Park reviews are predominately about the playground. I'll try to give a complete picture of what the park offers, but my kids and I spend most of the time on the playground, so it's of outsized importance.
All of my playground reviews take into account my personal opinion of the park and the playground while also considering my kids' ratings of the playground since they're the ones who are playing on it.
I use their combined opinion as a ranking criterion and a mental tiebreaker.
From my perspective, sign me up if I can get an hour to an hour and a half of reduced parenting involvement, happy kids, and a little socializing during a single parenting weekend.
So, with that in mind, let's get into the requirements for a great playground.
Here we go:
I determine a playground to be "Playground Complete" when it has enough activities to keep kids busy, by themselves, with limited parental oversight for at least one hour.
Where I define a kid to be 3.5 years and older.
Kids under that age, toddlers and babies, lack the ability to do anything for an hour.
To be a top ten park, it must be Playground Complete.
A park can achieve Playground Completeness in any number of ways:
The number and/or quality of slides
Entrances into the playground
Random little toys
Natural or unnatural apparatus that keeps kids engaged. Think of a ledge that becomes a balance beam or slides that double as climbing walls.
For example, the Rocket Ship Park achieves playground completeness primarily through the combination of an incredibly fun slide with twenty approach angles.
The kids go down the slide. The kids find a new approach angle. The kids go down the slide.
Repeat for an hour, and it's Playground Complete.
Or take Stacey Park. Through an infinite number of possible activities, kids keep content for an hour.
Park Rating Factors
To be a top park and earn anything over a four-star rating, it has to be playground complete.
After that, it's ranked on the following criteria:
At the end of the day, if my kids are happy, I'm delighted. Therefore, their reviews factor into the ultimate ranking more than my personal opinion.
To understand how much they like it, I use the same process I would use to review a park myself. I ask them to 1) compare the park and playground to something else they've done recently, 2) follow up on the differences, and 3) name their favorite thing.
The quintessential example occurred this past weekend. We had to fill the quadrants of the weekend before, and after nap time, so we went to two different parks on back-to-back days,
Both of my kids rated Tilles Park above Deer Creek Park, even though I would have thought that Deer Creek Park would have ranked better because of the park's theme.
But they were both more interested in the number of different things there were to do at Tilles.
Tilles Park wasn't as quote-unquote fancy as Deer Creek Park in terms of having a well-defined theme in one main attraction; there were many smaller things to do. So net-net, the variety of Tilles trumped Deer Creek.
What these rankings don't consider
The park rankings are less a reflection of the community-based amenities.
If a park has a bunch of different sports fields, that might be great for intramurals for townies but less critical for saving me hours of parenting on the weekends.
Or there might be a pavilion good for parties, but I'm not here to party; I'm here to play.