Monday Top 10: The World's Best Theme Park Playgrounds

September 29, 2014, 10:25 AM · Looking for an interactive, immersive attraction that will set a child's imagination on fire? The best theme park playgrounds go far beyond your local park's jungle gym to create well-themed environments where kids can not only climb, slide, and run around, but to become characters in a setting that no local park or school playground can match. Today, we are honoring the top 10 dry playgrounds at top theme parks around the world, as rated by Theme Park Insider readers. (As always, we present our top 10 list as one post, and not as one of those annoying click-hogging slideshows.)

10. Shamu's Happy Harbor
SeaWorld Orlando

Shamu's Happy Harbor

Shamu's Happy Harbor features crawl nets, tunnels, and a ball crawl in its dry playground, in addition to a water maze, whirlpool tea cups, and other kiddie rides elsewhere in the kids' land.

9. Land of the Dragons
Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Land of the Dragons

Busch Gardens' play area offers a treehouse and themed slides in its playground, in addition to kiddie rides and a show.

8. Sesame Street Bay of Play
SeaWorld San Diego

Sesame Street Bay of Play

Few kids would want to pass up the chance to play with the gang from Sesame Street.

7. The Hideaways
Legoland California

The Hideaways

One can make an argument that all of Legoland is just one giant playground, but the Hideaways take play areas to another level, literally, with a multi-level play fort that defies parents' best efforts to helicopter over their children while they play. Just take a seat by the well-restricted entrance and relax.

6. If I Ran the Zoo
Universal's Islands of Adventure

If I Ran the Zoo

Dr. Seuss + Playground = Win. And yet, this isn't even the best playground in the park. (Keep reading!)

5. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
Disney California Adventure

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Definitely a playground for bigger kids, Disney's added Brother Bear and Up themes over the years to this delightfully themed Northern California forest campground.

4. Adventure Isle
Disneyland Paris

Adventure Isle

Disneyland Paris skipped the traditional Magic Kingdom Tom Sawyer Island in favor of this playground, located next to Pirates of the Caribbean.

3. Ariel's Playground
Tokyo DisneySea

Ariel's Playground

Located inside the wonderful indoor Triton's Kingdom in DisneySea's Mermaid Lagoon, Ariel's Playground gives your guppies a chance to play under the sea.

2. Camp Jurassic
Universal's Islands of Adventure

Camp Jurassic

Islands of Adventure was the only park to place two playgrounds on our list. Camp Jurassic claims the top spot among U.S. theme park playgrounds for its immersive theme, where visitors can climb towers, scamper across rope bridges, and explore caves and an amber mine.

1. Tom Sawyer Island
Tokyo Disneyland

Tom Sawyer Island

Imagine a Tom Sawyer Island that combined the best elements of Disneyland's and Walt Disney World's islands, then presented them all, open and well-maintained. Then you'd have Tokyo Disneyland's delightful playground for children of all ages — a wonderfully-themed playground that sets the standard for all theme parks around the world.

What's your favorite theme park playground? What was your favorite when you were a kid? Tell us, in the comments.

Replies (11)

September 29, 2014 at 11:45 AM · I didn't think much of Redwood Creek Challenge trail, neither did my 4 year old. However Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland was a hit simply for the caves; it really rescued what was turning out to be a not so very fun visit to Disneyland at the time.
September 29, 2014 at 11:54 AM · A quick note on Disneyland's TSI (which I adore, of course). We have a "no dupes" policy on the Monday Top 10 lists, so as Tokyo's TSI was the highest-rated of the three TSIs around the world, it won the spot on the list.
September 29, 2014 at 12:18 PM · I wasn't really shocked by number one, but I was shocked by it's location, namely because it's the Magic Kingdom version our site host's been championing for years.
September 29, 2014 at 2:11 PM · That was until I went to Tokyo, James. Now I'm all aboard with the Tokyo fans. Their stuff really does put Disney in Orlando to shame these days.
September 30, 2014 at 7:47 AM · I thought the redwood trail in DCA was cool. My son loved it. I had to drag him out of there. The first comment person must have missed stuff. TSI is definitely a very ignored gem at Disneyland(never been to Tokyo), let the kids wear themselves out.
September 29, 2014 at 5:29 PM · Have to agree with Camp is an incredibly well themed location.
September 29, 2014 at 5:47 PM · We're a bit older but we just love Camp Jurassic. We have a blast there. On our vacation a couple weeks ago, my GF discovered the Dino footprints, that emit different roars when you step on them, for the first time. She danced back & forth on them for a really long time. And you can't beat the stuff that goes on in the amber mines, plus all the other activities. We also enjoy Tom Sawyer Island at MK, but for us it's a distant second. We do Camp Jurassic a bunch of times on every vacation, and never get get tired of it. Pure fun.
September 30, 2014 at 7:37 AM · I thought the kids area in Dinoland at Animal Kingdom was very good.
September 30, 2014 at 10:06 AM · One thing that sets Tom Sawyer Island apart from areas such as Camp Jurasic is that adults can go everywhere a child can, even if you don't have a child with you. Many play areas are kids only but on Tom Sawyer Island I can be 21 and still feel 9.
September 30, 2014 at 11:30 AM · Busch Gardens Tampa has two areas, one in the Sesame Street Safari area and one in the Jungala area. Each alone may not make the list but having two different ones with different themes is nice, like the two in Islands of Adventure.
September 30, 2014 at 8:52 PM · I'm not one for really exploring playgrounds at theme parks anymore, but when I was younger, I always remember the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set at MGM Studios(now Disney's Hollywood Studios).

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