There’s something so refreshingly retro about a true neighborhood park, tucked behind houses along a quiet tree-lined street. We don’t seem to have as many of these parks in the suburbs anymore, now that many towns have traded trees for townhomes (cue Joni Mitchell singing “Big Yellow Taxi”). But I’m happy to report that a great hidden gem still exists in Libertyville, located along the Des Plaines River, near the Des Plaines River trail: Riverside Park.
There is nothing fancy about this park–I mean even the name is straightforward–and that’s what makes it so special. The Pirate Park, as many call it, has a small pirate-themed play structure with slides, a climbing rope, and a fireman-type pole. The playground also has a sandbox for digging, some fun spring rockers, two baby swings, and two big-kid swings. The size of the playground works great for small kids, and it’s easy for parents and caretakers to see where their kids are playing, which is a huge plus.
To the north of the playground is a canoe launch, and to the south is a large field and two baseball diamonds, perfect for running and galloping (wear those kids out!). Many local teams practice here during the evenings (my three girls are great spectators), and there are two parking lots, one off of Riverside Drive and another to the south off of Valley Park Drive. The park also connects to the old Libertyville Golf Course (once a par 3 run by the village), tennis courts, and Riverside Pool, Libertyville’s “quiet” public pool (as there is no kiddie pool, diving board or water slide). Many residents have dubbed it “The Neighborhood Country Club” because of its picturesque setting along the river, with a pond and lots of trees.
The only downside to a trip to Riverside Park is that there are no restrooms at the playground; however, you’ll find restrooms a five-minute walk away at the Riverside Pool Clubhouse during pool hours (mid-June through mid-August, 12:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.).
So pack a picnic basket, grab a blanket, and don’t forget your baseball and mitts! Head to the beautiful riverfront where you can do a lot more than canoe and fish with your kids. The 36-acres at Riverside Park will hopefully take you back to the simple days and give you and your kids a chance to connect with nature, all while sliding, swinging, running and climbing.
700 Riverside Drive, Libertyville
What is your favorite thing to do at Riverside Park?
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