When you want to play but aim to skip the mud, we’ve got a list of mostly mulch-free playgrounds in Champaign-Urbana
Many area playgrounds have moved to a mess-free surfacing safe for play; we break down what to expect at each one
We’ve all been there. The playground is all fun and games until we look over and the toddler has their shoes off and is playing in the sand. Or it has been raining for days and days and the weather FINALLY breaks and we just HAVE TO get outside… but everything is muddy and mucky and we just aren’t in the mood to trudge through it all.
Enter mess-free playgrounds in Champaign-Urbana! Rubberized surfacing makes play safe (and mess free) and you’ll find it on many of our playgrounds, with one important note: you will still find mulch under swingsets, so if you’re truly looking to avoid dirt 100%, know that you may still encounter it. Nonetheless, we are featuring the playgrounds that have *mostly* mulch-free playgrounds for you to enjoy this year!
What is rubberized surfacing? Durable, low-maintenance, comfortable to walk on and SAFE, this is a great alternative to traditional playground mulch. It is much easier to walk on for toddlers and when you fall down, you don’t have to dust yourself off or deal with splintery mulch. Rubberized playgrounds are also more accessible to those in wheelchairs.
Without further ado, our Champaign-Urbana area playgrounds that are mud-free.
2200 W. Kirby, Champaign (playground is located near entrance to Sholem Aquatic Center)
You may know this as the playground outside Sholem and Leonhard Recreation Center, but it’s not to be overlooked. You’ll find different areas of play for younger and older kids, some fun musical features and spots to spin to your (child’s) heart’s content. Note that this playground isn’t actually located on Kirby Ave., so drive around to where you’d enter the pool OR park in the Leonhard lot and you’ll see it there.
1311 W. Church, Champaign
Eisner is an all-inclusive playground, located right next to Hays Recreation Center/Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR). Anyone at any ability level will enjoy this park thanks to its thoughtful modifications. For example, the four-man teeter totter has bucket seating with lap belts rather than seats with no sides or belts. There are sensory stations throughout the play area and a unique rolling slide, too.
512 E. Grove, Champaign
You know Douglass as the playground with one of two splash pads in C-U, or the place with our community’s only fitness walking trail (for now, at least). It also has a mulch-free playground you can enjoy! We love the color features of this playground and climbers will really love this one. Visit any time of year, not just during splash pad season.
1401 Grandview Dr., Champaign
If not the largest, certainly one of the top three largest playgrounds in Champaign, Hessel Park has it all – literally. The home to the most recently updated splash pad in C-U, Hessel is a popular destination for play 365 days a year. Expansive play structures geared towards the “under 6 year old” crew and the “6 years and up” kids, it is easy to spend hours here when the weather cooperates. Know that Hessel has the rubberized play surface on the majority of its playground, but like the others, there’s mulch under the swings AND there’s a sand play area present here. So not entirely “mess free”, but we just couldn’t help but include it since it’s so large and *mostly* covered.
400 W. University, Champaign
This beautiful park is located right in the heart of downtown Champaign so it has more to offer than just great play space. You’ll find a FENCE around this playground, which parents of littles (or just kids of any age who like to run) will appreciate oh-so-much. Geared more for younger kids than the elementary-aged set, toddlers and preschoolers love West Side Park. In fact, we’ll call West Side Park a great “first park” to take your littles to, aside from the fact that parking is located a good distance from the playground, so don’t forget those strollers. (The swings — including an accessible swing — do have mulch underneath.)
Have a mess-free playground you think we should add? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
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