Just when you thought playgrounds were about to go into hibernation for the winter, along comes a brand new one. And not just any brand new one — it’s Maggie Daley Park, and it sits just outside Millennium Park just steps from the lakeshore. With an ice skating “ribbon,” larger-than-life climbing structures and a play garden, this is worth the trip. Yep, even in the cold. Read on for the scoop.

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photo: Eric X. via Yelp

The Lay of the Land
The 20-acre park that hugs the downtown skyline has been buzzed about for nearly a year. Maybe you’ve watched the tri-level wooden climbing tower being built next to Lake Shore Drive, or saw the mast of the huge play ship rising in the distance. Now that the park is finally open to the public, we can really celebrate.

It’s named in honor of the late philanthropist and city icon, Maggie Daley. The former First Lady of Chicago co-created the After School Matters program, a nonprofit that offers teens stimulating out-of-school activities. The park carries on her legacy of helping kids grow and thrive, and is free to all.

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photo: Chicago Park District

A Play Ship, Mega Slide & More
The southeast section of the park is anchored by a three-acre play garden, the first of its kind in Chicago. Designed in the spirit of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” it’s meant to spark imagination and get kids moving in a landscape that’s a bit surreal and fanciful. There are challenges for all levels, from toddlers up to grade schoolers.

Different aspects of the play garden are still under construction and will open at various time between now and spring. Some activities you might be able to anticipate are climbing aboard a life-sized play ship via red ropes, scurrying to the top of a wooden lookout tower, zipping down a three-level tube slide, or walking across a wooden bridge and waving to onlookers below. There’s so much to do and — best of all — there’s plenty of space because up to 600 children can comfortably play in the garden at one time.

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photo: Brian E. via Yelp

The Skating Ribbon
Maggie Daley Park is intended to be a destination for any season, warm or cold, and its skating feature is proof. The J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Skating Ribbon provides 27,500 square feet of ice surface, which is nearly twice the size of a traditional skating rink. In contrast to your typical oval-shaped sheet of ice, the ribbon is more like a meandering path. It can hold up to 700 skaters at a time. Admission to the skating rink is free and skate rental costs $12.

In the summertime, they’ll say bye-bye to ice and the turf will be for roller skaters and scooters, and will also hold gallery exhibitions and special events.

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photo: Chicago Park District

Coming This Spring
Some of the best is yet to come. The Malkin-Sacks Rock Climbing Wall will open in spring to the delight of young adventure seekers. Its highest point is 40 feet and the entire wall is divided into different sections for beginners and advanced climbers, accommodating bouldering, lead-harnessed and top rope climbing. Between 25 and 100 climbers will be able to use the wall at a time.

There will also be an “Enchanted Forest” with a mirrored maze and kaleidoscope, a harbor-like play apparatus for toddlers, and a bevy of slides including spiral, wide and rail. Event spaces will open up, too. Imagine staking out a spot at a picnic grove or having a birthday party on a sweeping lawn.

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photo: Sam S. via Yelp

Winter programs at the onsite renovated Maggie Daley Fieldhouse begin January 5 and you can get details at chicagoparkdistrict.com.

Have a blast!

Maggie Daley Park
337 E. Randolph St.
The Loop
312-742-3918
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Will you visit this awesome new park? Let us know in the Comments!

— Kelly Aiglon