America’s top cities for playgrounds

Madison, WI, is a playground for playgrounds.

New data from The Trust for Public Land shows Madison — the capital of Wisconsin and the home of the University of Wisconsin’s main campus — boasts more playgrounds per 10,000 residents than any of the 100 largest U.S. cities.

Every year, The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore index rates park systems in the 100 largest U.S. cities, with the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents being one of the rating factors. At seven playgrounds per 10,000 residents, Madison topped the playground ranking for 2018.

The City of Madison “is proud to offer over 175 playgrounds throughout our park system, inspiring and encouraging recreation and imagination for children of all ages,” says Ann Shea, a spokeswoman for the Madison Parks Division.

According to the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association, outdoor playtime at playgrounds like the ones in Madison can:

  • Improve the physical and emotional well-being of children.
  • Boost children’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Spur group interaction and socialization.
  • Encourage kids’ cognitive development.
  • Help kids recover from traumatic events.

“Playgrounds are important to communities across America because play is vital to the development of all children. When children play on a playground, they build physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills that last a lifetime,” says Brian Johnson, chair of the association’s marketing committee. “Playgrounds also help bring families together, allowing them to disconnect from devices and spend time together, getting physical activity that shapes a healthy routine.”

A report published in 2011 by the Active Living Research initiative at the University of California, San Diego shows playgrounds enable children of all ages to be physically active and, therefore, healthier.

“By developing publicly accessible neighborhood playgrounds, designing them to maximize active uses and maintaining their spaces and equipment to ensure safety and reduce the risk of injury, playgrounds can be a benefit to children and communities,” according to the Active Living Research report.

Here at LawnStarter, we’re all about more playtime and less lawn-mowing time. So, we’re as excited as a kid climbing on a jungle gym to present America’s top cities for playgrounds, based on ParkScore data for 2018.

1. Madison, WI

Number of playgrounds: 7 per 10,000 residents

2. Norfolk, VA

Number of playgrounds: 6.6 per 10,000 residents

3 (tie). Chesapeake, VA

Number of playgrounds: 5 per 10,000 residents

3 (tie). Cincinnati, OH

Number of playgrounds: 5 per 10,000 residents

5 (tie). Lincoln, NE

Number of playgrounds: 4.6 per 10,000 residents

5 (tie). Corpus Christi, TX

Number of playgrounds: 4.4 per 10,000 residents

7 (tie). Arlington, VA

Number of playgrounds: 4.3 per 10,000 residents

7 (tie). Omaha, NE

Number of playgrounds: 4.3 per 10,000 residents

9 (tie). Sacramento, CA

Number of playgrounds: 4.1 per 10,000 residents

9 (tie). Virginia Beach, VA

Number of playgrounds: 4.1 per 10,000 residents


John Egan

John Egan is the former editor in chief of Now, he is a freelance writer extraordinaire. He lives in Austin, Texas.