When the Yellow Brick Road stretches out in front of you, you have to follow it!
And if you’re following the Yellow Brick Road at Watkins Regional Park, it ends in one of the most amazing playgrounds we’ve ever seen.
There’s the Emerald City, a huge apparatus for kids to climb upon and search for the Wizard. Visit Aunty Em’s farm, and climb through the poppy field. Slide down Dorothy’s ruby slippers. This playground is huge, and the day my son and I visited, it was busy and full of happy kids.
Watkins Regional Park is in Upper Marlboro, and it is operated by the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation. The Wizard of Oz playground opened to the public in July 2015, the latest of 26 “imagination” playgrounds in the county.
But perhaps the best part of Watkins Regional Park is that this playground is just the tip of the iceberg. It really is a place you can come with a picnic and plan to spend the day. (Thereby ensuring that everyone sleeps well that night!)
Across the parking lot from the playground, you’ll find an antique carousel that dates back more than 100 years. Originally operating in Chesapeake Beach, the carousel was moved to the park in the 1970s and restored before reopening in 1977. Nearby, a miniature train ride takes you on a fun ride through the woods. Both activities will cost you a few dollars a person.
You’ll also find a nature center a short walk from the playground. The center has live animal and insect exhibits – including birds of prey, reptiles, and amphibians – and interactive and special programs for kids. Outside, ponds and butterfly gardens bring nature up close.
Watkins Regional Park is also home to Old Maryland Farm, an educational farm with livestock, exhibits, and display gardens; the Watkins Tennis Bubble, one of three indoor tennis facilities in the county; an 18-hole miniature golf course; and campsites. The park also hosts two popular annual events: Kinderfest, a family festival that takes place every October; and the Festival of Lights, a drive-through holiday light display that marks its 30th year in 2016. The Festival of Lights takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
For hours and pricing, visit http://www.pgparks.com/Things_To_Do/Nature/Watkins_Regional_Park.htm.
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