Adventure Playground (AP) inside Huntington Beach Central Park is one of 3 true adventure playgrounds in California. The others are in Berkeley and Irvine. How lucky are we?
Directions to AP in Huntington Beach Central Park: The easiest way to find the playground is to find the Central Library and park there. From Interstate 405, I exited at Beach Blvd and turned right on Talbert which dead-ended into the library parking lot. Stay to the right side of the lot near an open space with picnic tables. Follow the path near the Youth Shelter and Amphitheater and it will wind around to the entrance of the park. I put the marker right in the middle of the pond inside the playground. If you come from the coast, you can take PCH to Goldenwest and turn right into the Library parking lot at Talbert. MAP TO AP IN HUNTINGTON BEACH CENTRAL PARK
- The location is really nice within Huntington Beach Central Park — the beauty of which always astounds me. It’s so vast and there’s lots to see. It’s also close to the library which can provide for another facet to a day trip here.
- It’s a relatively small play space enclosed by a fence all the way around, except the gate near the entrance.
- There are adult monitors/helpers in each area, but you are responsible for remaining with your child. Safety rules were explained to the kids as we entered and paid our $3.
- Fort-building: There’s an open field with 3 trees prepped for fort building. One of the trees is taller and only for kids over age 8. There is a whole system for checking out tools and earning nails. And there is a wood pile for supplies. They are always looking for donations.
- Mud slide (my favorite): One of the most intriguing features is a tall hill with a ditch dug into and plastic tarp laid over to make a water slide. When the slide is open (on and off throughout the day), a monitor runs water down the slide to make it nice and slippery. Kids sit and slide down the hill into a muddy pit of water. For my daughter, it went over her head! Moms with little ones stepped in to catch their kids.
- Rafting: Rafting across the pond is like beginning stand up paddle boarding (with a pole that you push across the bottom of the pond instead of a paddle). The kids wait in the Raft Line for their turn and then walk out into the water to pick a raft and pole.
- Rope Bridge: This bridge runs over the water.
- Sandbox and Picnic Area: There’s a small sandbox which has a shade cover with a few places to sit nearby.
- According to one of the staff members, the best days to visit are Mondays and Saturdays. I’d also suggest getting there right when it opens at 10am.
- This is not your normal playground. There are no swings or traditional play equipment. If you are not prepared for your kids to get completely dirty and wet (including soaking wet shoes!) this may not be a good choice for you.
- Wear shoes and clothes for YOU (the parents or caregivers) that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty.
- There is an age range listed on the website of 5 years old to 12 years old. I would agree with that range.
- ONLY open mid-June through mid-August (dates change every year – June 19th to August 18th for 2017). Closed Sundays and July 4th.
- $3 per kid (adults over 16 are free)
- When you get there, you will probably think “This is it? That’s all?” — but the kids will be having a grand time building and moving between the slide to the rafts to the rope bridge. Some kids will be occupied for an hour, some will want all day to build forts with friends.
- Dedicated parking lot outside the Huntington Beach Central Library
- Play surface is uneven ground, tree forts, and sandy/muddy areas near the water
- Bring a towel and change of clothes (including dry shoes!)
- The restrooms are portable toilets – so we just used the library restroom before going to play
- There is an outdoor shower located near the sandbox
- They run a little snack bar which reminded me of my childhood with candy and other snacky items
- Entrance fee of $3 per kid (adults are free)
- There isn’t a ton of space for picnics inside the fence. We chose to leave our food in the car and dine at the picnic tables near the parking lot.
- Official AP website on the City of Huntington Beach website
- Adventure Playground in Berkeley is over 30 years old.
- Irvine Adventure Playground (open year-round)
- Yorba Linda also has a summertime AP, but it’s not open to the public as a play space — it’s structured as a summer camp.
- Visit Kaboom.org which a national playground nonprofit with an informational PDF on these types of playgrounds.
- London Play has a history and explanations of all things AP
- Play England – Developing an Adventure Playground: The Essential Elements
Originally posted in July 2012.