Highland Park has loads to explore with a mix of funky, historic and new cafes, restaurants, vintage shops and boutiques everywhere. But it’s always been a bit lacking in the “places for kids to play” department. No longer! The oh-so-hip enclave has reclaimed an old lot and created a brand new space for the kids to roam, right in the center of it all.

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Making the Most of a Little Pocket
York Park was built on the site of a former gas station at the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 50. The $3 million parklet covers just  a third of an acre, but is a little pocket of wonder the whole family can enjoy. The planners of this new park, which opened in late February, certainly made the most of every inch. While you won’t find much in the way of grass, the space is covered with a bright teal and orange, shock-absorbent surface and two main play surfaces.

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Slither Down
One of the main hubs is a towering snake slide. Your explorer can climb up the ladder (spotting may be needed for toddlers) and slither down to emerge from the serpent’s mouth. Kids seem to be obsessed with fitting just as many bodies in there as possible so if you have a little one, make sure the space is clear.

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Urban Forest
Once the kids have escaped the belly of the snake, they can hit the mini forest that resembles a hollowed out tree trunk. The unit is complete with a slide (it’s a fast one), monkey bars and three climbing surfaces. Adventurers can scale rocks to the top of the tree or slink across a rope web, super-hero style. Or, if they want a little space on the ground, they can retreat to the base of the tree trunk and hide out for a while.

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Outdoor Symphony
If you have a musician on your hands, they’ll love the huge, community-style musical play equipment. There is a  xylophone, colorful bongo-style drums and 8 foot chimes that brings a bit of serenity to the active scene. Parents can sit in the mini amphitheater and take in the musical experimentation (that is if you’re not tempted to jump in and play yourself).

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Get Fit
If the entire family wants to get moving, the park is outfitted with low-impact exercise equipment. You can get your legs swinging on the elliptical or do a few arm presses while you hang out. The kiddos treat these like an extension of the playground, so keep an eye out for falls if you can’t quell their fascination.

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Get Reading
After all of this fun, everyone might be in the mood for a little stillness. What better way than a book? York Park brings everything full circle with a free community library where everyone is free to borrow (and donate) a good read.

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Eats and Extras
Beyond play surfaces, there are also several benches, tables and chairs and the seats at the amphitheater, if you’d like to enjoy snack time or lunch in the park. The park is also surrounded by a lovely metal gate that makes for a lot less worry during play time. No escaping for little Houdini’s on this busy block! While there are a few trees planted, the playground is lacking shade so bring sunblock and consider heading there in the morning or early evening while it’s cooler. Also, the playground is on York and Avenue 50, so there are lots of food (including an old-fashioned ice cream truck most days), drink and shopping options to complete the outing. We’re partial to any excuse to visit Donut Friend, a mere block away.  There are also spacious public restrooms and water fountains on site.

Plenty O’ Parking
Street parking is free though some streets have two hour limits. And keep an eye out for restrictions on street cleaning days. If you want to keep it simple, there are also pay-to-park lots with ample spaces adjacent to the park.

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York Park
4596 N. Ave 50
Highland Park
There’s no website for this neighborhood park, just GPS the address and head on over.

We love little neighborhood parks!  Do you have a favorite?  Do you know about a hidden gem?  Let us know in the comment section below!

—written and photos by LeTania Kirkland