ELM CREEK PARK RESERVE
MAPLE GROVE, MN
Want an outdoor adventure that I promise you won’t regret? Take a few hours on a sunny Sunday and introduce your kid to Elm Creek Park Reserve and the outdoor play area. We drive the 25 minutes to Elm Creek just to take our pup to their off-leash dog park, but now that both our kids are old enough to climb and slide without too much fear, we always squeeze in a stop to their play area. It’s huge in size, great in age variance and was obviously built with safety in mind. Even I enjoy partaking in some of the play structures (like the rope climb spinner and weird rectangular zip line). This place is worth the drive because it’s so much more than just the play area; it also has a very clean swimming beach, disc golf, and a long, smoothly-paved bike trail. You’re bound to get sweaty and sandy, but man, is it worth it.
What is it?
Elm Creek Park Reserve Play Area opened in 2011 as part of the Three Rivers Park District. It still looks new and is super well-maintained. The play area is along the same path as the swimming pond, and is incredibly easy to find thanks to the colorful umbrellas and rubber mats. The park is truly enormous, offering a special toddler area, a sand pit, a tall climbing structure, rope climbs, slides, saucer swings, and some very modern-day equipment, including a skateboard rocker and a weird seated-zip-line thingy that makes your neck feel like you just stepped off of the Excalibur rollercoaster at Valleyfair. Youch! The play area gets busy, so don’t expect to just sit and rest, but if you come on a slower day, there is plenty of seating to do so should you have the chance. The setting is simply gorgeous with nature’s green and blue backdrop. Makes you feel a million miles from a main city. Metro, say whaaaat?
Fit for what ages?
The play area is really enjoyable for almost every age. I saw teenagers climbing the rock walls when I was last there, and I too enjoy a good spin on the rope swing, so when I say “almost every age,” I truly mean it. The playground on the lowest level is pretty toddler-specific, everything short to the ground, a tiny slide, and easy ways to get up and down. Next to that is a sand pit, decorated with a giant fossilized dinosaur, which is a fun spot for everyone but sand-eating babies. There are no swings except the saucer swings, but even my two-year old knew how to ride those without falling off. They were actually super fun (I wish my kids were old enough to push me). More advanced and adventurous children will enjoy the rope area, with a few tall climbers and a spinning rope concoction that makes me queasy just looking at it. Preschool and school-age kids will really like the bigger playground with longer slides, poles, and ladders. Basically – with this park – if you have a kid, they will have a blast!
How much are we talkin?
There is no fee to enter the Three Parks District parks, Elm Creek Park Reserve being no exception. There is a fee to go to the swimming pond ($4/person), but a season pass is only $12, so if you plan on frequenting it, get the pass. But, the play area is completely free. And is completely awesome. And your kids will completely sleep the complete way home. You’re completely welcome 🙂
Want some tips?
Weekends during the summer can be crazy busy here. Last time we went was a Sunday, and it was far less crowded than when we had gone on a Saturday, and the mornings were quieter than the afternoons. Weekdays can be quiet, but be warned of the field trip buses. They will attack in full force and there’s no escaping them! The equipment can get a little toasty if the weather is hot, so choose your day carefully. There are a number of benches, some shaded, some not, to rest your legs, and the whole play area is pretty stroller-friendly because of the rubber paths. There is a bathroom to the left of the play area, as well as one in the swimming pond area.
“No dogs allowed.” This was a stinker for us, since we often come straight from the dog park and I’m not about to leave my dog in the car on a hot summer day. Apparently, this section of the park is also a Deer Preservation Area, so pets are forbidden. Makes sense. Just an FYI.
I often bring food since there is a lot of grass, and to me, grass=picnic! Plus, it’s always good to reenergize midway through a play date. A change of clothes isn’t a terrible idea, in case kids get sandy. Tennis shoes are also much more climber-friendly than flip-flops. I always try to be a little hands-on when things get busy here, since some of the equipment is crowded (like the zip line), and forming a line can be necessary. I was “that mom” who organized the kids to prevent pushing, shoving, and cutting in line, but that also meant I was the mom who had to push them when they wanted to go faster or pull them when they got stuck. Meh. The bigger equipment is definitely made for bigger kids, so if you have a curious toddler, keep an eye out because it’s very easy for them to get scared midway up the rope web or fall on the rubber hills.
Lastly, if you have time, do plan for a swim at the chlorinated, man-made pond or hit up the bike trail. Both are beautiful and, just like the play area, incredibly well-maintained.
Hours and Location
12400 James Deane Parkway | Maple Grove, MN 55369
Elm Creek Park Reserve is open from 5am to 10pm. The play area has a sign that reads its hours as 6am to Sunset. The parking lot is huge and free. The park entrance is right off the highway, but you have to take a long curvy road to actually get to the back of the park where the play area is located. Follow the signs to the Recreation Area.
Follow Elm Creek Park on Facebook to see all things related to the beach, disc golf, tubing, trails, biking, hiking, plants, trees, birds, dog parks, skiing, and of course, the play area. Scheduled events and activities are also posted.