The excitement is palpable. I was able to be at Harvester Park this afternoon right when the Park District was taking the fencing down at the new Route 66 playground. Kids were gathered around, waiting to frolic and play on the new equipment, while I snapped a few pictures to give all of you a preview!
The designing, planning, hard work, and dedication paid off today when we all saw pure joy on the kids’ faces as they ran around, bounced on the in-ground trampolines, climbed up the Willis Tower to slide down the tube slides, balance on the surf boards, traverse between rocks in the Grand Canyon section, hang out with Mater, and climb around. Check out this beautiful new playground!
The design is a thematic trip down Historic Route 66, with roadside attractions from each of the eight states it passes through. The landmarks are reimagined with play in mind. Almost everything is custom designed and custom made, drawing from talent across the country.
Route 66 originally went past the southern border of Harvester Park, which why the theme is so fitting. Route 66 enthusiasts will marvel at all the details woven in and kids are going to love playing at such a unique and colorful playground while learning about the historic route with its geography and attractions.
Route 66 Playground at Harvester Park in Burr Ridge
Keep reading to get a preview of each section of the new playground!
A 30-foot Willis Tower stands on the other side of the existing bridge between the two playground sections. It has a 16-foot tube slide, with each section representing a leg of the highway that replaced Route 66 across Illinois. There is also be a 6-foot slide with a network of tubes within the tower, along with stairs on the side. Underneath the tower, aka in the basement, there are switches and other manipulatives that kids can turn and press to pretend to operate the building.
In honor of Meramec Caverns, home to the world’s rarest cave formation, there are boulders for climbing and sitting. You can see the rock formation in the foreground, as well as fenced-in plantings. The plants are called sorghum, which is a grain that is grown along Route 66, mostly in Kansas.
Don’t miss Tow Mater from Cars! This handmade car replica is so cool. You are welcome to take photos with him or climb on the hood. As the sign at the playground says, “Popular legend claims that Tow Mater’s design was based on a truck that lifted mining equipment in Cherokee County, Kansas.”
You’ll also notice that the original zipline is still there too! As you zoom from the bridge to the end, you can now think of it as the interstate that will take you across the country.
The Blue Whale of Catoosa is a popular roadside attraction in Oklahoma and now your kids can climb over or through the whale tunnel at Harvester Park.
Cadillac benches will represent the public art installation and sculpture in Texas called Cadillac Ranch. You can see it above, behind the rope climber, and in the photo below, right behind the trampoline.
Santa Rosa, New Mexico has 20 lakes and sink holes which all link up hundreds of feet underground. So in the New Mexico section of the playground, you can jump on one of three small in-ground trampolines. They are so fun and bounce smooth. (I had fun bouncing on them this afternoon!)
A rotating climber represents Wigwam Village in Arizona and there are also boulders with striating patterns to represent the Painted Desert. With the rubber surface sloping down between the rocks, younger kids can get the sensation of walking down into a canyon and looking at the stone above.
The playground experience ends at Santa Monica with boogie boards, a wood pier, and the existing tilted rotating merry-go-round, which has always been a favorite. The rubber surface is thicker in that area since kids will be challenging their balancing skills on the elevated boogie boards.
Colorful Pour-in-Place Surface
The attention to detail in this new Route 66 playground is impressive, from the eight custom colored rubber surfaces unique to each state section to the plants chosen to reflect different environments. You won’t find anything else like it!
A huge thank you to Jim Pacanowski and his crew to planning this project for the last few years and managing it, in addition to physically working on parts of it himself. Jim has a passion and talent for creating fun and functional spaces for our families! The uniqueness and creativity in this project blows me away.
Other Features of Harvester Park
Play music in the barn! There is also a train to sit on to the left of this photo.
The treehouse at Harvester Park is iconic and a fun place for imaginative play. There are also great climbing opportunities up to the bridge behind the tree.
These latches, wheels, and buttons are fun, especially for little ones!
Harvester Park brings sand play to a new level with pulleys, a conveyor belt, and screw auger.
The digging area has nice shade while your kids are discovering fossils.
There is a small splash pad for warm days.
Climb up to the lookout for a nice view of the prairie.
Harvester Park has been recognized in our list of the top playgrounds in our area every year as it keeps evolving and getting even better! Check out the full list here: Best Playgrounds in the Western Suburbs.
15W400 Harvester Drive
Burr Ridge, IL 60527
Harvester Park is on the grounds of the Burr Ridge Park District building and is free for all to enjoy. We also featured this park when asked to contribute to Redfin’s article titled 18 Outdoor Activities in Chicago That Locals Say You Need to Experience.