We’ve quickly learned that playgrounds are not a dime a dozen. The little tot lot across the street from our house that we thought was ‘so adorable’ when we bought the property? It wouldn’t even make our top twenty list of playgrounds one year into parenthood.

So how DO we rate playgrounds? I wouldn’t say we’ve adhered to the scientific method on this one… but here goes: It has to have enough swings that you don’t need to wait 20 minutes with a less-than patient toddler for the safety swing. Slides? At least two: a big one that can fit a parent-toddler-tandem team and a smaller one that Lila can do with just a bit of assistance. Rock walls? Yeah, we’re not really there yet. Extra incentive to go if it has a bouncy, swinging bridge that Lila can stand on while other kids toddle or race across. We pass if the tunnels aren’t big enough for an adult to get through because someone will need to go get her if she stops mid-crawl… Speaking of crawling, we generally prefer playgrounds that are well-cared for and clean.

We had heard about Annie’s Playground from a friend and made an impromptu trip up the 95 corridor to the Baltimore-Harford County line. Despite high playground standards, we’re not really likely to drive thirty miles for a playground visit. But Lila had fallen asleep in her car seat and we opted to take a drive and check it out. We were not disappointed.

The playground blew even OUR wildest imaginations. It was like stepping onto a vacant enchanted storybook stage set. All you had to do was play.

A sea of wooden sculptures to through, or climb up and down, or peek out of. Topsy-turvey slides, cascading slides jetting out of a a dragon’s mouth, pirate ships, castle towers, alien spaceship, barnyard animals, and a puppet theater. A mixed-up Sondheim musical playground for kids!

Swing shortage? Not here. There were at least fifteen. Complete with gorgeous garden views.

Walking through the playground, built in memory Annie McGann Cumpston, was like taking a walking tour of a young child’s imagination. It’s stunning in both it’s simplicity (there are no geometric rock climbing domes), beauty and creativity. And it’s HUGE.

Located in the heart of Edgely Grove Park in Fallston, Annie’s Playground houses an ampitheater, ball pit, and picnic pavilion in addition to it’s expansive play area. The park has clean restroom facilities and walking trails. We didn’t get a chance to go for a walk – – but plan to visit again and check out how stroller-friendly the paths are!

The one drawback to the playground is also one of the features we appreciated: rubber mulch. Your toddling little one definitely won’t get hurt if they fall down, but the mulch heats up just like charcoal on a grill. We made the mistake of visiting the playground during the heat of the day, so we ended up only staying 25 minutes or so. The 83 degree heat radiated off the ground — not so much fun for a crawling Lila bug. She was happy as long as one of us was holding her away from the ground or she was on the equipment and off of the mulch.

Annie’s Playground is definitely one of our new favs – – and 100% worth the drive. Just be sure to head out early in the morning, or during the evening hours if you’re planning a visit this summer.

(cool) tip: The park has fantastic picnic facilities (and tons of green space for spreading out blankets), but if you’re like us and plan an impromptu visit, check out the Fallston Diner. It’s just a few miles from the playground, has exceptional service and huge sandwiches. Pat and I could have easily split one… if we could have come to a consensus on what to order! In typical diner fashion, they had a ton of options.