Calgary has over 5,000 parks and more than 1,000 playgrounds! Exploring these green spaces is an inexpensive way to have fun as a family and get to know the city you live in. To get you started, here are five of the best parks for families that Calgary has to offer, and five awesome playgrounds to give you 10 weeks of exploring Calgary’s parks and playgrounds.
1. Confederation Park - 24 Avenue & 14 Street NW to 30 Avenue & 10 Street NW
Confederation Park is a great place to take young kids for a bike ride because you can do a nice loop without going up any large hills. It also has a ton of small bridges and a tunnel going under 14 Street. On the west end of the park, you will find a wetlands pond with ducks and on the east end of the park, there is a natural playground with a tall slide and an overturned canoe climber. Climbing trees in Calgary are not particularly common, but Confederation Park has a few popular spots. Confederation Park had some improvements to the park in 2017, including more picnic tables and outdoor grills. You can find these at a few places in the park, including near the natural playground.
2. Fish Creek Park
Fish Creek Provincial Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America and is the second largest in Canada. There isn’t any camping at Fish Creek Park, but there are many day-use areas with different features, including picnic areas with firepits, hiking, walking paths, birdwatching areas, and more. Some popular spots include Shannon Terrace and Bebo Grove. Fish Creek also has a Bike Skills Park off of Bow Bottom Trail. There is a beginner pump track, intermediate pump track, and a skills loop. Maintenance of the tracks can be variable, particularly during wet weather. The Bow Valley Ranche area is located near Sikome Lake. This is a historical site and includes an interpretive centre, artisan gardens, The Bow Valley Ranche fine dining restaurant, and Annie’s Bakery and Café (summer only) that serves lunch and snacks. It is also a great starting point for accessing some of the pathways at Fish Creek Park.
3. Carburn Park - 67 Riverview Drive SE
Carburn Park is a beautiful little oasis in the middle of the city. At many points along the pathways, it’s hard to imagine you’re in the middle of the city. With the largest ponds in Calgary’s Parks system, this park is unlike any other in Calgary! It’s a great place for canoeing, having a picnic, and wildlife watching. You can compare two different aquatic habitats next to each other as the Bow River is accessible on the northwest section of the pathways.
4. St. Patrick’s Island - 1300 Zoo Road NE
For many years, St. Patrick’s Island was under-utilized. Located next to the south side of the Calgary Zoo, many Calgarians didn’t know the park existed. The park has been extensively renovated and is now an inner-city jewel. Park features include an elevated boardwalk through wetlands, a river walk pathway, a huge hill, and a natural playground. One of the most interesting features is the seasonal breech - a shallow wading area where people can play in a channel of river water. It is also walking distance to the Crossroads Playground in the East Village.
5. Prairie Winds Park - 223 Castleridge Boulevard NE
Prairie Winds is one of Northeast Calgary’s largest recreational parks. It is a beautiful park with lots of trees, green space, and three covered picnic areas. Prairie Winds Park has some great family features, including a large wading pool, spray park, a natural playground on the north end, and an accessible playground on the south side. This is a park where you can easily spend a whole day of family fun.
1. Shouldice Park Playground - 4900 Monserrat Drive NW
Shouldice Park Playground is one of the best inclusive playgrounds in Calgary. Kids of a wide range of ages and abilities will love exploring this playground. The playground features accessible flooring and an extensive ramp system. There is large sun shade on the playground in the summer months as well as beautiful mature trees. Shouldice Playground has tons of options for swinging, spinning, and bouncing. In addition to two baby swings and two traditional swings, there is a saucer swing, two accessible swings, and a tandem swing where two people can swing facing each other. There are ground level musical features, large climbing equipment, as well as a natural area. The playground is located in a really great park next to the river with multiple picnic spots, a seasonal washroom, and is connected to a pathway system.
2. Seton Playground - 91 Seton Gardens SE
Nicknamed ‘Elsa’s Tower,’ this eye-catching inclusive playground in Seton is a great community space for people of all ages. This new playground has quickly become a local favorite, and it’s easy to see why! If you don’t like busy playgrounds, you may want to try to visit this one at an off-peak time. The playground has a lot to offer from inclusive features, like the accessible flooring to the covered picnic area, as well as some super fun equipment like the tall tower and roller slide.
3. Haysboro Natural Playground - 1204, 89 Avenue SW
Haysboro Natural Playground is the most ‘natural’ natural playground in Calgary right now. The playground is quite different from a more traditional metal and plastic playground and provides different kinds of challenges. The hill slide is wide, allowing for experimentation in how to slide down or sliding with a partner. The log jam feature will appeal to kids who like a challenge (including parents!). The park is connected to a large green space making it great for an outdoor picnic or for families who like to engage in different activities at the same location.
4. 4th Avenue Flyover - 651 McDougall Road NE
One of the most interesting new playgrounds in Calgary, the Flyover Park, is built into the side of a hill in a previously unused park space. The parking is better than you would expect with free short-term parking in front of the playground. This playground doesn’t just look cool, it has great play value, too! There is a long roller slide, a tandem swing, and a stick forest that my kids loved! Effort has been made to make this park appeal to people of many different ages. It is a real community space and has ping pong, ladder golf, and a little park space for picnics. It is a short distance to the Bow River pathway along Memorial Drive and the Bridgeland area.
5. Thorncliffe Greenview - 5600 Centre Street N
This awesome new inclusive playground has accessible flooring throughout and includes two different tandem swings and a double zipline! A lot of care and effort has been put into this park to ensure this playground is inclusive and exciting for a wide variety of kids and their families. This effort paid off - resulting in this fantastic playground that kids of all ages and abilities will love. It is adjacent to a large park area down the hill which includes a toboggan hill, baseball diamond, and disc golf course.
Happy 10 weeks of summer exploring!
Dana searches out the best places to play, eat, and learn with her kids in Calgary, across Alberta, and beyond. Her three kids also contribute their unfiltered opinions to her reviews. To explore more, visit calgaryplaygroundreview.com, and follow her on Instagram @yycdana.
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