Welles (Gideon) Park, Playground and Splash Park

2333 W. Sunnyside Ave.

happyly approved

A three part park in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Square.

Welles Park is the type of city park that people look to buy a home or rent an apartment near.  It’s also a destination park for many who don’t live near it. The Park encompasses nearly 16 acres in the heart of Chicago’s Historic Northside neighborhood, Lincoln Square. 

One of Chicago's original five parks under the Lincoln Park Commission. This Commission, formed in 1869, had a primary purpose to improve and maintain Lincoln Park and the connecting boulevards. Named for a member of Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet (Gideon Welles), this park was first established in 1910. 

A neighborhood anchor, Welles Park now has a playground, a splash park area, a nature playground, sprawling fields for picnicking, yoga-ing and relaxing.  It also has four baseball fields (usually bustling with tot-grownup park district teams), tennis courts and a historic glass-domed gazebo with various live (and free!) events showcased here throughout the year (Parent/Baby Yoga classes, Library programming from nearby Sulzer Regional Library, live music, etc.).  Welles Park also has one of the Chicago Park District’s largest community centers for hosting Park District classes from infants- to seniors as well as a community gym and indoor swimming pool.  It’s a must-see park for anyone and a get to know everyday park for everyone living in the vicinity. 

Playground

The Welles Park playground encompasses a large portion on the Northside of the park. The entire playground area is gated and there are only two entrance/exit gates to monitor. There are three structures for varying ages and developmental stages as well as two swing structures and a splash park area on the southeast side of the playground.  There are 3 slides, climbing nets, wiggly bouncy items, a climbing wall, ramps, a "mountain" to scale, tunnels and plenty of your standard playground bars to swing on, steps to hop to and ramps to run up and down and all around on. 

Half the playground is atop rubber matting (including the smallest kids' structure, all the slides, the mid-age structure, infant swings and ride on bouncy things).  The littlest kid slides tend to get hot in the sun.  I recommend throwing a spray bottle with water into your bag or stroller and misting these slides down during mid-day summer sun before letting your wee ones slide down them.  Half the playground has woodchips (this area is mostly for the older/tweenage kids though there is a swing structure here that has "big kid" swings as well as a baby swing (good for siblings) and a high backed therapeutic chair swing).  The Playground is big.  My kids never tire of it.  I prefer to go on weekdays in the early mornings and it's like we have the entire place to ourselves!     

Nature Playground

Perhaps my absolute favorite area of this park, the Nature Playground at Welles Park is for all the parents who love to let their little ones be a little free-range but live in the heart of the city.  This area has a homemade teetertotter with logs and stumps, a mud kitchen, a giant tree on its side creating an ethereal climbing/imagination space.  There are sticks of all shapes, weights and sizes to play with, imagine with, or move from pile to pile. 

It is well shaded with trees and has a small "loop" around it amidst natural prairie grasses.  There's a log area for climbing and balancing on seemingly endless amounts of vertical stumps or varying heights and horizontal logs of varying lengths.  It is fun for all ages.  It is easy to watch your child here and this area tends to be much quieter than the playground any day.  Beware- this area gets muddy on days post an evening storm... but if you embrace this sort of thing, mud and puddles just enhance the experience (dress appropriately).  We almost always start at the playground and then spend time in this portion of the park after a snack picnic.  My kids always leave a little calmer and more grounded from here than they do from the playground area.  

Park & Fieldhouse

For a park in the heart of a vibrant city neighborhood, there seems to be an endless amount of space here to run, blow bubbles, kick a ball, yoga, chat or picnic.  We usually have a daily picnic after some playtime on the playground.  There are always people to watch, sun to soak in, and outdoors to enjoy.  There are baseball fields (which are fun to run around, play ball on, or watch the many teams practice at), tennis courts and the historic glass-domed gazebo (which is also fun to throw a blanket down and picnic in if it isn't occupied by a park district event).  At the edge of the park (on Sunnyside Avenue) there's a small seasonal food booth called Crepes in the Park.  Food from here has no doubt been apart of many a child's life. 

The Fieldhouse, including an indoor pool, hosts endless amounts of Chicago Park District Classes from infants/tots- seniors.  There are preschool programs, yoga classes, fitness equipment, dance classes, clubs and plenty of swimming classes and programs for all ages.  If you're a local, be sure to establish a Park District account and sign up for classes the day registration begins to ensure a space in your first-choice classes.    

Reenie O'Brien King
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