Updated: May 14
Surfaces: concrete, wood chips, sand, rubber.
Equipment by Kompan.
Withrow Park is a go-to for my family, and pretty much every family within stroller distance. Weekends are busy, but if you get there early you can set up camp between the junior and senior play structures, at the shaded picnic tables with good sight lines to both climbers and the wading pool.
The wading pool, which is staffed by endearingly lethargic teenagers in the summer, is often filled with shared toys. Most of these are missing several parts, but they’re fun anyway. When we visit, my son usually goes for those weird Little Tikes cars that kids are supposed to propel with their feet. He climbs in, tries to move it, realizes that at least one wheel is destroyed, then walks away in search of something smaller but more functional, like a toy truck.
The sandbox is tucked away in a corner, just next to the public tennis courts, so while your child plays, they get to hear frustrated seniors swearing at themselves for having such a rotten backhand. There’s a little water tap in the sandbox, allowing kids to create little rivers and lakes in their miniature landscapes. Very cool, but bring a change of clothes. Sand from this playground is still turning up in surprising corners of my house.
If you’re a particularly nervous parent, you’ll like Withrow. The whole area is enclosed by fencing; no off-leash dogs are likely to intrude, under the mistaken impression that your baby is a tennis ball.The equipment is fun enough, but not overly risky for most kids. The one piece of equipment that might be legitimately dangerous is the large rope pyramid. The first time your kid climbs up it, you might find yourself sweating profusely, and wondering if you can run quicker than your child can plummet.
Nervous parents make up a fairly high proportion of the clientele here. Don’t get me wrong: nervous parents are often wonderful people, and I’m probably a bit more protective than I need to be at times. But more than once at Withrow, I’ve seen parents hook their fingers into their kids’ hoodies, creating makeshift leashes. If the kid ever breaks free, I secretly cheer for them as they dash to freedom, fleeing the frantic cries of “Drexler! Drexler, stop!”
The surrounding park is one of the best in the city. Soccer fields, a baseball diamond, big open spaces, a hockey rink, a huge off-leash area, and plenty of community events happen here. Go to the bleachers at the south end for a nice view of the city. The steep hill at that end becomes a busy toboggan hill in the winter for those too young/cowardly to try Riverdale. A busy and amenity-rich stretch of the Danforth is nearby, in case you stay so long you need food.
If it’s too crowded, you have some options, too: a smaller playground is just south from the main one, and the playground at Frankland Public School is pretty good, and underused in the summer.