Vernon Hills is widely known for its shopping malls and fast-casual restaurants; but, what is widely overlooked is the acres of beautiful parks and trails maintained by the Vernon Hills Park District. Century Park is the largest park in the village, encompassing 113 acres of land and water, just to the west of Westfield Hawthorn Mall.
Century Park, Vernon Hills
Century Park is anchored by Big and Little Bear Lakes and includes baseball fields, basketball courts, sled hills, an ice rink, a volleyball court, exercise stations, and a very popular cricket pitch. In addition, there are baggo, horseshoe, and bocce courts. Rounding out the park are miles of paths, fishing piers, and two play areas.
The playground consists of two large play structures, four slides, two baby swings, two regular swings, and a great tire swing. There is a larger play structure designed for older kids, with two tall slides, some climbing ladders, a rock wall, and a large high enclosed platform with a bench. The tot structure has two small slides and an enclosed bridge. Although tall, the larger play area is relatively easy for even the younger kids to navigate without too much stress.
In 2011, the park district added an additional play area, including an exciting zip line designed for kids age 5 and older. The zip line is a highlight for the older kids, that ends with a little bump. Near the zipline, there is also a large climbing web and some balance structures.
Both play areas are pretty shaded and set far from any roads. The primary playground has a Port-a-John next to it and a parking lot. There are large fields with little hills that my kids love to run and roll down. There is a very nice new pavilion building closer to the zipline play area, about a quarter of a mile around the main playground’s path, with drinking fountains and clean, indoor bathrooms. There is also a parking lot near the pavilion, which is at the bottom of the sled hill. You will often see people walking or running the sled hill for fitness, and my kids typically want to run up and down it at least once when we visit the park. It’s a great workout for everybody and offers a panoramic view of the park from the top.
When I’m bringing my family to Century Park, I always bring my stroller, as it’s a large park, and the play areas are spread out a bit. My older kids like to bring bikes or scooters and explore the lake while enjoying the small hills on the path that let them zoom around. My little guys are usually happy to relax in the stroller and check out the beautiful scenery while I walk or run around the lake before we get out to play, allowing for exercise and playtime all in one trip.
We also usually bring some old bread to the park, as there is a bridge area where the ducks congregate and are always looking for food. Finally, I bring some cars or trucks along, as the baggo ramps have proven to be a great ramp for our toy cars, keeping my toddlers busy for a good half hour racing their vehicles around.
Century Park has three main parking areas. If you want to park close to the playground, I would recommend the parking lot on Lakeview, farther north of Hawthorn Parkway, very close to the railroad tracks. You will see two parking lots on Lakeview Parkway, one that is quite obvious near Hawthorn Parkway (with a restroom and access to the lake for fishing but far from the playground,) and the one I recommend which is farther north. The sign for this entrance can be hard to spot so keep your eyes open. If going north, the lot is on your left, right BEFORE the railroad tracks, so if you pass them you know you have gone too far. The third lot is located at the end of Indianwood and gives you access to the pavilion building and the sled hill.
The picturesque lake, acres of open space, and great play area make Century Park a great stop for families with children of all ages.
Amenities: 2 play structures, 4 slides, baby swings, tire swing, zipline, climbing web, 2 lakes, 3 ball fields, 11 picnic shelters, 2.7 miles of walking/bike paths, 2 basketball courts 2 playgrounds, volleyball court,6 barbecue grills Exercise stations/area Open field/play area
Shade: Full to moderate
Restrooms: 2 buildings and portable
Ground Cover: Wood Chips
Good for: All ages
1002 Lakeview Pkwy, Vernon Hills, IL 60061
North of Route 60, between Butterfield Road and Lakeview Parkway