Swings and slides will get little bodies moving, but what about little minds? Add in scrap wood, ropes, rocks, tree limbs, water and dirt—it’s a whole new world. Unstructured spaces are the latest trend in playgrounds for good reason: At these creative, freewheeling spots, kids are encouraged to think outside of the sandbox. Flip through our slideshow below to discover the coolest open-ended playscapes out there.

Adventure Playground – Berkeley, Ca

This incredible, half-acre "wild" play space has been open since 1979 and is one of most lauded playgrounds in the country. A mix between Neverland and Lord of the Flies, the entire space is filled with scrap wood, old spare parts, paint, zip lines and any other creative building material you can think up. Visitors can climb and build upon the unique, kid-designed-and-built boats, forts and other structures and can paint on anything in the entire park (except each other!). Based on European-style spaces, Adventure Playground encourages kids to think and play creatively. And that killer view of San Francisco? It only adds to the imagination.

Good to know: This play space is best for kids ages seven and over. Little siblings are welcome, but only with direct supervision from mom or dad.

Cost: Free

Online: ci.berkeley.ca.us/adventureplayground

photo: Patrick Buechner via flickr


  • Adventure Playground - Berkeley, Ca
  • play:groundNYC - Governor's Island, New York
  • Jester Park Natural Playscape - Granger, Ia
  • Westmoreland Park Nature Play Area - Portland, Or
  • Natural Playscape at Prescott Farm - Laconia, Nh
  • Adventure Playground - Irvine, Ca
  • Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone - Ithaca, Ny
  • Discovery Hollow at Tamarack Nature Center - White Bear Township, Mn
  • Leonard Schine Children’s Natural Playground - Westport, Ct

Is there an unstructured play space near you? Share with us in the Comments below!

—Gabby Cullen