Lake County Forest Preserves with Playgrounds

I’m always on the lookout for a great place where I can walk my dogs, go running or walking, and where I can let my toddler run and play to burn off some energy. The great news is that there are nine forest preserves here in Lake County that offer all that and more! In fact, Lake County has some of the most beautiful forest preserves that I have seen since moving to Illinois. Here are the nine that have an actual playground:

1. Captain Daniel Wright Woods
24830 St. Mary’s Road | Mettawa, IL 60045 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

This is a very pretty area and the playground is located right off of the parking lot. A quiet and serene setting right beside a small lake, it is a perfect area for a nice family picnic. There are lots of picnic tables, walking trails and the restrooms are fairly close to the playground (right across the parking lot). The playground is not too toddler friendly though, as there are no baby swings and the slide was a little too big for my toddler to go on by herself.

J. Reedy | | 2015

{Editor’s Note: We featured Captain Daniel Wright Woods in our listing of “Best Spots for Outdoor Photos in Lake County“}

2. Greenbelt
1110 Green Bay Road | North Chicago, IL 60064 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

This preserve has a beautiful setting with plenty of hiking and walking trails, a one-mile self-guided nature trail, and is the home of the Greenbelt Cultural Center. There are picnic areas and parking located right next to the playground.

L. Thomas | | 2015
L. Thomas | | 2015

{Editor’s Note: We listed Greenbelt Forest Preserve in “Best Bike Trails in Lake County for Families“}

3. Half Day
24255 N Hwy 21 (Milwaukee Avenue) | Vernon Hills, IL 60060 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

I really liked how this playground has a smaller area that is more for younger kids. It also has baby swings as well as regular swings. There is a lot of open grassy space near the playground and areas for picnics. Restrooms and parking are located next to the playground area.

J. Reedy | | 2015
J. Reedy | | 2015

4. Hastings Lake
21155 W Gelden Road | Lake Villa, IL 60046 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

This is one of my favorite places to come to in my area. Not only does it have an awesome playground, but the trails are surround by a gorgeous lake. Having grown up on an island surrounded by beautiful beaches, I am naturally drawn to bodies of water! This is my go-to place when I want to go running and I have my daughter and our jogging stroller with me. The trails provide a smooth – jogging stroller friendly – ride and the scenery is amazing. After the run, we stop off at the playground and my daughter has a blast here. It has structures for kids of all ages; the only thing I wish it had was some shade.

J. Reedy | | 2015
J. Reedy | | 2015

{Editor’s Note: Check out our full profile on the playground at Hastings Lake Forest Preserve}

5. Heron Creek
22890 N. Old McHenry Road | Lake Zurich, IL 60047 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

This forest preserve has a really cool playground that is great for both toddlers and bigger kids! There is a lot do here, both at the playground and the walking trail. The playground has separate areas for younger and older kids, and is handicap accessible. Restrooms and parking are located near the playground area.

heron creek 2
J. Reedy | | 2015

{Editor’s Note: Check out our full profile on the playground at Heron Creek Forest Preserve}

6. Independence Grove
16400 West Buckley Road | Libertyville, IL 60048 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

If you are looking for a beautiful place to spend the day, or even just a couple hours, this is it. Independence Grove has a state-of-the-art playground, gorgeous trails, a lovely sandy beach to play on in the summer, and a lake to swim in. It also has its own visitors center, heated restrooms, loads of picnic areas and lots more.

Parking is free for Lake County residents; non-resident parking fees are $5 Monday through Thursday, and $10 Friday through Sunday, and on holidays. Pets are not permitted in the preserve but there is a dog park (entrance off of  Milwaukee Avenue; permit is required).

The beach, which costs extra, is open daily from 10 a.m – 6 p.m., unless otherwise posted. Children under two are free; beach fees are $4 for Lake County residents, and $7 for non-residents.  There are also options for annual passes; the current fee schedule can be found here.

{Editor’s Note: Check out our full profile on the playground at Independence Grove}

7. Lakewood
27277 Forest Preserve Road | Wauconda, IL 60084 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

This preserve has a great playground for kids of all ages and also has the Lake County Discovery Museum on site. There is ample parking right beside the playground as well as picnic areas and shelters. Restrooms are located nearby and there is a ton of open grassy areas. My daughter loves this playground!

J. Reedy | | 2015

{Editor’s Note: The playground at Lakewood Forest Preserve was featured in “Best Playgrounds for a Picnic Playdate“}

8. Old School
28285 St. Mary’s Road | Mettawa, IL 60048 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily

This is another one of my favorites: it is very peaceful and pretty at the playground that is surrounded by woods. There are lots of picnic tables, the bathrooms are nearby and nice grassy areas surround the playground. There was a family flying a kite while we were there and it just seemed like the perfect setting. They have both baby and regular swings here, so my toddler was thrilled. There are also plenty of pretty trails here through the woods to explore.

J. Reedy | | 2015
J. Reedy | | 2015

{Editor’s Note: We listed Old School Forest Preserve in  “Paved Trails in Lake County“}

9. Van Patten Woods
15838 West Route 173 | Wadsworth, IL 60083 | Open 6:30 a.m. to sunset, daily.

Am I ever glad I ventured out here, as this forest preserve is indeed one hidden gem! This is one place I will be coming to more often so I can explore it further. It is definitely worth the drive. The playground is on the small side and not as exciting as some of the ones at other preserves, but the setting is so pretty and the trails are amazing. There are bathrooms located on the other side of the parking lot from the playground, and I really like how there is shade at this playground. It is quiet and there is plenty of green space and picnic areas. My favorite part of the preserve, however, is a little ways away near the lake. There are picnic tables right next to the water and it is just such a gorgeous setting. Trails are all around this pretty lake. I can’t wait to go back so we can have a picnic there!

J. Reedy | | 2015
J. Reedy | | 2015
J. Reedy | | 2015
J. Reedy | | 2015

{Editor’s Note: We listed Greenbelt Forest Preserve in “Best Bike Trails in Lake County for Families“}

Additional Editor Recommendations with Attractions for Children:

L. Thomas | | 2015
L. Thomas | | 2015

Bonner Heritage Farm is part of the McDonald Woods Forest Preserve in Lindenhurst and has a play maze along with larger-than-life farming exhibits that are fun for preschoolers.  It shares a parking lot with Millennium Park which has a lovely playground which is maintained by the Lindenhurst Park District.

L. Thomas | | 2015
L. Thomas | | 2015

The Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods does not have a playground but it does have farm buildings with sheep, goats, and chickens to view.

L. Thomas | | 2015
L. Thomas | | 2015

Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest has a neighborhood playground that is adjacent to the property and is also home to Elawa Farm and the ever popular Wildlife Discovery Center.


What is your family’s favorite Lake County Forest Preserve with a playground?

About Jessica 26 Articles
Jessica is a Lake County transplant from Canada that loves to explore new places with her husband and daughter. A published author, avid crafter and exotic animal trainer she rarely as a dull (or quiet) moment.

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