Why My Kids Love Regatta Playground At South Mountain Recreation Complex In NJ


With three little ones as active as they come, we are always on the hunt for a good playground to burn off energy and get in quality fresh-air playtime (especially after a long winter). So my kids were thrilled when we found the Regatta Playground, part of the South Mountain Recreation Complex, in West Orange. Picture a giant pirate ship-shaped jungle gym with all the nautical bells and whistles—steering wheels, telescopes, ropes, and ‘sails’ to climb—surrounded by swings, see-saws, playground games, and more. Not only is the entire play area adorable, but it’s also designed with different ages and abilities in mind. Plus, the location is ideal—this playground is near another mom-favorite, the Turtle Back Zoo. Read on for more on why this playground is my kiddos’ fave and what to know before you go.

Regatta Playground south mountain Pirate ship fun awaits at the Essex County Regatta Playground.

What’s at the Regatta Playground at South Mountain Recreation Complex

My kids audibly gasped when we drove up to this place—it’s impressive to see the ships’ huge masts and think of all the fun that could happen there. There are two boats, one larger and higher and one smaller and more tailored to little ones. There are also several sets of swings (baby, middle, and big-kid sized) as well as some adorable additions like balance beams, a giant see-saw designed to look like a dragonfly, and these neat faux rocks for a little “mountain climbing” action, as my boys called it. I also love that the area has that cushioned foam-like surface as the flooring, so there are no worries about hard pavement, rubber chips, mulch, or dirt, which can be real playground challenges. The entire playground is perfect for pretend play, especially a pirate adventure with lookout areas on the deck, below the boat tunnels, and plenty of escape routes courtesy of slides, poles, and rings. The whole place is thoughtfully designed, even down to the ample seating in the play area when mama needs a break.

Regatta Playground is also super scenic, sitting within the complex’s waterfront section at South Mountain Recreation Complex, right along the Orange Reservoir. There’s a 1.7-mile walking path around the reservoir, which my kids loved checking out, and access points to trails in the South Mountain Reservation. There are paddle boats to rent on the water and a large picnic area when it’s time for snacks or if you bring lunch.

Regatta playground

The playground has a large ship and a smaller ship for littles to explore.

Make it a Day Trip to Regatta Playground

Because the Regatta Playground is within Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex, you have a lot of other family fun right at your fingertips, including Turtle Back Zoo, Tree Top Adventure Course, and MiniGolf Safari. South Mountain Reservation is nearby for hikes, including another of our faves, the South Mountain Fairy Trail. And if you need a nosh after hitting one of the best playgrounds in the state (and you will), McLoone’s Boathouse is also right within the Complex, and of course, there’s always the option to brown-bag it, with tons of room along the water to sit and enjoy.

Regatta playground climb

Climbing is a favorite activity at the Regatta playground.

What to Know Before You Go To Regatta Playground

Besides ample parking and a traffic light to safely cross from the lot over to the playground, the entire play area is gated. Plus, there is just one entrance, which is nice if you’re like me, with kids who sometimes run in opposite directions. There are bathrooms right next door at the picnic area.

To give you an idea of age levels, we saw families with babies up to tweens enjoying the many cool things to check out. There are also several sections and unique ride-on and climbing features, so it will occupy them a bit longer than your run-of-the-mill neighborhood jungle gym (and tire them out more). Overall, this playground was a winner for my family, and we can’t wait to go back.

Have you been to the Regatta Playground at South Mountain Recreation Complex? What was your favorite part?

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About Author

Marisa is a mom to two sweet boys and a little lady (all under 4!) as well as one precious girl in heaven and her heart. A true Jersey girl, Marisa loves raising her family here and embracing all that being a #NJMOM has to offer. Whether it's summer days on Spring Lake beach or down on LBI, or heading out to sample some of the state's best eats (Montclair and Jersey City are favs), family days out and about together are her favorite way to spend a weekend. A former news anchor turned on-air lifestyle host and expert, you might also catch her on TV or in the kitchen cooking up something delish for the littles.