I have lived in the Lake County area my entire life. During this time I have heard of Nicholas-Dowden Park multiple times, however I had never actually seen or visited this park. Since the weather outside lately has been gorgeous, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful day and take my son out to explore this park.
Nicholas-Dowden Park is located on Crane Boulevard in Libertyville. It is a quiet side-street off of Butterfield Road. Not many cars pass by this street, and it has a quiet neighborhood park feel to it. When I pulled up to the park, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had its own parking lot with many spaces all close to the park. While there were a lot of people there, I had no trouble getting a good parking spot and barely had to walk at all to get to the park.
The land around the park is expansive, boasting several different sports fields, skating rinks (both ice and inline), basketball courts, and tennis courts. It is the perfect place to take older kids who enjoy sports to while you entertain the younger kids at the smaller park. While the park isn’t the largest park you will ever see, it really does have something for everyone, no matter their age. My son saw the park and instantly approved of it by taking off running.
With its ramps, monkey bars, three slides (including a good twisty one), tic-tac-toe board, and other climbing structures, this larger play structure will entertain your child who is probably three years old or older. My son is four years old and definitely could have spent several hours playing on this structure.
When I say that this park has monkey bars, don’t assume they look like horizontal ladders. This park has really unusual ones that look really challenging!
I have not seen these types of monkey bars at really any park in the area. They have three sets of different kinds of monkey bars.
However, at four years old my son was a little too small for these climbing bars, and I am a little too short to help him with them. I will have to come back another time with someone taller to hold my son up so he can give these bars a shot. This is the part of the park I think would entertain kids up to middle-school age, as they are very challenging.
My son was also absolutely infatuated with these two poles coming off of the structure, which many kids call an “arm slide,” but kids can also sling their legs over the poles and slide down, too. Kids can climb up it, or slide down. I have only seen this at Cook Park Playground before, and I think it is a unique feature.
Have a toddler too? The toddler section of this park is just a few feet away from the larger playground structure so Moms can keep an eye on both groups of kids at once. I would say this is one of the better parks in the area for toddlers, as it is just the right size for little ones. Wobbly walkers only have to walk a couple steps up to the double slides, crawlers can crawl through the small tunnel, and brand new standers can hold onto the wheel attached to the side of the park and pretend they are driving a car. Behind the small structure is a pair of baby swings as well as a dinosaur see-saw.
Many moms agree that this park rocks for toddlers, because during the hour I spent at the park, there were at least a half a dozen one-year-olds playing here. This is also a great place for moms to meet other local moms, or even meet an old friend there for a play date.
I have been noticing lately that fewer and fewer parks in the area have sand anymore. That is crazy to me. This park has a small sandbox that is shaded in the summer. I plan to bring some sand toys next time, as my son got a little bored with their sole digger.
Take a seat on one of the benches that are covered in full shade. You can see all of both of the playgrounds from these benches which is awesome for parents of multiple children. I saw many strollers parked in this area as well, to keep all of the snacks and toys cool from the blazing sun.
Parents, caregivers, babysitters and kids rejoice! Nicholas-Dowden Park has a fully functional bathroom structure — no port-a-potties. The toilets flush, the sink runs both hot and cold water, and the drinking fountain works and doesn’t taste like rust. The only downside is that I could not find a soap dispenser in the bathrooms, so make sure you bring some sanitizer with to this park.
Next time we come to Nicholas-Dowden Park, we will pack a lunch and a soccer ball as well. I had no idea that the grounds here were so large. We can practice soccer with my soccer-crazed son here, and sit at one of the several shaded picnic tables afterwards and eat lunch. This park is truly a hidden gem in Libertyville, one that you could spend multiple hours at in the nice weather with the whole family. It is a park that I am going to add to my summer playground rotation. If you are looking for a park that truly has a little bit of everything, Nicholas-Dowden is definitely it.
920 Crane Boulevard, Libertyville
Have you been to Nicholas-Dowden Park? What is your family’s favorite activity there?