Tucked just steps from the bustling shopping district in Vernon Hills is the hidden treasure of Vernon Hills Park District’s Deerpath Park. And, the crown jewel of the park has long been the Vernon Hills Kids Castle. Originally constructed in 1997, the castle was a labor of love created by local residents, who fundraised and volunteered time to see the project come to completion. Volunteers, including children, helped design and build the castle and make it a truly special place. Unfortunately, after twenty years, the wooden structure had suffered enough natural wear and tear that it was beyond repair. The park district needed to remove the entire playground, and replace it with a new Kids Castle. The park district honored the special history of the park by including community volunteers once again, allowing them to vote in the planning, assist in the demolition of the old equipment and donate time in assembling new fences, benches and landscaping. On July 10th, the new Kids Castle playground was dedicated to a crowd of more than 300 with a ribbon cutting ceremony and free ice cream.
Since it’s opening a few days ago, my family has already been to the new Kids Castle three times. And every time we go, it’s always busy with happy kids. The park features a large climbing structure with two story slides accessed by a ladder inside a castle like tower, designed for kids ages 5-12. A climbing wall structure which can be accessed by a step-like, log wall is connected to the castle tower by a rope bridge, which doesn’t have any openings for kids to fall through, even though it kind of looks that way from below. There is also a more advanced rock wall area that leads up this lower tower.
A tunnel bridge connects the climbing structure to the tot-sized equipment. An enclosed tower has windows and slides coming off of it, along with a ground level bench with adorable acorn shaped seats, perfect for little kids. The tot area is together with the rest of the playground, so parents of little ones may find themselves zooming behind them on the larger equipment, but even the areas intended for older children are fairly well enclosed without many areas that would be considered fall concerns.
The ground is covered in a soft, foamy like rubber, which has been painted to look like land, with a moat surrounding the main castle structure. It is very cushiony, and has no wood chips or pellets to get stuck in shoes or attract bugs. As of the ground opening of the park, it was not fenced, but there will be a fence added in the near future.
In addition to the mammoth castle-themed playground structure, the Kids Castle playground has other fun and unique playground equipment. An informal poll of kids playing revealed that the approximately 50-foot zip line that zooms the width of the park is one of the most popular spots. My kids also loved the new and improved merry-go-round equipment. It looks like an inverted brown mushroom, which has four seats, but about 5-6 kids can fit inside. One or two kids take turns spinning it around and around, while the other kids just go for a ride. I literally had to drag all four of my kids out of it. There is also a large round swing that can fit two kids sitting our laying down on, that must be pushed by someone else, and was very popular. There are four traditional swings, two handicap-accessible swings and two baby swings at the park. There are also hidden caves, a log tunnel, large rope webbed climbing structures, a teeter totter built for four riders, and more.
When planning a trip to Kids Castle, bring your sunscreen. There is some shade for the kids inside the castle structure, or in the hidden caves, but the playground itself is not shaded, nor does it have any larger shade screens. There are plenty of park benches and picnic tables, but again, they are not in the shade, so parents and kids both need to prepare for sun. In addition, the park is a bit of a walk from the parking area. If you are bringing younger kids, a stroller or a wagon might be a good idea. The walk is about 500 feet, and it may be hard to get exhausted kiddies to make the walk back to the car after a fun filled day at the Kids Castle. There is a portapotty immediately adjacent to the Kids Castle, but again, you’ll have to walk the path back towards the parking lot if you would like full restroom facilities.
The new Kids Castle in Deerpath Park is a fantastic play area for kids of all ages. It has been built with consideration of its historic past within the community, but looking to the future, to ensure its safe, and inclusive of children of all abilities. The castle theme is alive and well, and will encourage kids to spend hours playing knights versus dragons, princess and kings. The zip line and large slides keep the older kids happy, and the tunnels and caves are fun for the smallest kids. The idyllic setting within Deerpath Park makes it a great spot to spend a day, walking the paths, enjoying the nature of the nearby ponds and of course, playing at the park.
299 Onwentsia Road, Vernon Hills
Join us when we go wild with Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital on The Little Lake County Playground Safari! Our next outpost for adventure is Kids Castle on Wednesday, July 27, 2016; 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. For more information and to register visit our Outpost #4 Announcement.
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