With three little ones who are 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 this long winter inside). So my kids were thrilled when we found the Regatta Playground, which is 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 the Turtle Back Zoo (another great place to burn off energy, mamas). Read on for more on why it’s my kiddos’ fave and what to know before you go.
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What’s at the Regatta Playground at South Mountain Recreation Complex
My kids audibly gasped when we drove up to this place—it’s just so 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 large 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, as well as several access points to trails in the South Mountain Reservation. On the water, there are paddle boats to rent and a large picnic area where it’s easy to social distance when it’s time for snacks or if you bring lunch.
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. For hikes, South Mountain Reservation is nearby, 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.
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 different sections and some unique ride-on and climbing features, so it’s going to 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.