Playgrounds: Fantasy Playground in Lake Ridge
Nestled on the corner of Hedges Run and Cotton Mill Drives in Lake Ridge, just behind the community center and pool, is Fantasy Playground. This giant wooden play area features balance components, slides, a sandbox, 4 baby and 4 regular swings, a tire swing, covered picnic area, tunnels, and rocks. Lots of tiny pea-sized gravel rocks.
My children absolutely adore this playground. They think that it is, quite possibly, the coolest place in our immediate area. If I drive the wrong way to Starbucks on a nice day all I hear is a loud wail from the backseat about going to Fantasy Playground.
It's not that I don't love going to the playground, because I do. I'll hit Lake Ridge Park, neighborhoods, heck, we sit at the school playground for about an hour a day on nice afternoons (and some not-so-warm ones where I just can't go back home yet) and sometimes longer. Also, I know a lot of people think that Fantasy is Fantastic.
(Oh hi, readers. Just a fair warning: If you're an adherent of Lenore Skenazy you should probably save us both the trouble and stop reading this post now. Still reading? Because I warned you....)
I loathe Fantasy Playground. Everything about it. I don't like the tiny gravel that ALWAYS gets in my shoes. I don't like the sandbox, because I'm convinced that 1/2 the western world's squirrels (and small children who are potty training) have ahem, well, utilized it as other than a sand box. Most of all, though, (seriously stop here Skenazy disciples) I hate that this park has terrible visibility and ramps on the play area that dump into the parking lot. I have 3 children that run on 3 different speeds. "I'm on Speed", "Buddha meditating under a tree", and "PUSH THE SWING MOMMA!!!". These three speeds are not conducive to being at this playground and being mindful of my kids. That being said, if you're okay with not being able to see both of your children at once (which I would be if it was just "I'm on Speed" and one other one, since "I'm on Speed" is old enough that I am confident in his skillz without me, but I have 2 that I need to watch) then you'll probably love it here.
Pros: Large, elaborate space, well-maintained by the LRPRA and re-stained yearly. This playground has lots to do and groups can enjoy the picnic area covered by shade.
Cons: Rocks are fun to throw, apparently. Also, there's limited visibility across the playground so if you have one on the swing you can't see your other one on the slide. Middle schoolers tend to congregate here for some reason when school is out in my experience, so if you're not comfortable reminding preteens that they can't curse on the playground (which I find to be rather fun, actually) be sure to tell your children to earmuff it if there's a group of them.
Caution: If the pool is not open, there is not a nearby bathroom or porta potty. Even if the pool is open, the lifeguard on duty may or may not let you use it if you don't have your pool pass. Even if they will, it's a close call for children who are still in the "when I say I need to go potty right now, I actually mean I needed to go 10 minutes ago and now I REALLY NEED TO GO RIGHT NOW!!" phase. Also, if you have a daredevil, there is a portion of the playground that has a hole in it down to a tire seat below. An easy jump for an elementary kid, I've seen a few toddlers not fare quite so well with it.
Recommended for: This is a toughie. There's no label on this one like there is in Montclair ;) I would say that despite the presence of baby swings and smaller slides/sandbox for younger children, the BEST time on this playground is had by the elementary set.