Magical Monsters & Kid-Size Castles: 12 Epically Imaginative Playgrounds

It’s true that as we get older, we lose most of the rich imagination that had us drawing monsters and telling strange stories as kids, the world seeming less magical with each year that passes. But sometimes, we grown-ups still manage to cling to some of that creativity, allowing us to design and build stuff that’s just as cool through the eyes of adults as it is to kids. These epic playgrounds around the world are a tribute to that wonder, curiosity and adventurous spirit, whether they’re exclusively for little ones or open for us to enjoy, too.

The City Museum Outdoor Playground, St. Louis, Missouri

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Mesh tunnels arch into the sky, airplanes are elevated on bright blue steel beams, and other metal parts criss-cross each other across a large open courtyard at what was once the 10-story International Shoe company in St. Louis. The 600,000-square-foot City Museum, designed by artist Bob Cassilly in 1997 and has been continually updated and improved by a group of 20 artists known as the Cassilly Crew since his death in 2011. Those two repurposed planes are just the beginning of a chaotic arrangement of play equipment including slides, caves, tunnels, ball pits, a rooftop Ferris wheel and a school bus that juts out from a ledge. It’s delightfully weird, and there’s nothing else quite like it in the world.

The Crooked Houses by Monstrum, Denmark

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There’s a lot more to this weird little collection of crooked houses than meets the eye, as the design is actually inspired by local slaughterhouses. According to Monstrum, a creative firm building playgrounds all over the world, the area was once home to dairies and slaughterhouses before it became urbanized, and their design reflects that history. Use climbing grips to scale the sides of the houses, or attempt to balance on beams leading from one window to the next.

Crocheted Alligator Playground by Olek, Sao Paulo
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This gigantic alligator-shaped playground in Brazil was already cool enough before crochet-bombing artist Olek brought her signature colorful encasing to give it a new look in 2012. It took the artist several weeks to cover the alligator in Brazilian ribbons and acrylic yarn. The internet is so enamored with Olek’s embellishment that it’s hard to find a photo of what the playground usually looks like.

Woods of Net at the Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan

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Another artist integrates woven fibers to playgrounds in a different way, making her hand-knitted creations interactive elements for kids to play on. “Woods of Net” at the Hakone Open Air Museum in Japan is a beautiful example of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s work, and took her an entire year to finish. The playground features trampoline-like knitted nets with pendulous growths on the underside functioning as swings.