It’s time to get outside—we’ll help you choose where.
As Floridians, few things will get us outdoors faster than a brisk October breeze. Trying to soak up some seasonal weather with the family while the weather’s right? Get everyone in their play clothes and head out, near or far, to one of these eight great parks and playgrounds.
829 NE Sanchez Ave., Ocala
Perhaps the most beloved park in the Ocala area, Tuscawilla gets plenty of attention for its art installations and the numerous community events hosted there each year. Now over 100 years old, the park is becoming a cultural hotspot with the adjacent Tuscawilla Art Park, which hosts live music and performances. Art and events aside, Tuscawilla features a state-of-the-art playground, a paved walking trail around “Lake Tuscawilla” dotted with sculptures by local artists, lighted tennis courts, lighted basketball courts, one racquetball court, a baseball field, shuffleboard and the most necessary amenity of all—clean restrooms.
2.Brick City Adventure Park
1211 SE 22nd Road, Ocala
For traditional park amenities, Brick City Adventure Park has you covered with a playground, lighted football field and track, a lighted multipurpose field for soccer and other games and picnic pavilions. For a more adventurous family outing, or even a business teambuilding event, visit the park’s low ropes obstacle course.
And if you’re interested in caving, the office of Parks and Recreation offers an expedition into White Cliff Cave for $40. Participants can climb down into the natural, untouched cave and crawl through smaller spaces to explore its nooks and crannies. To register for caving, visit marioncountyfl.org/parks.
3.Scott Springs Park
2825 SW 24th Ave., Ocala
This 22-acre park is nestled in between shopping plazas and commercial buildings, and the city’s efforts to renovate the park have turned it into a local gem. The park’s green space surrounds a spring-fed pond, grotto and cave, making it a beautiful place to spot wildlife and relax in a natural setting. It also has walking trails and a 3/4-mile bike trail, as well as restrooms and nearby stores for easy picnic supply pickups.
200 SE Depot Ave., Gainesville
A new addition to Downtown Gainesville, Depot Park is being called the Central Park of the city after its August opening last year.
The park features an expansive playground designed to reflect the surrounding industrial district. It’s also more inclusive than most, with handicap accessible ramps leading to jungle gyms and harnessed swings. The play structures cover about the space of a football field, so kids won’t be too crammed, either.
The Blue Grotto splash pad provides waterfalls, ground jets, water cannons and hidden fossils, making it the perfect place to cool down. Stroll through the conservation area (but stay on the path of course, because, you know, alligators). A waterfront promenade is perfect for evening strolls, and the open green space is ideal for games of tag or lounging to read a book. The park even has a general store, Pop-A-Top, stocked with snacks, beverages and even park essentials like sunscreen and kites. Everything in Depot Park is free to access while the park is open from dawn to dusk.
It’s also a destination for family-friendly entertainment, like family dance parties with DJ Dad and Karaoke for Kids. Visit depotpark.org for a complete schedule of events. The Cade Museum for Creativity and Innovation is also located here and will open to the public in early 2018, so keep an eye out for events and programming here at cademuseum.org.
5.Flemington Community Park
18200 County Road 329, Reddick
Flemington Community Park has something for everyone: tennis courts, basketball courts, a volleyball court, a multipurpose field with a backstop for softball and baseball, a walking path and a playground. Be sure to check it out for a weekend family gathering during the seasonal weather. With picnic tables and grills already there (and games and entertainment provided, of course), it’s got you covered.
6.Jervey Gantt Park
2200 SE 36th Ave, Ocala
Jervey Gantt is another well-known Ocala park, with over 60 acres of land and a two-mile clay and paved trail for walking or running. Guests can choose from three different loops, and the entire path is lit for evening strolls or jogs. Exercise stations around the park offer detailed instructions for athletes of all fitness levels to use. It’s also home to M.O.M.S. Memorial Park, which has two waterfalls, a reflection pond and a garden. Kids can romp on the two playgrounds, and don’t forget the sports amenities: two basketball courts, three tennis courts, three sand volleyball courts, two racquetball courts, four T-ball fields, one baseball field and two soccer/football fields with bleacher seating. It’s also home to the Marion County Youth Football League.
Jervey Gantt Aquatic FUN Center is located here, too, with plenty of water features and a twisting waterslide. Between May and September, two-hour swim sessions are available for $2 per child and $3 per adult, with open swim 11am-5pm on Saturdays and noon-5pm on Sundays. Entrance into the rest of the park is free, with ample parking and restrooms available.
7.Little Springs Park, or “Creative Playground”
600-698 NW 2nd Ave, Crystal River
Adjacent to City Hall, this playground is known and loved for its wooden playground. It features an open-ended design that encourages imaginative playing with structures like forts, ships and cars alongside the old favorites like swings and slides. A smaller play area is available for little ones, and two shaded gazebos are perfect for Mom and Dad to keep cool and out of the sun.
8.Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park
7400 SW 41st Place, Gainesville
This park has something for kids of all ages, with one play area meant for children up to age 5, complete with bucket swings and smaller, safer play structures. The second area features taller structures to climb, a zip line, fireman pole and more, and larger swings nearby. This park is also known for its perfect climbing trees. A sand volleyball court is available, as well as a basketball court and baseball diamond. Scenic fitness and hiking trails are perfect for jogging or bringing Rover along to stretch his legs. There’s even a cement hockey rink here, and when it’s not in use, kids can use it to ride their bikes, scooters\ and skateboards, too.
Good Old Games (And New Ones, Too)
Not to say that anything’s wrong with a game of tag or hide-and-go-seek, but when the kids get tired of the classics, you’ll need some easy ideas on hand. Here are some new games to introduce into your rotation—and bonus, they use household items you can easily throw in the car before you head out to the park.
- Two or three Frisbees
- As many laundry baskets as possible
Designate each hamper’s point value (5s and 10s are good, and set up a 25 a little farther away). Write them in large numbers on paper, tape one to each hamper, and set them at varying distances away. Take turns throwing Frisbees for points. Winner gets a few extra pushes on the swing!
Capture The Flag
- Two flags of any size (or just some decent-sized sticks found at the park)
This game works best with a large group. Split into two teams, each with a flag or other marker at the team’s base. Each team must run into the other’s territory, capture their flag and make it back to their own base without being tagged by an enemy player. If players are tagged and sent to jail, they can only be released if one of their teammates runs in to tag them out.
Red Light, Green Light
No supplies needed for this grade school favorite, just a large area to run. One person plays the traffic light. With their back turned to the group, they yell “green light!” The group must run to get as close to the traffic light as possible until the traffic light player turns around and shouts “red light!” Everyone must freeze, and anyone the traffic light sees moving must return to the starting line. The first person to tag the traffic light player gets to call the shots next round.
- Pen and paper to write down the list of items to find
- Containers or paper bags to collect finds along the way
On the way to the park, get everyone excited by brainstorming what items to put on your list. Some suggestions include: something rough, something smooth, something beautiful, a leaf chewed by bugs a rock or even a bird’s feather.yy