Every child deserves a place to play, and the D.C. area is home to a number of playgrounds specially designed for children with physical, developmental or sensory disabilities. Accessible playgrounds provide a way for kids with disabilities to play alongside their typically developing peers, although you don’t need to have a disability to enjoy them. In fact, many young children prefer accessible playgrounds because they have so many unique features.
Here are six of the best playgrounds for inclusive fun across the DMV.
Fairfax’s Clemyjontri Park is the biggest — and arguably the best — playground in the D.C. area for kids of all abilities. Every part of this colorful playground was designed with inclusion in mind, from Virginia’s first Liberty Swing that accommodates wheelchairs to play structures that have ramps instead of stairs. The two-acre park even includes an accessible carousel and a trackless train. Enjoy a snack or lunch in the picnic pavilion, or reserve it for a special occasion. 6317 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA 22101
Many of D.C.’s playgrounds have great themes, such as trains and math, and its only fully inclusive playground is no exception. Rosedale’s National Mall theme includes mini versions of the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Natural History Museum and other landmarks. Among the specialized equipment are double-wide ramps, a high-backed spinner, a wheelchair-accessible glider and lots of sensory elements. 1701 Gales St., NE, Washington, DC 20002
When it was built more than 20 years ago, Hadley’s Park, named after a local girl with cerebral palsy, was the first accessible playground in Maryland and one of the first of its kind in the United States. There are three themed play areas — a pirate ship, frontier village and castle — each with ramps and different games and challenges. Brightly colored signs also include braille for visually-impaired children. 12600 Falls Road, Potomac, MD 20854
Chessie’s Big Backyard
Located in the Lee District Family Recreation Area, Chessie’s is a nature-themed accessible playground with a padded rubber floor surface and wheelchair-friendly ramps. There’s also a 2,160-foot flat trail with sensory features designed for kids of all abilities and an accessible tree house to explore the treetop canopy. Little kids can climb on a pint-size playground nearby, and don’t forget to take a spin on the Chesapeake Bay-themed carousel, set flush to the ground for easy access. 6601 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, VA 22310
Our Special Harbor
Near Chessie’s Big Backyard in the Lee District Family Recreation Area is Our Special Harbor, the area’s only fully accessible spray park. Kids of all abilities can cool down while playing with giant water-dumping bucks and water cannons, among other Chesapeake Bay-themed activities. Younger children and those who don’t like to get soaked by surprise can head to the sand-free “beach” to play with water tables and fountains that gently spray water. 6601 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, VA 22310
Opened in May, this new “play-for-all” playground in Howard County has six unique areas enclosed with fencing. Among the specialized equipment are a wheelchair-accessible rocking boat and merry-go-round, plus non-verbal communication boards to help kids express their feelings. For little ones who may be overwhelmed by all the activity, there are quiet spaces and smaller activities near the trees on the periphery of the playground. The expansive park also includes a section of backyard games, such as bocce courts, horseshoe pits and croquet courts. 5750 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia, MD 21045
This story originally appeared in our July 2021 issue.