Kids’ playgrounds – aside from the occasional slide-turn-taking politics – are worth their weight in gold when it comes to entertaining children for free, for hours on end. Bristol has over 400 parks and gardens, plus some excellent play areas for kids all over the city – here’s a list of my favourite kids’ playgrounds in Bristol, best visited with buddies and a reusable cup full of coffee.
North Bristol kids’ playgrounds:
The children’s park in the grounds of this mansion house estate is one of the largest in Bristol. Separated into two fenced-in areas, one side is perfect for smaller kids with baby swings, sand pit, roundabout, see saws and a couple of climbing frames with smallish slides, while the other is geared towards older kids, or youngsters after a challenging clamber. Here you’ll find a couple of zip wires, two huge twisting slides, monkey bars, giant swings and more. It’s unlikely kiddos will tire in here, but if they do, or if you’d like a bit of a wander, there’s plenty of parkland to explore. Head downhill past the house into the bottom of the gorge, to a stream (paddle-able at certain points), pond, troll bridge and lots of trails leading off in different directions. Or weave upwards through the woodland in the middle of the grounds, to a folly castle at the top to fulfil fairytale fantasies. It’s said Bristol’s Giants Goram and Ghyston left their mark here and if you look closely you’ll find Goram’s Chair and footprint stomped into the rocks. Look out for their fairy walks and other free activities for kids during the school holidays and be sure to take a gander in the mansion house museum for dressing up and displays of toys from days of old.
One of my favourite parks in the city, St Andrews is a landscaped Victorian park fringed by pretty houses and the place to go on a hot, sunny summer’s day in Bristol, thanks largely to its huge paddling pool. This fenced in mini-lido heaves with splashing children as soon as school is out if there’s a hot fiery object in the English sky. On the other side of the park, there’s a lovely play area with a large sand pit (bring a bucket and spade!), wooden obstacle course, swings, slide, climbing frame and the all the usual favourites. Refreshment-wise, a little kiosk sits at the centre of the park selling great coffee and ice creams with a few tables and chairs dotted around, although sadly it’s future is currently in the balance. The park is popular with dog walkers and draws groups of BBQ-ers like moths to a flame on warm days.
Address: BS6 5AX
Where to park: there is free on street parking on all roads around the park.
A Victorian Park with football pitches, tennis courts, bowling green, sunken garden and pretty lily pond plus a great play area. Climbing frames shaped as helicopters, double swings (handy for a toddler and baby joint pushing scenario!), a sand pit and swings are part of the offering here. If you’re in town in November, the fireworks night in the park is very popular and one of the best in Bristol.
Address: 67 Canford Ln, Bristol BS9 3NX
Practical stuff: there is no dedicated parking, find a space on a nearby road.
Located alongside ‘Lovers Walk’ – an avenue of trees opposite a street full of pretty Georgian houses and close to Redland Station and Gloucester Road, this Victorian park has all the kiddy favourites.
Address: Redland Grove, Redland, Bristol BS6 6AG
Parking: Residents parking exists in the area, look for the pay and display machines for public parking spots.
Backed by multi-coloured houses on one side (as is the fashion in Bristol) and street art the other, this kids’ playground is steeped in Bristolian vibes. This park stands in the old churchyard of St. Andrews Church, which was demolished in 1969. It’s a quiet little enclave of green, fully immersed in bohemian Montpelier, and not far from independent-minded Stokes Croft. The playground itself is grassy and has swings, climbing apparatus, springy horsies and city building gazing benches.
Address: St Andrews Road, Bristol, BS6 5PT
Parking: It’s residents-only parking along the neighbouring strip of road, but there are parking meters where you can pay for up to 3 hours. Otherwise, quite a way towards Cromwell Road at the top of the street you’ll also find road-side places to park.
