Today’s post covers something a little different than the topics I usually discuss on the blog, but I think there is still a smidge of personal finance related material in the topic.
As the parents of young children know it can be challenging to keep them entertained. No matter what family fun thing you have just finished doing, you can bet it won’t be long before your kids ask you “what are we doing next?”. If you get into the habit of spending on something new, like movie tickets or new toys, whenever the boredom hits it can become very expensive too.
One of our family’s go-to experiences is to get somewhere outside, and most likely that includes going to a park. My intent for today’s post is to be the first in a series rating some of the parks in and around Boise to give those of you in the Treasure Valley an idea of some of the great options right on your doorstep.
One of the things we like best about Boise is the outdoor & active lifestyle that permeates the environment here. Most people think of the mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and lake and river activities that are available here. But Boise has done a great job sprinkling a large number of parks all over the city. We like to get out in the foothills for hiking like everyone else, but with two little kids ages three and five, you can’t beat a good park outing.
For this first post I’m going to rate one of our mainstay parks: Camel’s Back Park. We seem to end up here at least once every weekend or so. It’s great for us because it has a little bit of everything. There are a few good trails up the hill to give the dogs some exercise. The playground is large with a variety of different sized areas for both boys to play on. It has some nice climbing trees and plenty of open area to run around.
To rate these parks, I’ve come up with an extremely scientific rating system consisting of 6 criteria, it’s been peer reviewed and everything, I swear 😉
- Playground equipment
- Benches/seating for parents
- Available area for running, kites, throwing frisbees, etc.
- Sporting courts – volleyball, tennis, soccer
Playground equipment: 4/5
The playground equipment here is pretty standard larger park set. They have all of the items you would expect to find: Slides, Monkey Bars, Swings, etc. There is also a nice amount of play space for children of varying ages and abilities. There is a picnic table in the smaller section where my younger son likes to pretend he is serving us pizza, and there are plenty of slides and climbing attractions that neither of them are quite big enough to use just yet.
Benches/seating for parents: 4/5
The nicer the park, the longer your kids will want to stay and play, and you don’t want to have to cut the outing short because there aren’t any good spots for mom and dad to relax. Camel’s Back has a decent number of benches around the playground area, and we have been able to find an open bench even when there are quite few families playing at the park. The seating is made even better by the number of trees providing shade on the benches so you can relax in the shade while your kids play.
Available area for running, flying kites, throwing frisbees, and that sort of thing: 5/5
Camel’s Back has a large open area that leads up to Camel’s Back Hill. You’d be hard pressed to visit during any weekend afternoon and not see groups throwing frisbees, tossing a football back and forth, or playing a game of spike ball. Along with all of the open space there are still plenty of trees around the park spaced at optimum distance for setting up hammocks and slacklines.
Sporting courts – volleyball, tennis, soccer: 4/5
The park has four tennis courts that are in very good shape as well as one sand volleyball court. There is also a flat area by the tennis courts for setting up a kids soccer field.
For the size of the park, parking isn’t usually much of a problem. There is a parking lot next to the tennis courts that tends to fill up quickly, but you can usually find an open spot along the two streets that bound the park, 13th Street and Heron Street, or in the residential area south of the park and Heron Street. Weekends and evenings it can be trickier to find parking due to more people using the park as well as folks going to the restaurants and shops in Hyde Park.
The thing that sets Camel’s Back park apart is the Hill that gives it its name. The hill is the perfect size for our boys at this age. It’s large enough to be an exciting activity, but not so steep or tall that anyone gets tired or frustrated before we get to the top, well most of the time. Most of our trips to the park follow a familiar pattern. We all hike to the top of the hill, taking the steeper direct route or an easier trail around the side, depending on how adventurous the boys are feeling. We take a break at the top to catch our breath and enjoy the view of downtown Boise, maybe take some pictures to highlight on social media. The trails go on further in the Camel’s Back Reserve/Hull’s Gulch area but we never make it very far before we head back down the hill so the boys can play on the playground.
Camel’s Back scores quite well with 27 out of a possible 30 points. There’s a reason we end up there with the boys more often than not when we need a quick outdoor activity. So how about you, what are some of your favorite parks, or what other free or inexpensive outdoor activities do you like to do?