Playing in nature is so good for our kids—and Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground is built to encourage open-ended, creative play with all kinds of nature materials and nature-inspired play structures! This is one of my family’s absolute favorite destinations for kids. Read on for more about this amazing outdoor playground (which also made our list of the 15 best playgrounds in the western suburbs!) for tips including what to bring, when to go, and cost.
Bison’s Bluff often charges a small fee and limits playground visits to one hour during spring, summer, and fall. (Read on for all of the other fun things to do at Spring Valley during your trip to round out the outing, too.) Check the website for the latest information (and to make a reservation), and call (847) 985-2100 before you go to ensure that the playground is open before you go.
The creators of Bison’s Bluff sought to recreate the idyllic afternoons kids used to spend wandering to explore streams, fields, and forests near their homes. This isn’t your typical playground! It features rock formations, a stream running through, and other nature-inspired elements meant to encourage creative play.
If you aren’t familiar with this style of child-led play in nature, you might be a little nervous about the idea of letting your kids loose. Embrace the experience! The idea is to come dressed to get messy and be ready to let the kids explore in whatever way they want.
This sign sums up the philosophy the park is built around. It can be tempting to lift children up onto equipment they can’t quite climb themselves, but encouraging from afar builds confidence (and helps children stay safely on play equipment they are able to access via their own ability).
The play structures themselves are really inventive, with plenty of places to climb and explore. There are also instruments to play, a sand area, a beaver lodge, a waterfall, and more. It’s a big space with lots of variety for all ages!
The Grounds of Spring Valley
Bison’s Bluff is at Spring Valley, which is also home to walking paths, a visitor’s center, and a historic farm. If you take the trail, you’ll also find cool “natural pockets” that encourage more exploration, too. There are a little over 3 miles worth of trails, leaving enough room to explore without feeling too huge for my young kids. Check out a map of the area.
Spring Valley Nature Center
The nature center is especially cool, with several different areas for exploration and play. The library room is full of topics pertaining to natural history and also has baskets with natural materials for children to explore. The main area’s displays and big, bold, and interactive. There are all kinds of hands-on activities throughout the space, with things to do for readers and non-readers alike.
My 5-year-old loved the area for building an animal habitat especially. Kids use branches to create their own environment, which they can then fill with a variety of play animals that are native to the area.
You’ll also want to check out the turtles hanging out in the little indoor creek area! We counted six on our last visit.
The Volkening Heritage Farm brings visitors back in time to the 1880s and Schaumburg’s roots as a German farming community. As of May 2023, it’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm, with dressed-up interpreters on hand to bring history to life. Depending on the day, kids may be able to help with chores, play games, or enjoy the animals.
What to Bring
You may want to bring along:
- Play clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty
- Comfortable shoes for playing and climbing
- A change of clothes or a towel, just in case
- Sunscreen, a hat, and bug spray if you’d like to walk in the woods
- Lunch or a snack to enjoy at the pavilion
Please note that the park district asks you to not bring water toys into the playground.
This park is good for a really wide range of ages, up through elementary school. Elements such as the waterfall and pond are great for older kids who may tire of slides and bridges, and combining it with a hike in nature extends the experience for all. You’ll have to keep a closer eye on toddlers, but the playground has lower structures and a portion with a soft, spongy surface that’s great for little ones.
Food and Water
There is a shaded picnic pavilion near the parking lot if you’d like to bring your own food and beverages. Food isn’t allowed on the playground itself.
There are bathrooms on-site, next to the playground; they are open whenever the playground is open.
As of May 2023, admission is $2/resident for all children ages 2-12 and $3/non-resident for all children ages 2-12. Admission lasts for one hour (though we’ve found this is less strictly enforced when the playground isn’t busy). Check the website for the most up-to-date information.
Best Days/Times to Visit Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground
As of May 2023, the playground is open from 10:00am to 8:00pm, with play sessions beginning at 10am, 11:15am, 12:30pm, 1;45pm, 3:45pm, 5:45pm, and 7pm. Call (847) 985-2100 to check whether or not the playground is open. The playground is gated off and closed in case of inclement weather.
The playground gets very busy on weekends, especially when the weather is nice.
1111 E Schaumburg Road
Schaumburg, IL 60194
Keep browsing Kidlist to find more ideas for outdoor fun!