A gigantic green space which lies between Clifton and Henleaze, this vast parkland is bordered by some smashing looking houses – oh the time I have spent daydreaming that one was mine! At weekends, oodles of amateur football teams (The Downs League) make use of the many football pitches, but the rest of the week it’s mainly dog walkers, picnickers, joggers, families, kite flyers and the odd Ultimate Frisbee-er. My favourite part of The Downs is the Sea Walls end which overlooks the Avon Gorge, Leigh Woods and two significant Bristol bridges – the Clifton Suspension Bridge to your left and the Severn Bridge in the distance on your right. You’ll quite often find an ice cream van in these parts as well.
There is no playground equipment to speak of on The Downs, just masses and masses of open grass, if that suits and tons of conker trees for autumnal entertainment. Around the middle of The Downs, right next to the water tower, there’s a cafe and toilets if you get peckish on your wanderings. The Downs also host major events, charity runs, the odd circus, funfairs as well as The Downs Festival (featuring Lauryn Hill, Nenah Cherry and The Idles 31 August this year) and Bristol Pride Festival (for the first time in 2019).
Address: Clifton, Bristol
Parking: There is no dedicated car park, but spaces are often available on surrounding roads.
There are a couple of children’s playgrounds located on Horfield Common – one opposite Horfield Leisure Centre, the other opposite Tesco, Lime Trees Road (so useful if you want to combine/bribe your kiddo to do a bit of grocery shopping before/after the park!) The kids’ playgrounds are quite different, I personally prefer the latter as it feels a bit more maintained and you also have The Cafe on the Common there, with its indoor and al fresco seating in the centre of the park (reopening Fri 29 March from 10 Fri/Sat/Sun, then daily from 5 April). It’s handy parental intelligence to know that there is a conker tree in the kids’ playground here, which is great in autumn and gives nice shade in summer. Both playgrounds are set in a large green, so there’s lot of space for kicking a ball around, scooting and biking.
Address: The Ardagh, Kellaway Ave, Bristol BS6 7YL
Parking: I tend to park in Tesco car park just across the road and do shopping afterwards, otherwise you can find somewhere along Kellaway Avenue.
Ashley Down Green
This little kids’ playground is tucked away behind a housing development off Dirac Road. The park is only a few years old, so is in pretty good nick. You’ll find a roundabout, wooden obstacle courses, spidery climbing net, slide, swing and ground-level trampoline. Views from the top of the park look out over the city, with the historic buildings of Ashley Down behind (originally built as orphan houses by George Muller, who cared for over 10,000 orphans in Victorian Bristol).
Parking: Walking is better, but you can find parking on nearby roads
Address: Dirac Road, off Ashley Down Road.
Elm Park Playground
This playground is right next to Filton Leisure Centre, so you can do a swimming session (check their website for timetable), then have a play about in the park afterwards. The playground overlooks big green fields and has swings, roundabouts, slides, mini climbing walls and lots more.
Address: Elm Park, Filton, Bristol, BS34 7PS
This free city farm is a good one to have up your sleeve as you can tick off several child-friendly activities here. Firstly there are farm animals to see, pigs, sheep, ducks and chickens – all good kid staples! Then pop across to the wooden playground – all tunnels and climbing frames, right next to a Gaudi-meets-the-hobbit-esque cafe. Some of the food from the cafe is grown in the allotments next door, so super fresh and wholesome like the vibe of this community farm.
Address: Watercress Rd, Bristol BS2 9YJ
Parking: The farm has no parking of its own. Parking can be quite limited on Watercress Road, so try and park before the tunnel and walk two minutes to the Farm.
There are a couple of ways to get into Redland Green park, one on the … side where the track dips down into a well-groomed grassy bowl before bringing you out at the playground or you can get in on the other side via Redland Road. The latter is equally as picturesque, with its tree-lined street and impressive Redland Parish church. The kids’ playground has a variety of play equipment including a climbing frame, swings, a witches hat-style roundabout and a zip wire. There’s also a bowls court, tennis court, picnic spots and giant wooden benches with carved leaves, which little ones love.
Address: Redland Green, Redland, Bristol, BS6 7EH
Parking: there is no dedicated car park.
