We love parks. At our house, a new park discovery is a reason for a picnic celebration, complete with Doritos and fruit roll-ups. Apparently I post maybe a bit too much about our park days on Facebook, because I get asked frequently for suggestions of parks. So, I had my kids make a list of their top ten favorite parks in the city. Trust me, it was hard to narrow it down...so our "Top Ten" isn't actually limited to 10. There are just too many good ones.
We'd love to share our list with you. We don't actually know the names of most the parks we love, so my kids make up names. I'll do my best to let you know how to find them!
So...The Meidinger Kids' Top "Ten" Favorite Parks:
1. Gooseberry Park (Moorhead) - This is probably our very favorite. It's got it all - huge trees to climb, a very cool maze, the best "fire poles" according to Gregory, shade, a huge picnic area, excavator diggers, bathrooms, and extremely awesome trails right along the river. For moms of littles...this park can be a bit tricky because it is so spread out that it gets hard to find your kids if they wander. We like Lindenwood on the Fargo side too, but I prefer Gooseberry because it's less crowded and less overrun by child care centers.
2. Zipline Park (Elmwood Park in West Fargo) - My kids call it "Zipline Park" for one obvious reason - it has a Zip line. Very cool. It also has some "old school" playground equipment - a merry-go-round from back in the day when we were kids and a high, fast steel slide. Mixed in with that is newer equipment as well as some huge evergreen trees that my girls love to climb. And there are bathrooms - vault toilets, but clean. We were there yesterday and it was very crowded with child cares, unfortunately whose staff were all sitting on benches staring at their phones...so we left. It may be a weekend-only park for us this summer.
3. Flower Garden Park (Just south and west of Costco in West Fargo) I don't know what this park is actually called, but it's fairly new and fabulous. There are huge plastic flowers built into the equipment, hence the name "Flower Garden Park." My kids love the huge "boat" they can rock in, the xylophones, the climbing structure, and the pond is lovely. We've also sledded here in the winter - great sledding. And, bathrooms!
4. Castle Park (Directly North of Ed Clapp Elementary and directly west of Bethel Church, Fargo) So again I have no idea what this park is called, but it's been a favorite for years. The equipment is different than any other park in Fargo...it's shaped like a castle. This is great because on hot days, the structure itself provides alot of shade. My kids can play castle/warrior/knight/princess games there for an hour easily. No bathrooms, but you're a five minute walk from the Carlson Library, so we often walk there to use the bathroom.
5. Elephant Park (19th Ave North and Elm Street) This park also has a different real name, but it's known pretty widely as Elephant Park because of the purple elephant statue that all kids love to sit on. There's a fun climbing wall, a sandbox with diggers, and huge oak trees loaded with squirrels. And...bathrooms! If you're up north, you may as well hit two parks in one day and also go to Trollwood Park. The playground is great, the picnic shelters and paths are great, and there's also great river hikes to be had at Trollwood.
6. South Fargo River Hike Park (Also known as Lemke Park: East of University on 32nd Ave) This park is just barely off the beaten path but pretty undiscovered. The playground itself is really great - my oldest daughter loves the monkey bars here - and there's also a brand new beautiful gazebo for picnics. But better than all that is the river hiking available here. Just wander to the southeast a bit, go down the enormous hill to the river, and you'll find fabulous trails - some paved, and some just dirt, but clearly marked by the Park District. There's also a spot on the river (pictured above) with enormous boulders that make a spectacular picnic area. No bathrooms...but lots of trees and zero people...so it's all good.)
7. Rendezvous Park (West Fargo, near Aurora Elementary)This is a great park with a lovely man-made waterfall area my kids enjoy, plus the playground itself has some very cool rock structures for kids to climb. Not gonna lie, this is a bit nerve-racking with toddlers because they will definitely break some bones of they fall from the top of the rock structures. But my kids love it. And...bathrooms! There's also a picnic shelter.
