I'm starting a new regular feature on miamibabymama.com: The Miami Playground Guide. All strictly my opinions, of course, and the categories I'm rating are very me-centric, like: Are there bathrooms? Is the playground surface that glorious spongy stuff or the infernal sand? And of course, Is the equipment shaded? You know, the burning issues that for me, make or break a great playground. Come on, this is important stuff here! So on that note, let's get to the first review!
Pinecrest Gardens Playground Review
Date of Visit: 1/26/2010
Time of Day: 11 AM - 1 PM
Weather: sunny & cool, low 70s (aka "perfect")
Summary of Visit: I'd been to the Pinecrest Gardens playground before, and remembered 2 things--it was one of the few areas inside the Gardens that was not shaded by tree cover (so was miserable in summer), and that it could be empty even at prime playtimes. We headed over on the spur of the moment, when our trip to Kennedy Park was foiled by the Regatta, which had overtaken all the parking near their playground. Turned out, it was a great choice--as usual the playground was uncrowded, but there was a little girl there about the same age as Elle, so she had fun playing while I had fun, well, rough-drafting this review.
Parking: Plentiful on weekdays and most weekends.
Swings? Yes, set apart a little from the rest of the play area. Note--The swings here are really weird: low to the ground and over these trenches in the ground (dirt) that have been created by kids dragging their feet. Baby swings aren't a problem, but "big kid" swings are a pain. Try to avoid them, IMHO.
Water fountain: Yes
Bathroom Report: Yes, and only steps away from the play equipment. Kind of yucky, but did have soap and hand dryer worked. No changing table at the super-close bathroom, but another bathroom a short walk away is cleaner and does have a changing table.
Interesting Equipment: ladder with close-set rungs for really little climbers, nice area for play kitchen/restaurant
Parent Vantage Point: Great. From the concrete tables set slightly above the playground, you can see the play equipment.
Snack Attack: to be safe, bring your own. There is a snack bar in Pinecrest Gardens that is not open during the week. Nut sure what the hours are on weekends--I suspect it may only be open for special events. There is a green market in the parking lot on Sundays, so if you're headed over on a Sunday, you can buy a great snack right before entering.
Picnicability: Excellent. There are lots and lots of tables on two levels overlooking the playground.
Grass: Plenty of it, though not visible from the playground. You'll need to pack up and move your stuff if you want to run around in the grass, play soccer, etc.
Animal Activity: No dogs allowed. There is a petting zoo right next to the playground that is open daily at 10, 12, 2, and 4, but you can see the goats and pigs from outside the fence even if the petting zoo is not open. See "Park @ Large" for other animal info.
What to pack: Snacks, wipes, bug repellent, a handheld fan mister if you dare go in the summertime.
Park @ Large: If you're not familiar with Pinecrest Gardens, it is great. The former Parrot Jungle Island site now under ownership of the City of Pinecrest. There are walking trails through jungle-y landscape, ducks, a swan, iguanas, giant goldfish, turtles sunning, fish ponds, and cats wandering the grounds. A Splash N Play area is great in the summer for a very small fee. Big grassy lawns are great for new walkers and wild running toddlers.
What I Loved: Plenty of actual tables. Super-close bathrooms.
What Bugged Me: Sometimes no other kids, and it is located deep inside Pinecrest Gardens, so you won't know if there are other kids to play with until you get there. (This reeeeeally bugs me, because I take Elle to the playground to play with other kids, not with me, and I'm pretty stubborn about this issue, for reasons I won't go into in this post.)
* Not to sound like a broken record, but go in the winter. This playground is unbearable in the summer, between the heat, no breeze, animal smells, and bugs. Instead, hit their Splash N Play in the summer, and hope they forget the playground even exists.
* It's a bit of a walk to the playground from the lot, so you might want to bring the stroller if you predict that it is going to be an issue for your little one to walk back to the car.