Long have I wondered what the parkland surrounding the big yellow castle-esque building (Dower House) – the one visible from the M32 – was like and I have to say, I was MORE than pleasantly surprised. The combination of the Estate’s vast open space, pretty woodland walks (particularly pretty at the start of spring), lake views and winding tracks, followed by a turn in the adventure playground (found near Admiral Close) makes for a lovely morning out, especially in the sunshine. The house itself was actually built back in 1553, rebuilt around 1760 and is now a set of apartments. It’s said to be haunted by young Elizabeth Somerset, who died after falling from her horse in the grounds – an obelisk marks the spot. There are other monuments to seek out including Purdown Percy, a World War 2 anti-aircraft battery, and woodpeckers to listen out for among the trees. While it’s not the BEST kids’ playground in Bristol (the actual play park is quite small), it finishes the walk off nicely (and you can coax your kids on with the promise of it at the end.
Address: Stoke Park Estate, Duchess Gate, Park Road, Stapleton, Bristol BS16 1AU or to park near the Dower House – Parnell Rd, Stoke Gifford, Bristol BS16 1ZS
Parking: There are a couple of entrances, but no dedicated car park near either – find a nearby road to park your car.
East Bristol kids’ playgrounds:
Three miles from Bristol city centre, this big green estate in fishponds has woodland, riverside paths, a cafe kiosk and a fantastic kids’ playground. It’s one of the more exciting play areas, entered via a Jurassic Park style wooden totem gate, with a pirate ship, zip wire, water and sand play zone, accessible roundabout, see saw, nest seat swing, super long embankment slide, springies, toddler spinners, climbing rock feature with rope bridge, natural play features, woodland den area, open grass to run around on, plus equipment suitable for disabled children.
Combine a park trip with a walk through the parkland – you can follow the path down to the river Frome towards Frenchay, or in the other direction, to Snuff Mills, an historic section of the Frome Valley Walkway. Wildlife hunters should keep an eye out for glimpses of kingfishers, herons, foxes, owls, bats and deer.
Address: Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 2HH
Practical stuff: there is a free car park.
I only discovered this park recently and I can’t believe I didn’t venture here sooner! Over in East Bristol, the park here has a large pond which is great for duck feeding, a skate park and a long tree-lined avenue for a bit of natural wow factor. The kids’ playground itself has tunnel slides, a see saw, swings, sand pit among other play area favourites. The toilets in the park are currently out of use, but if you or your little one get desperate, it’s a short stroll out of the park (turn right at the gate) to cafe Grounded, where you can pick up a coffee and a cake and use the facilities, or stay a while and have a family-friendly lunch inside or in their little outdoor garden area.
Address: Church Rd, Bristol BS5 7AA
Where to park: there is a free car park right next to the park.
West Bristol’s kids’ playgrounds:
Just across Clifton Suspension Bridge, and along from Ashton Court Estate, is Leigh Woods, a 2km square National Trust protected area of woodland (that it is free to enter). There are several colour-coded pathways and mountain bike trails to choose from, plus a natural play trail for kids including hollow log tunnels, balance boards, carved wooden sofas, a woodland fort and a basket swing dotted around the woods to amuse your little woodland elf. Den building is also big here and you’ll see remnants of organised den construction events. You can download the Wild Woodland Adventure Trail with Franklin the Fox before you go for an extra bit of family fun. Don’t miss the two huge banks and ditches at Stokeleigh Camp, which were built as part of an Iron Age camp or …..for views of the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge from a different side of the gorge.
Address: Valley Road, Bristol BS8 3QB or Abbots Leigh, Bristol BS8 3QE
Practical stuff: there are a couple of places you can park, either along North road, just off Abbots Leigh Road or follow the tree-lined Valley Road to a car park (with kiosk).
Clifton Suspension Bridge Playground
Surrounded by the rocky walls of the Avon Gorge, this pretty park sits on the edge of Clifton Village, a stone’s throw from Bristol’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge and a short walk into picturesque, upmarket Clifton. Slides, swings, a mini ground-level trampoline and structures to clamber on make this a winning park in kids’ eyes. Don’t miss the nearby natural rock slide (polished smooth by generations of sliding bottoms) – a fairly extreme experience as far as slides go as it is quite bumpy and very fast. I don’t advise going down while holding a toddler – I did not feel safe at all as you kind of need both your hands to steer yourself down the slope!
