I’m the first to admit that I’m not an outdoorsy kind of person. But my kids? They LOVE being outside. Even the 15-month-old has learned to say, “Outside,” while she pats the door hopefully or tries to figure out how to push it open. So, outside it is! When your kids are antsy to explore the great outdoors, there are lots of great options. Whether you are new to the area or just want to explore a different part of town than your usual stomping grounds, here’s a list of some of the best parks in the Iowa City area.
200 East Park Road, Iowa City
It’s a carnival every time you go! Every day of summer through Sept 1 and every weekend through the end of September, your kids can enjoy carnival rides for just 75 cents a ride. The playgrounds are great, too. There are pavilions and grills perfect for birthday parties or big get-togethers. Basketball courts, tennis courts, walking/running trails, and big open fields make this park perfect for sporty kids and adults, too.
Aber Ave & Teg Drive, Iowa City
This park has classic looking wooden structures that give it an old-fashioned fun feel. With plenty of large trees for shade, rocks for climbing on, and winding paths through bushes, this park offers a natural play setting that goes beyond just ladders and slides. Bridges, climbing areas, and a picnic pavilion make it a great place to spend some time with your kids. Bring your shovels and pails for digging in the sand!
2701 Bradford Drive, Iowa City
Newly remodeled, this is one of the biggest and newest playgrounds around! Your kids will be amazed at all the different climbing structures and unique play equipment. It also has big open fields perfect for bringing along your soccer ball or football and several picnic shelters for snacks in the shade. On one of my favorite visits to this park, my oldest played football with his friends in the big open field, my preschooler ran around to all the different play structures, and I pushed the baby in a bucket swing while being able to easily keep an eye on both bigger kids. Another great feature of this park is that it’s so close to Scanlon gym. If the weather turns bad, you can just head inside to the gym for Tot Time most mornings.
Shimek Elementary School
1400 Grissell Place, Iowa City
Though only available to the public on evenings and weekends when school is in session, this place is like a fairy tale. Kids can imagine themselves as princesses and knights in the castle-like wooden play structure. There’s lots to climb and slide on, and it’s great for all ages. Our 1-year-old likes it there as much as our 7-year-old. Mom and dad will enjoy the peaceful setting, too.
Hickory Hill Park
800 Conklin Lane, Iowa City
This is the opposite of carnival rides and sporty spaces like you find at City Park and some of the other parks I’ve already mentioned. This is where you go when you really want to connect to nature. There are wonderful walking trails, where you’ll be surrounding by flowers, trees, streams, and wildlife. If you want to take your kids on a nature walk to collect leaves, flowers, or maybe play a round of “Pooh sticks” underneath the many bridges, this is the perfect place to do it. This is not a stroller-friendly park, so you want to either have a baby in a carrier or wait until the kids are independent walkers. The entrance closest to North Dodge Street has easy parking and a small loop that my daughter could handle without too much grumbling at ages 2 and 3.
2850 Prairie du Chien Road, NE, Iowa City
Something good came out of the floods of 1993 and 2008. The overflow of water washed away soil, trees, and even part of the road, revealing the very cool 375-million-year-old ocean floor, full of fossils. If you’ve got young scientists in the making, or kids who just like to jump around and find frogs, the Devonian Fossil Gorge near Coralville Lake is a ton of fun.
North Ridge Park
2250 Holiday Road, Coralville
With wide paved paths for walking or jogging surrounding pretty water, this is a great place for the stroller brigade to get together for some walking and chatting, followed by the kids playing at the playground. It has play structures and swings for both big and little kids. A giant sand area with a digger for construction fans and fun ride-on toys is great for those who are old enough to not eat the sand.
S.T. Morrison Park
1513 7th Street, Coralville
Right next to the Coralville Rec Center, this is a park with separate play structures for big kids and little kids, as well as swings, open areas for playing catch, a sand volleyball court, and a pavilion that’s great for big get togethers or little picnics.
Quail Ridge Park
Zeller Street, North Liberty
This park has playgrounds, picnic tables, a basketball court, frisbee golf, baseball/softball batting backstop, and picnic shelters.
(Between Tiffin & Oxford)
2048 Hwy 6 NW, Oxford
The Kent Park playground has a big play structure with slides and climbers. They also have swings for big kids and babies. If you want to make a day of it, you can go swimming at the Kent Park Beach or take the kids fishing, too.
If you like walking trails for you and your kiddos or if you’d like a new spot to train, check out this pdf of Iowa City running and walking trails.
Did I miss your favorite park? List it in the comments and tell us what you love about it.