Open Annually Mid-June Through Early August
Huntington Beach, Ca--One of the best kept secrets and most enjoyable things to do this Summer is ride on rafts, go down a mud slide, build treehouses, walk across a mud lake on a rope bridge and much more at the very exciting, old fashioned HB Adventure Playground, hidden in a 3 1/2-acre section of Central Park, east of the HB Library (off Talbert and Golden West). You'll know where it is when you hear all the shouts of glee by the kids (and adults) having the time of their lives.
Adventure Playground -Central Park
7111 Talbert Ave. Huntington Beach
HB is one of the few such playgrounds in
the state, supervised by a city Community Services Department. It has rules like
"No Running," "You must wear closed-toe tennis shoes (or stronger) covering the
entire foot" and "Don't Throw Things." But it's really a great place for kids to
learn skills like carpentry (they provide hammers, nails, boards and other
equipment); balance (walking across a rope bridge); responsibility (putting
borrowed tools back) and getting along with other rafters on the 50-foot pond.
It's also a wonderful anti-stress place to forget problems, step back in time
and focus on fun.
"The suggested age for adventures is 5 to 12 but we don't turn anyone away due to age," said Mark Hoxie, the friendly, longtime Program Coordinator for Huntington Beach Community Services. "If they're under 8, they must have an adult with them. Adults can do anything the kids can do as long as they follow the rules."
(Talk about fun, I recall playing Huck Finn atop a raft with my 7-year-old son years ago. We also loved building things up in a treehouse.)
Parents can picnic in the shade of pepper and pine trees. The place has a shower, change rooms for boys and girls and portable toilets. They even have dozens of pairs of old tennis shoes, left by other kids, that you can borrow if you don't have tennis shoes with you. (My first sight of them reminded me of all the shoes in a bowling alley.)
Mark and his carefully chosen staff of college kids keep a close eye on the adventurers. Some have bullhorns to reinforce the "do's and don'ts" and to tell about when the mudslide is open for riding down the hill or when rafters need to come to shore.
Families or groups of less than 10 children do not need to make reservations. Groups of 10 or more and birthday parties must make reservations (714-842-7442). Due to space limitations, tables can only be reserved for Saturday parties and only one table per party. (What a memorable place to have a party!)
You can bring your own lunch but they do sell a variety of snacks, juice, cookies and candy for a small fee. You can even buy an inexpensive camera there to catch all the fun. Bring extra clothes, shoes, a towel and bag since the kids will get dirty. Beach chairs and blankets are recommended for adults, who want to watch but their participation is recommended.
"We'd also like any wood donations--2x4s or 4x4s, plywood, pallets or anything else the kids can use to build treehouses," Mark said.
Fees: $3 per child but adults are free.
Directions: From the 405, exit Beach Boulevard South. Travel about 2 miles and turn right on Talbert. About 1/2 mile ahead, enter the HB Central Library Parking Lot and park on the right near the tall trees. Follow the footpath into the park, and head up the hill to the right at the fork. The unique playground, open annually, is at the top of the hill.
Have fun! And if you live in the Bay Area, be sure to check out the Berkeley Adventure Playground (ci.berkeley.ca.us) open through August 17, 2012. A new Adventure Playground is awaiting approval in Irvine but isn't expected to open till 2013. For adults, mud adventures (mudandadventure.com) take place in San Jose, Patterson, Sacramento, San Francisco, Del Mar and other cities throughout California.