CHUTES AND LADDERS PARK
Chutes and Ladders Park outdoor play area is part of Bloomington’s Hyland Lake Park Reserve in the Three Rivers Park District. Well worth the drive, this enormous, free-of-charge, fenced-in playground has something to offer for every age group. The sheer size always causes my kids’ jaws to drop when we pull into the parking lot. I usually lose a kid or two per visit, but there’s only one exit, and that, my friends, is relieving. This place is fun for all ages, but especially for the independent preschooler or grade-schooler who has some “vivaciousness” to burn. If your kids are anything like mine, they would appreciate if you brought them a friend to hang with too. Because really, this place can feel overwhelming to anyone with eyes.
What is it?
Chutes and Ladders Park has won awards for its creativity and ingenuity. Their slides range for 4 to 50 feet long, so there really is something for everybody. There is sand, wood chips, rubber ground, a huge grassy field, wooden climbing steps, a couple small rock walls, rope climbs, and nets for all sizes, so getting from A to B here never really needs to be duplicated. It’s amazing, really. I’m a big fan of the play set in the upper right section (it’s new), because the equipment is open and ranges in difficulty for both my two and four-year olds. There are ramps, and a lot of the park is handicap accessible as well. Built in the Hyland Lake Park District, this play area is set back in the woods so the surroundings are simply gorgeous. Bring a coffee and a scone, pick your kids’ jaws up off the ground, and grab a bench to relax and watch the wild ones run. Or, get your butt up there too and work off that scone. Either way, it’s a trip!
Fit for what ages?
The nice part about this park is that it is separated quite nicely by age group. Upon entering, you will see the toddler park, intended for ages 0-5. Only downside: it’s all sand. Babies might eat it and toddlers might throw it, but if you’re cool with sand, this is a pretty nice mini set for little ones who would get lost in the bigger sets. There are tire swings, but no “real” swings (which, to me, is quite the relief. I’ve pushed more swings in my lifetime than I can count on 12 million hands). For kids a tiny bit older, there is a mid-range playset next to the umbrellas and picnic tables that has a bridge and a couple of smaller slides for littler butts. It’s easy to climb, and it is the current favorite of my 2 year old. For bigger, more independent kids, the rest of this place is their oyster. There is a rope climbing structure that sits atop the hill, and slides that start at the top level and end on the lower level. The tunnels and climbing structures are pretty easy to navigate and there are plenty of ways to get down. The only part I struggle with is finding my kids at the end of the day. Keep an eye on ’em, especially the small ones (see my tips below). I’d say a majority of this park favors kids 5+.
How much are we talkin?
Free. Free parking. Free admission. A beautiful free scenic drive through the Hyland Lake Park District. A free dog park across the street. Free hiking trails surrounding it. Free bathrooms. Just a whole lotta free. Can’t beat that!
Want some tips?
Ahhhh, weekends! A sunny weekend day here will probably raise your anxiety levels through the roof if you have smaller kids. I’ve been here a couple times during the busiest of busy times and it is truly amazing how easy it really is to lose a child in this jungle gym. So, if your kids are independent and/or have a playmate with them, this is the place for you regardless of the chaos level. If you have kids like mine who constantly yell “Mom!?” or “Help!” or “Where ARE you?” from a dark tube in the sky, or get teary-eyed when they can’t find you when they exit the slide, maybe avoid the busy times here. I advise really early mornings or lunch hour on a weekday. Unless there is a field trip of some sort (which there often is), you will find this experience much more enjoyable. I advise having a game plan for when to meet and where, or just make a meeting spot for if (when) you lose sight of one another.
Do not bring anything of value into the climbing structure. I’ve lost cell phones, quarters, and kids shoes up there and had to retrace my steps hoping no kid grabbed ’em and ran. One time my phone was halfway down a curly tube slide. You can imagine how much fun that was, reaching both hands out in the dark and blindly hoping for the best. Just be careful and bring something to store your stuff, or leave it in your locked vehicle.
Bring a lunch. There are some nice picnic tables with shade umbrellas. There is also a huge grassy field outside the fenced play area that offers a nice location for picnics, kite-flying, or Frisbee. There is a restroom inside the building, which is open to the public anytime, as well as water fountains. On busy, warm days they also have a concession stand with real food, snacks and drinks inside the building (and let’s not forget about the glory of indoor air conditioning available on hot weekends). There are no lockers available outside, so find a way to lock your goods up securely, or just leave them at home.
Parking is relatively limited, but there is some overflow parking a bit down the road and it’s all free. Wear tennis shoes. Make your kids wear tennis shoes. Avoid flip-flops and a skirt. Trust me on this one.
Hours and Location
10145 Bush Lake Rd. | Bloomington, MN 55438
Chutes and Ladders Park play area is open April through October (weather permitting). The park opens at 9am and closes with the sunset. Take a few extra minutes to drive Bush Lake Road to see all the other accommodations Hyland Lake Park offers, including hiking trails, a ski hill, a nature center, a dog park, fishing and boat rentals, disc golf and so much more. Check out the Hyland Lake Park website here. The Richardson Nature Center offers a ton of pretty awesome programs for kids year-round. I highly advise checking out their events.