Planning your next preschooler playdate? Consider the newly renovated playground at Kent’s Chestnut Ridge Park. Tucked behind an elementary school, this new playground maybe isn’t as splashy as some, but it has all the amenities you need for a fun neighborhood meet-up with friends.
My 3-year-old playground tester and I headed over to check it out, and spent a leisurely morning enjoying all the park has to offer. Here’s what we found:
Reach for the sky
At first glance, the new play equipment doesn’t look especially tot-friendly — in fact, the sign lists the structure as designed for kids ages 5–12. We saw a couple of lower staircases leading to a double slide, but the main attraction is clearly the tall central tower. This feature is accessible only by climbing up through a series of angled platform discs.
Note to self: Never underestimate the determination of a preschooler. Rather than shy away from the tower, my son barreled through a net tunnel before hauling himself up to the top and racing a new friend down the dual slide.
To be clear, this is the same kid who tells me he’s tired if I make him walk up the hill from our house. Later, I saw even younger kids successfully navigate the maze with minimal coaching from their parents.
With a brief interlude to twirl each other on the spinner, the boys kept at their climbing games long enough for me to research our afternoon snack stop. Proof that kids don’t need fancy features to have fun.
Most of the playground is set on a surface of wood chips, but cushy mats rest under the new swing bank. In community input sessions for planning the new playground, swings were the most requested equipment, and the park now features four of them: two belt swings and two toddler bucket swings.
And while the park’s valley views are great, my son thought the best morning view was of the garbage trucks circulating through the neighborhood, which he spotted from his swing perch.
Stroll past functional art
While enjoying the swings, we spotted some of Scott Trimble’s park-inspired art across the lawn and headed over to check it out. Intentionally dual-purpose, two sets of curvy wooden sculptures function as bench seating and as playful climbers.
Choose from nesting-doll-style tunnels along the bottom walking path or cascading waterfalls at the top edge of the park. Previous visitors had creatively used sidewalk chalk to turn the tunnel-shaped sculpture into a playhouse, which made it extra fun for my son to play on.
The trees and plantings at Chestnut Ridge Park are generally confined to the perimeter, which means there won’t be much shade on hot summer days. But this does allow clear sightlines from one end of the park to the other. If you’re supervising multiple kids, you should be able to kick a ball around on the grass with one child while keeping an eye on the other one on the playground.
One thing that didn’t change about the park was the excellent picnic shelter. Shaped like a red barn (complete with a delivery truck weathervane on top), it covers six picnic tables and offers two grills, making it a perfect spot to pause for a playdate snack or to host an afternoon barbecue.
There are also two family restrooms on the other side of the building, so you won’t need to run home when the need arises.
Lace up your walking shoes
During our weekday morning visit, most of the traffic consisted of friendly neighbors walking their dogs around the perimeter. If you want to extend your park outing, bring a scooter or bike to ride around the quarter-mile paved loop.
When the city of Kent polled residents about their use of this park, 65 percent of respondents said they lived within a mile of the park and most typically walk over. It’s no surprise, then, that there are only 4 standard parking spots in the tiny lot. If the lot is full, you’ll find street parking available on the adjacent hill, but please don’t be the person who parked against the red curb and blocked the sole accessible spot.
All that climbing worked up an appetite! We headed out in search of our afternoon snack just as a darling group of toddlers and their parents turned up for their playdate. Their first stop? The tall tower, of course.
If you go…
Find it: Chestnut Ridge Park is located at 9901 S. 203rd St. in Kent (just past Springbrook Elementary — make sure you don’t park in the school’s lot). This park is roughly a 25-minute drive from Seattle, Bellevue or Tacoma.
Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk
Parking and facilities: Arrive early to park in the lot that has just four standard spots and one accessible spot, or find street parking nearby. There are two family restrooms near the lot as well as a water fountain. A picnic shelter features six tables and two grills.
Snack time: A friend gave us a solid recommendation for Paparepas, a Venezuelan take-out restaurant where the shredded beef arepa is juicy and tender. Macrina Bakery has a Kent location if your tastes tend towards sweet rather than savory.
More new playgrounds to explore: