Playgrounds, parks, nature trails - all of them, free and open all day!
There is a wealth of wonderful resources on the internet listing attractions for kids in our area, including playgrounds, but I thought I'd add my two cents, anyway. Doc Princess loves playgrounds more than doctors or princesses, so I figure we can become adventurers - explore strange new playgrounds. Boldly go. Something like that.
Before our first expedition, however, I wanted to start with our go-to spot, the Walter Griffin Playground (AKA Ames Street Playground) in Sharon, MA. We spent an hour-and-a-half there today, and the kids went wild. It's spacious, and it sits alongside four baseball diamonds. Like many playgrounds, one side is geared towards younger children, and the other side has larger equipment for the older (or more adventurous) kids. There are a few structures designed specifically for toddlers, including a train-tunnel and slide. There is a jungle gym shaped like a pirate ship, a sea serpent (no, it is not a dragon), swings, slides, a couple of music stations, and an unsettling set of sea-saws designed to confuse children.
Wait, why isn't this working?
There is a strange, creepy box in the middle of the playground. It has a dial, and if you wind it up and have your child say something, the box records it. Then, it plays your child's message back at you, except it is no longer in your love-bug's sweet, high-pitched voice. The box twists the tone so that your baby sounds like the killer in a slasher film. Isn't that fun?
Creepy box. It looks colorful and fun, but don't let it fool you.
Also, and this is a reason I have a love-hate relationship with the Ames Street Playground, there is sand. Everywhere. It is a playground inside a gigantic sandbox. That isn't to say there is no sandbox in the playground. There is, and ironically, there isn't much sand in the sandbox. It's more of a dirtbox... in the playground... in the sand pit.
To be fair, there is a part of the playground that isn't sandy. The section around the sea serpent (again, not a dragon) is filled with wood chips, instead - perfectly sized for Buster to shove into his mouth.
Not a dragon
Also to be fair, Doc Princess and Buster enjoy the sand immensely. Whenever they feel a creative urge, they just drop to the ground and cover each other with it.
Aside from the obvious mess-source, the playground is kept pretty clean. Families occasionally "donate" things like sand toys, dump trucks, and Cozy Coupes. The place is littered with used items, and the children appreciate them. The only problem with the donations is that they break quickly, and you can sometimes find plastic bits strewn about.
As with most playgrounds, you're usually out of luck if your little one "NEEDS THE POTTY NOW!" There is a concession stand next to the playground that has public restrooms, but as far as I can tell, those are only unlocked during baseball games.
All of my criticisms aside, my children adore the Ames Street Playground. That's what matters, and that's what keeps us coming back.
Just stay away from the creepy box.