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Kidding Around

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Climbing, sliding, splashing: Kids get in the fun zone

A playground accessible to kids of all abilities. A fort for little tykes. A sprayground with water cannons, spouts, and geysers. A slide twisting over ground where pioneers once walked. Here is where imagination takes shape.

From Owensboro’s Smothers Park to London’s Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park and several in between, Kentucky has irresistible fun zones where kids can play, spray, and stay happily engaged, racing among squirting and shooting water, crawling through tunnels and over bridges, and digging in gravel bars filled with mussels, brachiopods, and crinoids.

Child’s play, you say? Of course! Here are just a few of Kentucky’s fun zones for kids:

Overlooking the Ohio River in Owensboro is Smothers Park, a kid’s paradise with its Lazy Dayz Playground and labyrinthine structure of bridges, slides, tunnels, tubes, towers, and trees, plus a kid-controlled spinning contraption called Spyrex and a SprayPark with jetting water. Children can joyfully lose a morning or more, climbing, crawling, swinging, and splashing.

The multilevel playground featuring inclusive equipment is Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible, with ramps and integrated sensory panels. According to Amanda Rogers, director of Parks and Recreation, it is the largest municipal playground, with the most play features, in the region.

In addition to the play and spray grounds, Smothers Park has many other appealing aspects, including the inlet water feature, so soothing to watch from a park swing.

“Don’t miss sunrise from one of the many swings overlooking the river—beautiful!” says Rogers. “Spend time at the Shelton POW Memorial, a place of honor and reverence to all those who have served. Also, take time to watch the signature fountains run through their program. It is a must; you’ll want to take pictures here.”

Smothers Park hosts more than 50 events each year, including some weekly programs offered May through September. These include Bluegrass on the Banks on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, and the family-friendly Friday After 5, featuring music, vendors, and activities.

Backyard Louisville
Stretching across 4,000 acres in Louisville’s back yard and comprising four parks is The Parklands of Floyds Fork. Beckley Creek, Pope Lick, Turkey Run, and Broad Run follow the stream that is Floyds Fork and take their names from its tributaries. The most popular attraction? The Marshall Playground and Sprayground at Creekside in Beckley Creek Park.

“Kids absolutely love it,” Communications Coordinator Anna Rosales-Crone says. “The playground features side-by-side areas where younger siblings can play right alongside their big brother or sister on age-appropriate equipment.”

Besides swinging and climbing, and running through a three-loop spray tunnel, kids can dig for fossils in gravel bars along the Sycamore Trail in Beckley Creek Park and the Boone Bottoms Trail in Turkey Run Park. Everyone will enjoy a stop by the Brown-Forman Silo Center in Turkey Run Park to climb the 109-step spiral staircase to the lookout and a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside.

“Pack a picnic to enjoy at the Farmers Table picnic pavilion at the base of the silo after your climb,” suggests Rosales-Crone. “The breeze at the top of Silo Center hill makes for a perfect afternoon of kite-flying.”

Eastern fun zones
Go-karts, a driving range, miniature golf, an arcade, and an enormous water park are the kid magnets at Williamsburg’s fun zone: The Kentucky Splash Water Park and Campground. The park offers the Wipe-Out Wave Pool, the 30-foot-tall Aquatwist double slide, and a 40-foot-tall triple slide complex that includes the Blue Twister and Crazy Cruz tube slides and the Aqua Whiz body slide. What do kids like best?

“The water slides, of course,” says Manager Diane Bruers.

In the wooded hills of Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park, traversed by hundreds of thousands of pioneers in the late 1700s, is the Mountain Life Museum, with seven buildings that form a pioneer settlement. Kids will enjoy seeing pioneer relics, including looms, rifles, cast-iron cooking implements, a Conestoga wagon, and a working reproduction mill—but let’s face it, the real object of their affections will be the park’s sparkling swimming pool with its looped and tube water slides.

This 800-plus-acre park in London is a full-on, family-sized play space. Besides the museum and pool, there are historic hiking trails, an 18-hole miniature golf course, and, in the camping area, organized activities Thursday–Saturday from Memorial Day through October.

Fort fun
Tucked behind the replica fort in Old Fort Harrod State Park in Harrodsburg, Kentucky’s oldest settlement, is a state-of-the-art, inclusive playground. The fort-themed play structure, which replaced an outdated playground in 2010, is ADA-accessible, with a mulch ramp leading to it from the street and plenty of play items on ground level, including a colorful bead abacus and a little house.

Three additional mulched play areas have swings and a wagon kids can climb on and over. Of course, the furnished cabins and blockhouses of the replica fort create a fun zone in their own right, not to mention the park’s centuries-old Osage orange climbing tree—Mother Nature’s very own jungle gym. “Multitudes of tens of thousands of people—both kids and adults—play on that tree every year,” says Park Manager David Coleman.

Where to get into the (fun) zone
• Kentucky Splash Water Park and Campground, Williamsburg, (866) 812-1860, Open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

• Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park, London, (606) 330-2130, The park grounds and campground are open year-round. The swimming pool is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. An Aerial Adventure Park is projected to open in late summer.

• Old Fort Harrod State Park, Harrodsburg, (859) 734-3314, Park grounds are open to the public 8 a.m.–dusk. Fort is open March 1–November 30 from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 12–5 p.m. Sunday. Hours from Dec. 1–February 28 are 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Monday–Friday.

• Smothers Park, Owensboro, (270) 687-8333, The park is open 24 hours. Lazy Dayz Playground is open 7 a.m.–10 p.m. SprayPark is open 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Memorial Day weekend through the end of September.

• The Parklands at Floyds Fork, Louisville, (502) 584-0350, Playground is open year-round; water at the Sprayground is turned on from mid-May through September. Park maps are available at the PNC Center at Creekside in Beckley Creek Park. NOTE: Broad Run Park, scheduled to open mid-April, will have a playground and sprayground, picnic facilities, gardens, and trails. The final section of the Louisville Loop Trail will be included, along with two additional paddling accesses where families canoeing or kayaking on Floyds Fork can exit the creek.

• Beech Bend Park & Splash Lagoon, Bowling Green, (270) 781-7634,

• Riverfront Fountains, North Water Street, Henderson, (270) 826-3128, area info at

• Kentucky Action Park, Cave City, (270) 773-2560,

• Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville, (502) 813-8200,

• Kentucky Shores Family Fun Center & Ziplines, Gilbertsville, (270) 362-4774,

Kathy Witt from April 2016 Issue

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