Playground Pick

Mayors’ Riverfront Park

Lots to explore at this playground

3.5/5 stars

Home to football and soccer peewee leagues, music festivals and, of course, Kalamazoo’s own Growlers baseball team, Mayors’ Riverfront Park is a popular destination. For good reason — there are tons of amenities whether you are a parent or child. Good thing our two playing experts are back on the scene to check out what’s rad and bad at the playground here.

This is the first time Emily Sykora and her 4-year-old son, Olo, have played at Mayors’ Riverfront. However, Emily often bikes by the park on her commute into town along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, which runs alongside the park. The park’s play structure and swings sit north of the baseball stadium and can be accessed via the same parking lot.

On his way to the play structure, Olo had fun stopping by the football scrimmage field, next to Mills Street, and peering through the fence. He asked his mom, “Can we buy tickets for football games soon?”

Redirected to the destination at hand, Olo went bounding into the fenced-in play area. He immediately found the horizontal tire swing, climbed on and asked for higher and harder pushes until he was laughing and holding onto the chainlink swing for dear life.

As the temperature rose, Emily retreated to the shady perimeter of the playground under large dogwoods. Olo, though, showed no signs of stopping and began exploring the structure’s three slides, monkey bars, three multi-levels, a fire station pole and more. He found a new friend and Emily let them play together, reminding the boys to stay within the fenced-in area.

Emily appreciated how “new, safe and clean” the park appears to be. She pointed out the springy new turf lining the area under the play structure.

However, there was no public bathroom available and she said that’s a big game-changer when it comes to favorite parks. “It’s pretty necessary, you know?” she said, with a light-hearted shrug.

Olo had difficulty picking a favorite part of the park but reminisced about his “super-charged speeds” on the tire swing.

Before leaving, Emily wanted to let FYI readers in on a beautiful, secret spot in the park. She pointed to the field behind the playground and pretended to whisper: “Just south of the playground on the trail, there is a clearing with sculptures that are white art deco pillars with really cool designs.” Emily explained that she loved stopping there to break up her long bike rides and relax.

“Who doesn’t love cool little places like that?” she asked.

Reviewed by experts Olo, age 4, and mom, Emily Sykora

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Mayors' Riverfront Park

Where: 251 Mills St.
Hours: 8 am–dusk
Best ages: 3 years–adult
Amenities:

  • Fenced-in park with disability-friendly ramp leading to play structure
  • Sideways tire swing, regular swings (no infant or disability-accessible swings)
  • Picnic shelter without electricity, seating capacity of 30–40 people, outdoor grill
  • Nearby Growlers stadium, football field, basketball court, canoe launch
  • Water fountain
  • Adjacent to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail and Kalamazoo River

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