Peterson Park in Vernon Hills is a neighborhood park surrounded on three sides by walking paths that weave adjacent to neighboring homes. It’s hidden far back from any streets, and surrounded by large playing fields and open areas. But despite being tucked away, the park is always bustling with kids, and the fields are busy with soccer practice, baseball, camps, school children and adult athletes.
Peterson Park is an idyllic location for a lazy afternoon picnic. We first discovered the park during soccer season, when my son was assigned to soccer practice here. But it was quite an adventure to actually find the park! To the south of the park is Hawthorn Parkway, a fairly busy road, directly across from the Hawthorn District 73 North Campus. You can park on Hawthorn Parkway and walk about 300 feet north (past the baseball fields and tennis courts) to the playground, but be aware that there are parking restrictions during school hours, and between certain signs. To the north, you can park on Greenleaf Drive and access the park by traveling the path marked with a Peterson Park sign. Once you figure out how to get there (a stroller, wagon or scooter might help, although I find most ages to be capable of the walk), the park is sure to please the entire family. With it’s wide open spaces, sports courts, a diverse selection of playground equipment, full restroom facilities near the playground and shady areas with benches, we love Peterson Park.
Peterson Park was recently renovated, adding new and unusual play features, such as a rocket climbing structure, a maze play table and playground drums. The rocket climbing structure is located in the toddler play area, but I would still consider it a bit advanced, with small ledges to climb up to, so make sure to stay close to toddlers if they climb.
The older children’s play area was revamped in spring of 2017, with bright colorful climbing walls and structures, webs and slides. It’s the perfect obstacle course for your little ninja warrior. It features bright colors and equipment with interesting angles and different challenges to climb and conquer.
But by far, the most interesting new item added is the expression swing, which allows an adult or an older child to swing together with a baby or toddler in a baby seat, facing each other. My four year old could still fit in the baby seat, and we had a blast swinging and facing each other. I found swinging along with my child much more fun than just pushing a swing, and it creates a fantastic interaction with your child. The baby swing can go fairly high, and my twins both laughed hysterically and felt their tummies drop (in a good way) when it was their turn.
A longstanding favorite at the park is the train play area. It’s a rainbow colored train structure that kids can go inside with benches to sit on, or climb up on top. The train is an imagination play hot spot, with pretend trips to destinations leaving all day long. The rest of the park was replaced and renovated over the past year, but the train, thankfully, was left intact. If you have a train lover, this park is not to be missed.
The park also features three more baby swings, a few regular swings and two handicap-accessible swings. It is nestled among some older trees, creating lots of shady spots, with benches set up for adult caregivers. There is a shaded pavilion with picnic tables attached to full restroom facilities very close to the playground area.
Despite the initial challenge of finding Cynthia T. Peterson Park, it’s a fantastic spot to spend some quality time with your children. I especially recommend the park to parents of toddlers and preschoolers, due to the expression swing, the train play area and the construction digging pit. This park hands-down provides hours of shaded fun.
To get a real life view of Peterson Park, you can check out the video footage shot by drone of the park (pre-2016 renovations) at the park district website.
Cynthia T. Peterson Park
200 Hawthorn Parkway, Vernon Hills