I’ll just get straight to the point. The 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 lot of other fun, imaginative, and creative things.
Originally opened in the 1970’s, Irvine Adventure Playground was a cherished regional resource for many years. But after decades of use, it stopped operating in 2008 in order to accommodate renovations occuring to the adjacent community center. The center eventually reopened in July 2010, but the playground remained closed due to safety and accessibility concerns. And so began the long and arduous task of rehabbing the park.
There are only a handful of these types of adventure playgrounds in the country and they’re all apparently in California – Berkeley, Huntington Beach, and Yorba Linda. 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.
Adventure Playground 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, you won’t find any swing sets, merry-go-rounds, or seesaws, but what you will encounter is a rich play environment that engages and encourages children’s self-expression and development.
– 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.
– 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 private functions. But there are a few picnic tables located near the entrance and some seating throughout.
– Restrooms can be found inside the reclaimed shipping container near the entrance. I didn’t notice any baby changing tables 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 dirty and wet.
– 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