Updated: May 14
Equipment by Earthscape.
Surfaces: wood chips, rubber.
Along with the newly revitalized Sackville Playground, the creatively themed, brand new (2019) St. James Park playground is making King Street East a destination for play-loving families.
The equipment pays homage to the area’s history as a market: the climbing structures resemble old shipping crates, and kids can climb on giant wooden carrots and asparagus. These thematic touches are great, but mostly appreciated only by the parents. The real test, of course, is whether the equipment has what it takes to engage kids.
And in that respect, this playground is a great success. The rope bridge and climbers are great for bigger kids, while smaller elements keep toddlers entertained. The slide from the three-level climber is one of the higher and faster ones you’re likely to find in the city. And I was shocked to find a carousel – what we called ‘the wheel of death’ when we were kids – which is an element I thought they simply didn’t make anymore.
There’s also been a clear effort at inclusive play: a long ramp, which blends into the landscaping seamlessly, allows playground-goers in wheelchairs access to the low climber. Oh, and a fun Easter egg - the long, curving railing on that ramp, which appears to be purely functional at first glance, is actually one of those tubes that kids can use to scream at each other through from opposite ends of the playground. A great little addition.
We visited in early winter, so I can’t speak to the ‘splash pad’ – which seems to be less of a splash pad and more of a small water feature. It looks a bit small, and was perhaps scaled back to fit the budget. Another thing to be aware of is that the ladder on the large climber, which leads from the second to the third level, is perilously close to the open edge, and I imagine it could lead to a nasty fall if the place was busy.
But those minor drawbacks are balanced out by the setting. Over the playground looms the clock tower of St. James Cathedral, which rings, Big Ben style, every 15 minutes, much to the delight of my 1-year-old daughter. Behind the Cathedral is the towering skyline. You really feel like you’re looking out over a timeline of the city. With plenty of places to grab snacks on this stretch of King, and the subway nearby, St. James Park is definitely one of the better new playgrounds around.