Address: Sion Hill, Bristol BS8 3LX
Parking: You have to pay to park in designated areas in Clifton – look out for the pay machines and look out for the signs to check it’s not a Resident’s Only zone.
This huge sprawling estate lies just across the other side of Clifton Suspension Bridge. While there are no actual kids’ playgrounds here as such, there are mountain bike trails, wooded areas to hide in, buggy-friendly paths, gardens to explore and at certain times of the year, miniature trains to ride on. It’s a great place to play, picnic or fly a kite and you have the added bonus of pretty views back across the city to gaze at while you wander. Keep your peepers peeled for hot air balloons – in August, Ashton Court Estate is the site of the spectacular Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, and hot air balloons take off from here during the ballooning season fairly often. You’ll find a cafe at the ‘top’ car park (BS8 3PX – across the Suspension Bridge) and another one, The Stables Courtyard at the lower car park which is accessed via the Ashton Gate entrance. A free 5km parkrun takes place every Saturday and occasionally family-friendly events take place in the Mansion House.
Address: Ashton Court Mansion Car Park – Kennel Lodge Rd, Bristol BS3 2JT or Ashton Court Golf Course Car Park – Long Ashton, Bristol BS8 3PX
Parking: There are three car parks in Ashton Court. The car parks open at 8am. Parking costs £1.20 per vehicle per day and you can use your parking ticket in any of the Ashton Court car parks for that day.
Central Bristol kids’ playgrounds:
One of the best ways to get to Brandon Hill Park, is to wander along one of Bristol’s famous roads (and independent shopping areas), Park Street, then nip along Great George Street, past the newly-refurbed, aesthetically-pleasing music hall, St Georges and drop down the hill to the children’s playground. At the top of the hill, surveying the land below, is Cabot Tower, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, it was built to mark the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage and subsequent discovery of North America on The Matthew from Bristol in 1497. It’s possible to climb to the top of the tower, although be warned the steps are very narrow and steep inside, so you will have to take care with small children – passing other people on the stairs can be precarious! However, you’ll be rewarded with utterly stupendous 360 degree views from the top over all of Bristol. If you haven’t got a head for heights, fear not! The views from sloping Brandon Hill are pretty darn good themselves.
Address: Great George Street, Bristol, BS1 5RR
Parking: the kids’ playground is best accessed by foot or public transport, or you might get lucky on Park Street or Great George Street (but parking is limited and paying).
South Bristol Kids’ playgrounds
A Cemetery might seem an odd place to go scrapping around with kids, but Victorian garden cemetery, Arnos Vale just off the Bath Road in South Bristol is not your average graveyard. A sanctuary of calm close to the city, the grounds have pathways leading round the grave stones (some pretty spectacular) and off into (45) acres of woodland, fascinating architecture, age-old broken stones covered in twisting, wayward foliage and peaceful walks. As well as a memorial to bygone Bristolians, this heritage site is also buzzing with life, and wildlife in particular – insects, badgers and bats are local residents here. Arnos Vale actively encourage young (and old!) explorers, with forest schools, film screenings, after hours walks and regular health and wellbeing events. An onsite café serves up nutritious nosh, once you’ve finished discovering the parkland.
Address: Arnos Vale Cemetery, West Lodge, Bath Road, Bristol, BS4 3EW
Parking: Free car park onsite.
Victoria Park sits south of the river in Bedminster (near the train station – the train passes by on one side of the park, which is exciting for young transport lovers!) and has tennis courts, a skate park, views across the city in all directions, a basketball court and ping pong tables. There are three separate childrens’ playgrounds in the grounds of the parkland – one at the northern end of Nutgrove Avenue, one near St Lukes Road and another on the Fraser Street side (although this one is quite bare). Nutgrove Avenue play area offers the most varied equipment and is more geared towards younger children – the area is fenced off and includes a grassy knoll of a slide, swings, climbing frames, a seesaw and views of Totterdown’s houses tumbling down the hillside. St Lukes Road playground has a wooden climbing frame which has swinging steps and rope bridges among other things. The park also hosts many events throughout the year, one of the key ones being a huge Guy Fawkes Night, with bonfire, ‘judge the guy’ competition and food and drink stalls.