8. Tree House Park - The location of this park is hard to explain; if you are driving west on 32nd Ave between 45th and Veterans, you'll see this park in the middle of the field, south of the dog park along 32nd Ave. From the south, if you're on 40th Ave, it's directly north of Independence Elementary. There are actually no trees, so it doesn't exactly make sense that my kids call it Tree House Park, but the day we discovered it they played a Tree House game...and it stuck. The park is surrounded by our great bike path system in southwest Fargo/southern West Fargo. And if you're on bike, stop at the Independence Elementary playground, which is probably the coolest school playground around, and then hop back on your bikes and go a bit down the path to "Tree House Park." (No bathrooms though!)
9. Rope Mountain Park (This is the Osgood Kindergarten Center playground in West Fargo) My kids named it Rope Mountain Park years ago because there's a really cool rope structure they love to climb. It's a great playground with lots of variety. No bathrooms, and during the school year you can't use it during school hours, but it's really great! It's also surrounded by great bike path systems, so if you live in southwest Fargo or in southern West Fargo, you can probably bike there.
10. The Wilds Park (Just west of Sheyenne Street and about 47th Ave, West Fargo) This playground is fairly near to the entrance of The Wilds Neighborhood. There are these really cool wavy bridge-like structures my kids love to climb. We've also spread picnic blankets under them and picnicked "under the boardwalk." (We are easily amused!) My son loves the xylophones here, and the telephone things you talk in actually work! There's also a tire swing - win. There are no bathrooms, but there is a picnic shelter.
Like I said, we love so many parks it's hard to limit our list to 10. Another place we love is the South Fargo Bike Path Parks between 35th ave and 40th ave, close to 18th street. The bike path that runs through this space is gorgeous, and has three playgrounds along it - one just south of 35th, one by 37th, and one just north of 40th. You can walk between all three and spend a few hours there. We've actually done a "progressive picnic" there...had an "appetizer" (apples & grapes) at one, the "main course" (PB&J!) at the next, and dessert (almost always oreos) at the third playground. Two of the three have old wooden bench swings that are nostalgic and lovely, and there are enormous cottonwoods that are perfect for picnicking under.
Near the Bluemont Lakes area in south Fargo is also Woodbury Park, which my kids named "Bumpy Bridge Park" years ago, because there is, in fact, a wooden bumpy bridge that they used to love to jump on. This was a long-time favorite when all my kids were preschool age. There are fun paths and gazebos here that make great picnicking, but no bathrooms. And way south, there's a new park in the Deer Creek neighborhood that is really great. For those with little kids who love the steering wheels on playgrounds, this park has 3-4 steering wheels...so no fighting over them! Brilliant. Also, the NDSU Horticulture Gardens on 12th Ave N, though not a park per se, is a delightful picnic destination. Go before August so the lilies are still in bloom!
Of course no list of Fargo parks can be complete without Island Park too - the double high playground is genius and my eldest son runs miles here chasing squirrels. However, the childcare crowds and terrible mosquitoes keep us away most of the summer. And for those bummed that Buffalo River may not open this summer, some of our best times there have been swimming in the river, not the man-made lake, and the river is always open! Also, not much further than Buffalo River, you can spend the day at the beautiful public beaches in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, or Maplewood State Park.
For Moms of little kids, if you're overwhelmed taking your babies and toddlers to the big crowded city pools, the shallow wading pools in Moorhead will be your best friend this summer. They are free! And, open from 1-7pm, which is so much easier to work with when you have afternoon nappers. The depth ranges from like 18 inches-3 feet, and floaties are allowed. It's a win on every level! Our favorite was the one just a couple blocks west of 8th street on 38th ave (you turn west at Casey's along 8th street). The playground there is fabulous too...shady with big trees and also bathrooms. We have spent hundreds of summer afternoons there, and truth be told, we all kind of miss it now that we've "moved on" to the big pools.
So there you have it. Our favorite parks. These are the places that make up our summer days. The places we play, bike to, picnic, and lay in the grass looking at cloud shapes. The places we enjoy each other most...because everyone seems to be in better moods when we are outdoors. And like I wrote about in Ten Summer Sanity Savers, keep your picnics simple. A pack of buns, a jar of PB, a knife, a bag of chips or pretzels and some water bottles is usually sufficient. Or you can simplify even more and just have granola bars and string cheese for lunch.
Just enjoy, lay under a cottonwood, swing high, and rejoice in the sunshine with your kids.
I'll see you at the park!