen.
Wave Lawn (All Ages)
The Wave Lawn is a 16,530 square foot play area that cuts a swath through the center of the Play Garden. The rolling topography in this area of the Play Garden is extremely distinctive, with steeply graded lawn slopes and an accessible pathway network that connects high and low points. The Wave Lawn offers a unique location for games of hide and seek, or capture the flag, for older children, while also serving equally well as a small-scale prairie landscape for younger children to explore. Talk Tubes located in unexpected locations will add to the imaginative potential of this landscape. Children of all ages will enjoy the opportunity to roll down the slopes, get dizzy, climb the hill, and try it again. Sloped lawns will be well-drained and perfect for sitting or picnics, while standard park benches will also be provided at multiple points along the walkway.
Slide Crater (5-12)
The Slide Crater is a space for children to test out thrilling experiences such as spiral slides, wide slides, rail slides, and slides that emerge from a Play Pyramid. The 12,000 square foot Slide Crater zone is entered on high from the Wave Lawn by means of the Tower Bridge, which is a suspension bridge elevated by two towers, one of which has two slides, the other a wealth of play features including knobs, flags, a viewing scope, and talk tubes.
The Slide Crater is entered on low from the Play Garden Pathway, where the other end of the talk tubes provide communication up to the top of the towers. Continuing under the bridge, the hillside ring of slides can be reached directly by slides, or more indirectly along the Hillside Ribbon pathway. Along this pathway different levels of square seating platforms are terraced along with squares of plantings. The primary species planted along the Hillside Ribbon are high-branching sumac, contributing to the sense of a child-sized canopy forest along with striking seasonal colors. At the apex of the pathway, the Play Pyramid will offer the prospect of climbing higher, testing your limits, and culminating with a slide back into the crater.