Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not a playground, but magic to new walkers: Jefferson's Lubert Plaza

Playground: Jefferson Hospital's Lubert Plaza
Location: 10th and Locust (not fenced)
Date visited: several times in summer '09

Equipment: open plaza (almost 1.5 acres), steps of various heights, fountain: This is designed as a multipurpose plaza with cement/stone circular center and alternating bands of grass and stone. Steps around the plaza ramp gradually from milimeters to full step height.
Ages: 1-2
Surface: grass or pavement/stone
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: grassy areas and stone benches
Access: open plaza, subject to occasional events (no idea of night policy)

Impressions: This public plaza that Jefferson built as part of its impressive new Hamilton Building's site is a boon for new walkers. I set down my 16-month-old, expecting her to race around the open space, but instead I discovered that it was the perfect "gym" for her driving desire to walk on changing surfaces and especially up and down small steps. The sweeping ramp-like walkways offer a range of step height, from tiny lip to full stairstep, so there's something for any toddler to successfully navigate solo. Plus, the small fountain on the east side, with its playful bronze otters, is a big hit. Too hot on sunny summer days, but otherwise an unexpected favorite!
Overall rating: 9* (new walkers only)

A challenge for older kids: McCall School playground

Playground: McCall School
Location: 7th St. between Pine and Spruce
Date visited: 9/9/09

Equipment: 1 playset + a couple of extra pieces. Several types of climbing, 3 slides, solid and jointed bridges. Also a 6-foot set of vertical climbing walls, some modified teeter-totter equivalents, and a play "service window" under the playset.
material: modern resin and metal, climbing wall hard plastic; scale: med-large
Ages: 3-middle school?
Surface: composite tiles around equipment, tarmac elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 0
Water: N
Other: School yard includes low basketball, wall for hitting tennis balls, and painted zones for hopscotch, 4-square, etc.
Access: ? after school hours, at least

Impressions: I never thought that this play yard would be open to the public until I walked by it one late afternoon and it was -- no idea what their official hours/policies are, but the existence of posted rules indicates that they anticipate at least some non-school use. This was, however, the first playground at which I felt all the equipment was too tricky for our 18-month-old -- the jointed bridge had wide planks and big gaps, the slides were steep, etc. (She did enjoy the crawl-through holes in the climbing wall, as well as the slight give in the solid bridge, but we got rained out of testing our limits more than that.) This makes sense, since McCall serves kids K-8th grade. Nice for kids of the right age, if you can avoid a hot sunny day; the climbing walls especially seem fierce, but fun.
Overall rating: 8

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A historic site + highway: Shot Tower tot lot

Playground: Shot Tower
Location: Front and Carpenter (gate on Carpenter)
Date visited: 9/5/09

Equipment: Two playsets, not particularly separated:
  • smaller has 3 slides, some climbing stuff
  • larger has 2 slides, a straight bridge (with no real bars!), and curvy monkey/horizontal bars
Also strap and bucket (2) swings nearby.
material: modern resin and metal, a little weathered, some metal slides; scale: medium
Ages: 0-8
Surface: rubbery composite under play equipment, concrete elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 1 (some on smaller set + swings)
Water: Y*
Other: grassy (ball) field adjacent -- marked for kids 12 and under only -- benches, rec center
Access: closes at dusk, but gate has some specific hours that may or may not match that. (forgot to write them down!)

Impressions: Serviceable but uninspired play equipment (although one set of the smaller slides were quite fun), against the background din of I-95 across the street (overhead). A single water sprayer in a round pool is tucked back by the far end of the rec center, where it would be easy to miss, as are two wooden picnic tables. Probably a great resource for the neighborhood of rowhouses and newer highrises -- certainly somebody lovingly maintains a number of cheerful planters full of flowers -- but nothing one would go out of the way for. Plus: on other side of the highway underpass is a historic church with an extensive grassy churchyard that would make a nice picnic site. (They appear to have a daycare or preschool, which might generate some business for the Shot Tower park.)
Overall rating: 6

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The eye of the storm: Von Colln playground

Playground: Von Colln
Location: 23rd & Franklin Parkway (easiest to enter from Pennsylvania Avenue, but unfenced...)
Date visited: 8/30/09

Equipment: one playset, including four slides and one solid bridge, a variety of climbing stuff and monkey bars, and some zones underneath for playing hot dog stand, etc. Sets of bucket and strap swings nearby.
material: modern resin and metal; scale: medium-small space.
Ages: toddler through elementary age
Surface: rubbery composite under equipment, dirt elsewhere
Shade(0-3): 3 (lots of big old trees)
Water: N
Other: picnic tables, ball fields, extensive (sunny) grassy space, small rec. center
Access: dawn-dusk (no fence)

Impressions: This very shady playround feels friendly and neighborhoody despite its location close to the base of the Art Museum, with accompanying swirl of traffic. Great for a hot day or with a picnic in hand, and attracts a nice variety of users, but not huge or offering much for the smallest or older kids. Pluses: its small playset is more creative and interesting than many larger ones, and the banks of swings make you feel part of a group gathering. Minus: the challenge of parking anywhere close, or the amount of busy traffic that must be navigated to get here from the nearby neighborhoods. Overall, wouldn't drive across town for this one, but it's a nice resource for the neighborhood and more tucked away than would seem possible at this location.
Overall rating: 7

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Colorful but exposed: Palumbo playground

Playground: Palumbo
Location:10th & Fitzwater (usually enter through the rec center on 10th, but sometimes the gate on Fitzwater is open too)
Date visited: 8/26/09

Equipment: Two different structures in close proximity, one labelled "2-5" with stairs, a solid bridge, and two slides, the other labelled "5-8" has taller sections, longer slides (including a twisty one), and climbing bars. There are also two sets of swings (bucket and strap) and a spinning seat.
material: modern resin, but with metal slides; scale: small fenced space
Ages: 1-6?
Surface: spongy composite, but cut into tiles that are separating a bit
Shade(0-3): 0 (a little in late afternoon)
Water: N
Other: playing fields (softball? soccer?) nearby, rec center, bathrooms
Access: 1:30 - 10p in summer (the rec center is definitely closed in the mornings year 'round)

Impressions: The equipment here is colorful and enticing, and has some creative elements -- our toddler enjoys playing there. However, it feels really exposed to the sun in summer months, which means everybody and everything gets hot fast, and the space is tight enough that it can't handle a horde. Also, the hours are restricted and variable by season, although some daycare groups appear to have it figured out. On the plus side, the delightful Morning Glory Cafe is right across the street, which makes it well placed as a combination with late lunch.
Overall rating: 7