“Mom! I have a great idea! We should go find some new parks this summer!”
My 8 year old was on to something. One of the things I love about the Cedar Rapids area is the vast array of places to explore. We made a plan to visit two parks each week over the summer and talk about our favorite features. Then, we worked together to create a rubric of sorts to evaluate the parks we visited, with some input from little sis.
We started by asking, what makes a good park?
According to my big kid, a good park needs the following:
- Splash pad
Little sis (age 2) got in on the action as well:
- Dirt and worms
- Stuff to climb
For me, having playground equipment for both big and little kids is a huge plus.
We set out with our evaluation sheets to the most popular parks in Cedar Rapids to get our readers started off with some of our favorites:
Noelridge (4900 Council St NE)
I feel like Noelridge is one of the most popular parks around. With it’s inclusive playground, duck pond, pool, garden, and walking trail it’s easy to see why this park is always crowded. It is home to a great splash pad, swings (for all abilities), and a merry-go-round. My youngest was a fan of the various places to climb as well as the slides and music makers! The play structure is interconnected with both options for littles and bigs.
The downside, according to the kids: frequently crowded, no sandbox, limited worms. Currently there are temporary bathrooms located near the playground but permanent ones are in the works.
Thomas Park: (343 Marion Blvd)
Thomas Park is another popular option. It is conveniently located right off of Marion Blvd with ample parking and access. It has separate play structures for big and little kids as well as a sand box and splash bad near the playground. Bathrooms are a short jaunt away, as are pavilions for a lunch break. One highlight of this park is the ability to be as adventurous as your kids want to be. The bigger play structure is quite tall, but has lots to do on all levels.
It is a hot spot in the summer for daycares and other programs, though, so it can get quite crowded depending on the time of day you decide to go. You can easily spend the day on the trails and at the playground, and never run out of things to do at Thomas Park.
Bever Park: (2700 Bever Ave SE)
This is a frequent request for the Drzycimski kids. I mean, a playground AND a farm?! The playground has all the typical trappings (including a climbing rock) and a short walk leads you to the farm by way of the pool. Goats, cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and ducks are typically out in their pens during the day and if you’re lucky, they’ll be down for a pet (well, except the ducks). The barn has a great corn bin for kids to dig in and tractors that littles can peddle around the property. Rabbits, turtles, rats, hedgehogs, and other small animals can also be found in the barn.
There’s so much to do at Bever, my kids don’t miss out on what wasn’t there (sandbox, splash pad) and still have a great day.
Wickiup Hill Learning Center: (10260 Morris Hills Rd, Toddville)
This has been a new addition to our list in the last year or so. While Wickiup doesn’t have a dedicated playground, it is home to the outdoor learning area. This area is rich in activities where children can climb, explore, and imagine. The zipline is a popular attraction, as are the sandbox, primitive camping area and natural musical instruments/toys. Everything is meant to be touched, played with, and even climbed on. Dirt and worms are plentiful!
So there you have it, ya’ll. If you’re new to the area or looking for a few great staples, these parks are great. I’ll be back next month with a few new parks to review. Comment down below or on our Facebook page which parks in Linn County and surrounding areas we should explore and review this summer. Even better, come out and join us!