I’ll just get straight to the point. The recently reopened Adventure Playground at the City of Irvine University Community Park is simply AWESOME! It’s what playgrounds should strive to be. It’s a space where kids can roam free and exercise their independence through unstructured exploratory play. They can dig holes in the sandpits, build castles and forts on the knoll, pump water into the creek bed and jump in the mud, draw on the cement pavement with chalk, and do a whole host of other fun, imaginative, and creative things.
Originally opened in the 1970’s, Irvine’s Adventure Playground was a cherished regional resource that fulfilled the desires of the people for a space in which their children could play, build, and explore. But in 2008, after decades of use, the playground closed to the dismay of the community in order to accommodate renovations being conducted on the adjacent community center. However, when the center reopened in July 2010, the playground remained inoperative due to safety, water, and accessibility concerns, and so began the long and arduous task of extensive analysis, redesign, and subsequent renovations to the playground.
There are only a handful of adventure playgrounds in the United States and they’re apparently all in California – Berkeley (open weekends), Huntington Beach (summer only), and Yorba Linda (summer day camp). According to an NPR transcript from 2006, adventure playgrounds are more prevalent in Europe than the United States where children’s play takes priority over liabilities and lawsuits.
So here we are today, several years later. Adventure Playground finally reopened to the delight of the public in December 2015, and it’s as cool a space as it could ever be. Since it’s not a traditional playground, there’s no swing sets, merry-go-rounds, or seesaws, but what it does offer is a rich play environment that engages and encourages children’s self-expression and development. So bring your kids out here! They are guaranteed to have a wonderful play experience.
Features of the Irvine Adventure Playground include:
– Sand pits and ride along construction toys supplied by the city. The ride-on working cranes are especially popular.
– Wooden playhouse with chain link rope bridges, climbing walls, and other features.
– Sensory garden/maze.
– A supply of giant sized Lego-type building blocks for imaginative play, as well as large-scale, manipulative loose-play elements to configure how ever the kids want.
– Old fashioned/manual water pumps flowing water into a dry creek bed that results in mud play.
– Art wall on reclaimed shipping containers.
– And so much more! The kids just have to get creative and use their imagination.
Things to Know
– Adventure Playground is free!!! Just sign in at the kiosk upon entering the playground. There should be staff available to answer questions. Note, there’s only one entrance/exit into and out of the playground.
– Hours of Operation
March to October, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (daily)
November to February, 10:00am – dusk (daily)
Closed during city/state holidays.
– You’re welcome to bring your own food and beverages. I saw parents coming in with boxes of pizza from Costco to celebrate a birthday.
– If you’re wondering, the playground isn’t available for reserving for private functions. However, there are some picnic tables located near the entrance, one semi-circle stone bench by the water pumps, and seating at the rock garden. There are no tables at the latter two.
– Men’s and women’s restrooms are housed inside the reclaimed shipping container located near the entrance. I didn’t notice any baby changing tables in the women’s restroom though. There’s also public restrooms at the community center and the library.
– Bring spare clothes and shoes for the kids because they’re sure to get sandy, dirty, wet, and muddy.
– Warning: Both kids and parents can become really territorial over the giant Lego-like building pieces. It can therefore be used as a great teaching moment with your kiddos on the importance of sharing and patience.
– There are two parking lots, as well as street parking available (all free). From University Drive, turn onto Beech Tree Lane and make a left into the first lot. Alternatively, from University Drive, turn onto Goldenglow Street, make a right onto Sandburg Way, and then a right onto Lexicon as if you’re headed to the University Park Library.
Adventure Playground at University Community Park
1 Beech Tree Lane
Irvine, CA 92612
Phone #: (949) 724-6815