One of our favorite free things to do as a family is check out all the wonderful parks and playgrounds Lake County has to offer. Recently my sons and I met up with a friend who lives in Highwood and together we went to Sunset Woods Park in Highland Park. Sunset Woods Park is 38 acres, eight of which are designated natural areas consisting of Mesic Closed Savanna and ephemeral wetlands. Wildlife includes red-tailed hawks, grey squirrels, bluebirds, various songbirds, skunk and opossum. Also featured within the park grounds are: baseball fields, basketball courts, football fields, picnic areas, shelters, outdoor ice rink (winter), playgrounds for tot, preschool and elementary ages, skatepark, tennis courts, and a .9 mile paved walking path.
I was immediately impressed with how beautiful the grounds were and the many old enormous shade trees covering the playground and park areas. We first visited the fenced-in tot lot which featured a pirate-themed sand area with little slides and plenty of room for exploring in the sand. There was also a pirate ship for kids to climb on and plenty of infant and bigger kid swings. There was a small paved walking path around the perimeter of the play areas that my 17-month-old son amused himself with by taking many laps as his big brother played on the pirate ship.
After playing in the tot lot for a little while we ventured over to the next playground area which featured a spaceship theme. This area was really two playgrounds in one and had wood chips. The first play area had a small climbing structure that looked like a far-out spaceship. Accessible by climbing ladder-like steps, once inside there were various tunnels that led to other climbing areas within and small slides. I would say this area would be best for ages 3 and up.
Sharing the lot with the small bubble climbing structure was a much larger tower-like structure for bigger kids that featured lot of things to climb on. My 2.5 year old immediately wanted to climb to the top and explore and the only thing preventing me from having a total heart attack at seeing how high he was climbing was knowing there were no open spaces and every opening had bars to prevent the kids from falling off the structure.
Since I had my 17-month-old to keep in mind as well, we only played at this area for about 15 minutes before heading over to the last of the playground areas, which seemed more age appropriate for us. This last playground was themed The Treehouse and actually looked as if it was built into the trees. This was a very cool structure with lots of slides and ramps for curious little ones to walk around and explore. It was probably too big for my youngest to play on by himself but I walked behind him on the ramps while his older brother explored the rest of the structure. There were also climbing logs on the ground that cautioned real racoon’s might be sleeping inside!
Aside from the four designated playgrounds that my boys absolutely loved playing on, one of the things I really enjoyed about Sunset Woods Park were the little play areas away from the main playgrounds. For instance, there was a small sand area with two diggers and a large replica of a dinosaur skeleton that the kids could play on and use for pretend play. There were also plenty of areas to have a picnic (Highland Park Park District requires a picnic permit for groups larger than 12), run around with a ball, take a walk and explore the grounds, or just lay out and read while your kids have fun. There were also restroom facilities and drinking fountains for those in need. I imagine this park will be absolutely gorgeous when the leaves change color in autumn, and we can’t wait to go back and see for ourselves!
Sunset Woods Park is located at:
1801 Sunset Road
Sunset Road between Central Avenue and Park Avenue West