Denver "animal playgrounds" offer wild times for kids — The Know

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s new series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). Find our previous Staff Favorites here.

Denver boasts some of the best playgrounds this father of two young kids has ever seen (and coast-to-coast, anywhere we go, we always find one).

Gawking up at historic tall buildings, hurtling down two-story slides, and dodging swings and water fountains is common in urban parks. But hidden among the excitement are simple pleasures for toddlers and kindergarteners, who tend to only care about what’s directly in front of them. My daughter (4) and son (now 8) gravitate toward these playgrounds.

“Turtle Park,” as my kids call it (W.H. Ferguson Park, at E. 23rd Ave. and Dexter Street in Park Hill) memorably boasts a smooth, stone turtle sculpture from which to rest and observe, and a small gazebo for picnics. “Giraffe Park” (City of Nairobi Park, 3500 Cook St. in Clayton) features a pair of well-worn “safari sculptures” — a 12-foot-tall giraffe and grumpy hippo — that reflect wildlife in our sister city’s home country (and draw slack-jawed stares from little ones).

Further afield from our weekly visits: Ruby Hill Park’s colorful, good-natured dragon sculpture provides endless grandma-bait (i.e., photos of kids smiling and sitting on things), while Wash Park’s recent update brought massive, wooden bumblebee and ladybug sculptures to the crowded grounds. Like Denver’s iconic public art collection — think “Blucifer” and “The Big Blue Bear” — it’s not just diverting and fun. It’s also unique to our city.

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