A literal interpretation of grass roots banjo (Sandy Thacker)
Parents looking for family-friendly summer fun should head straight for the recently opened Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park.
The main entrance-way (located just west of the Park Pavilion) invites you in through a tiny door and then leads you past a row of winningly weird topiary frogs.
The wide-open central area offers lots of scope for physical play, for climbing, sliding, swinging, running, jumping. (Don't worry: There are benches for weary grownups.) There's also endless room for imaginative play, for sending messages, defending forts and wandering into the edges of a friendly forest.
And crucially, with this year's hot, dry summer, there's a terrific water feature, a kind of beach substitute that lets children wet their feet and muck around with sand and water. It's a series of chutes and gates and pools that also encourages co-operative play. (I noticed that kids who didn't know each other were getting together to work on dam/irrigation/big-mess megaprojects, which was very cool.)
The playground is the keystone of an overall Park Improvement Plan, which includes some beautiful landscaping around the expanded Duck Pond (which I remember from my own childhood as fun but sort of grotty) and the planned Qualico Family Centre, which is currently in mid-construction.
And every Friday night in August, families can tire out their kids in the park and playground and then stroll over to watch free movies at the Lyric Theatre. This is a great way to relax and cool down as the daytime temperatures start to drop. The price is right (free!), and the programming's good, too. The line-up offers small-kid-friendly films like Happy Feet and Ice Age 2 for the 7:00 pm screening, and then at 9:15 rolls out movies geared for older kids and teens (Avatar, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Raiders of the Lost Ark).
Alison Gillmor, CBC reviewer