Sunset Woods is located on 38 acres of wooded land, and within a short drive from downtown Highland Park. It is truly a gem of a park! With four separate play areas for children, and amazing natural vistas, there is something for everyone to do or enjoy here. But be forewarned—if you have children of different ages, you may need an extra person to help watch the kids as this park is huge, and the playgrounds are separated by large expanses. But even with that caveat, the park is a wonderful and unique mix of family-friendly natural areas, playgrounds, paved pathways and sports areas.
The park is interspersed with lush green grass and mature trees. There is plenty of space for a picturesque picnic on the lawn, as well as many areas to run and play among the trees. I could easily see a game of hide and seek popping up here, or children playing tag or catch, or just running freely about the area. Paved walking paths run throughout the park and follow the natural hills and valleys of the terrain, and there are several areas of natural habitats clearly marked within the park. In fact, eight acres of the park are designated as a natural areas, not to be disturbed.
There are four distinct play areas available for children in this park, geared to different ages. The tot playground, which is completely fenced in, consists of a pirate-themed ship with various areas to explore. There is also a sandy area with a sand table structure within the tot playground. A brick knee-wall surrounds the sandy area, which is convenient for supervising young builders.
Preschoolers and younger elementary school-aged children have two options for play structures. One area is a giant rocket ship climbing structure with two attached slides to navigate down and into to explore. The rocket ship also has an attached activity area that is handicapped accessible. Another structure is a set of completely enclosed round pods, accessible by small stairs with slides and climbing apparatuses perfectly sized for younger preschool kids. The pods have peek-a-boo windows for the children to look out of while playing. There are also swings nearby.
Both preschool and younger elementary kids will enjoy the two-level Petrified Park area, designed to look like an archaeological dig. Here kids can follow ancient footprints, climb onto a T-Rex, journey through a dinosaur rib cage, and search for buried fossils. This area is recommended for children ages 2 to 5.
For elementary school-age kids, Sunset Woods features an Adventure Tree House experience with a long list of fun amenities. This area includes a rope bridge, boulder climber, mushroom steppers, net tunnels and a suspension bridge. The central tree house is two stories tall, providing great views of the park, and there are so many interesting things to climb upon and move onto in this area. For older kids proficient in skateboarding, there is a skate park located at the outer edge of the park, complete with plenty of inclines and half-pipes to keep busy.
Dining alfresco is definitely an option here; there are several areas with picnic benches and shelters. There are also many seating areas within the park to sit and enjoy the beautiful green expanses and natural views. Bring sure to bring plenty of snacks and drinks for the kids; they will get hungry and thirsty running to and from and among all of the attractions at this park. Restrooms are located inside of the park district building, but accessible though a separate, outside entrance.
A little advance planning will make this park visit even more memorable. Pack outdoor games, a football, baseball equipment or tennis rackets and balls, and set the children free on a full size court or field of their choice, or simply bring along a ball or Frisbee to toss about on the lawn. A stroller or carrier is a must for babies or younger children, and scooters and bicycles will glide smoothly on the paved paths and offer additional adventure when traveling between areas of the park. A wagon might also be a great item to bring with if you are planning to stay to picnic and play all day. There is also plenty of nature to encounter at Sunset Woods, so be sure to pack along a pair of binoculars to observe the red tailed hawks, bluebirds, various songbirds, squirrels and opossums that are native to our Lake County areas.
And don’t forget to bring a book for the Little Free Library box at the park.
Overall, Sunset Woods is an incredible park that has play structures and activities that will appeal to families with children of all ages. The park is also conveniently located close to local restaurants and shops in downtown Highland Park, which are only a short drive away. There are many options in the downtown area to pick up food for a picnic lunch or to have a snack after your park visit, or even to take a mid-afternoon break from play. Whatever you decide to do, put this park on your must-visit list for the year. This park will not disappoint even the pickiest of park-goers.
Sunset Woods Park
1801 Sunset Road | Highland Park, IL 60035
Have you been to Sunset Woods Park in Highland Park? Let us know how your visit went in the comments below.