Address: Hill Avenue, Bedminster, BS3 4SN
Parking: There is no onsite parking, but there are various surrounding streets where you can search for a spot. There are also bus routes and the park is close to Bedminster Train Station.
Windmill Hill City Farm is free to enter and a perfect place for pottering about and learning about farm animals (they sometimes run goat walking events here!). It’s a place with immediately apparent strong community and environmental vibes. Next to the lovely café (which serves some of their own produce grown onsite), there is a small play area, but head over to the right hand side of the entrance and you’ll find a larger, wooden kids’ playground. It’s mostly wooden and features a caterpillar-style rope swing, a tipi, some rope clambering equipment, sand pit and a few ride on toys for little kiddos.
Address: Philip Street, Bedminster, BS3 4EA
Parking: There is on-street parking in the surrounding streets (note meters operate Mon – Fri 9am to 5pm £1/hr max 3 hrs, evenings and weekends are free). For longer visits, Bedminster car park on Dalby Avenue, BS3 4HH is a very short walk from their rear entrance near Clarke Street. The Farm is a 15-minute walk from Temple Meads Railway Station, or via The closest bus stops are on Bedminster Parade (numbers 52, 75, 76, 90, 121, 510, 511, 672).
It might seem a little elusive, tucked away behind Cineworld and Frankie and Bennie’s, but once you’re in the right place, lo and behold, Bristol’s biggest free kids’ playground. I mean it’s huge! The park is separated helpfully by animal boards, recommending ages and heights best suited to various parts of the equipement. There is one serious 12m high climbing dome with the mother of all twirling slides, plus a hamster wheel and various other bits of kit for older kids, then swings, zip line, tyre see saw (lots of fun for co-adult/kid playing), boat-style slides, a sand pit, water play feature (which I imagine gets going in summer) and a play garden with wooden bridges and tunnels. Those with weak bladders will be pleased to hear there are toilet facilities onsite, as well as a café. It’s worth checking the opening times for the park before visiting as opening hours vary depending on the time of year.
If your kiddos are into spinning some tricks, there is a skate park next door with half pipes, rails, bowls, ramps and boxes to play on with a skateboard, rollerblades or a BMX bike.
Address: Hengrove Way, BS14 0HR
Parking: there is no dedicated parking, but there is plenty of spaces for cars at the Cineworld industrial complex right next door.
Kids’ playgrounds further afield:
Mundy Playing Fields, Thornbury
Thornbury is a sweet little market town close to Bristol, in South Gloucestershire. It’s famous for its castle (once holidayed in by Henry VIIII and Anne Boleyn, and now a luxury hotel) and its 6 O’Clock Gin distillery, the latter are both best done without kids in tow though! The playing fields on the other hand are fab, set in a vast grassy park, there is lots of fun equipment – some of which I’ve never seen before, including a modern, funky see saw. This park really comes into its own in summer with the splash park and there’s also a babbling brook at the foot of the hill with a tiny stone bridge which looks like it gets its fair share of paddling. Wander into town afterwards for a mooch or if you’d like the kids to keep amusing themselves on the slides while you sink a cheeky cider, The Anchor Inn has such a thing in its own little beer garden.
Address: High Street, Thornbury, BS35 2AR
Parking: There is a free car park next to the park.
Kids’ playgrounds on my Bristol bucket list:
- Kingsgate Park, Yate
- Old Quarry Park, Henleaze
- Stoke Bishop Play Park
- Eastville Park
- Felix Road Adventure Playground, Easton
- Greville Smyth Play Park
- Redcatch Park
- Arnos Park
- Perret’s Park
- Barton Hill Urban Park
- Easton Community Play Park
- Grimsbury Farm Playground
- Netham Park
- Dundridge Park
- Page Park, Staple Hill/Downend
Where else should be on my list? Let me know in the comments below!
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