Monday, March 5, 2012
Move over Mueller Lake Park, my kids have a new favorite playground. Round Rock's Play for All Abilities Park opened its gates to the community this weekend and it is amazing. I took my four children to check out the much-hyped playscape last night and braced myself for a mob scene. On the drive to the park I mentally rehearsed how I would explain to my crew that they needed to give deference to special needs children, for whom the playground was primarily designed. I assumed letting one of my children use a specialized swing would be akin to illegally parking in a handicapped parking spot. But thankfully, there was no need for such talks. The park is huge - 51,000 square feet of fully-enclosed play areas. With plenty of room for all the park's many visitors, everyone played well together and shared the equipment with no issues.
Five years in the making, this is a park like none other in the greater Austin area. Thoughtfully designed through the collaboration of city staff, professionals, and parents, the park includes several unique pods, built to develop specific skill sets in all children. The pods, which are spread a nice distance apart throughout the park, include Retreat Pod, Sensory Pod-Sand Box, Rock Band Pod, Rolling Hill/Performance Lawn, Sensory Pod, All Abilities Playscape, All Ability Swings, and a Brushy Creek Village life skills area.
Each pod boasts unique play equipment, from a water table that allows kids to manage the water flow, to a sand-sifting station. There are endless opportunities to touch, crawl, roll, and spin.
This red piece of equipment is lined with rolling pipes. Kids lay on their backs and pull themselves along using the overhead bars.
At the far end of the park, kids can explore the ins and outs of a mini town in Round Rock Village. Buildings include a school, a home, a hospital, a library, a car dealership, a Wag-a-Bag, a fire station, and an HEB.
The town boasts functioning traffic lights and crosswalk signs, which help illuminate the buildings after dark. One fun idea (which my children are begging to try) is to bring flashlights and explore the town after the sun sets. Another idea is to bring bikes or trikes to cruise the streets of the town. Bicycles are allowed only on the streets of Round Rock Village - not in the rest of the park.
It's worth mentioning again that the entire park, including the town, is fenced in, so you don't have to worry about your kids wandering off into the nearby parking lot or woods. That's a pretty big deal when you're chasing multiple over-excited children.
There are quite a few pieces of equipment in the park that trick kids into getting a good workout while playing. My son enjoyed this kid-powered boat that sways from side to side.
My older kids were very excited about the Rock Band Pod, where you can spin a wheel to create enough energy to power rock music. There is also a microphone that allows you to record your voice and play it back sounding silly. That kind of foolishness can entertain my kids for ages.
Goodness, I could post pictures all day long, there are so many neat options at this park. I haven't even shown you the saucer swing, the spinning chairs or the merry-go-round!
The true test of a playground is how long it takes me to get my children back in the car at the end of our visit. Last night, we didn't get out of there until after dark. We left with my three-year-old begging to return as soon as he woke up and my five-year-old asking to be absent from school so could join us. I'd say the Play for All Abilities Park was a big hit!
The physical address is 151 North A.W. Grimes Blvd., Round Rock, but Google Maps took us to the wrong location, so GPS may not work for you. To make things extra tricky, the park is not visible from the road and the signage is confusing. If you are heading north on A.W. Grimes, you will turn right immediately after you pass under the train bridge, where there is a small sign that says "Rabb Park." If you are going south on A.W. Grimes, coming from Highway 79, you will need to make a U-turn after going under the train bridge (the 2nd left when coming from 79) and then turn right at the Rabb Park sign. After turning at the sign, there will be an immediate fork in the road and you need to turn right. This will take you directly into the Rabb Park parking lot.
What to Bring:
The parking lot is a bit of a walk from the entrance gate (unless you are parking in a handicapped parking spot). If you have small children, you may consider bringing a stroller for that trek. Pails and shovels would come in handy. You can also bring a picnic and a blanket. There is a grassy area where you could eat, but no picnic tables. There are restrooms inside the gated park, so if you anticipate sandy and/or wet children, you may bring along a change of clothes. And of course, bikes for the town!
Rabb Park is open from 6 a.m. to midnight. For more information, visit the City of Round Rock's website.