Ask my 4-year-old what her favorite park is, and she’ll tell you the latest park that we went to.

When I was asked what MY favorite park is, I hesitated. With two kids at or below that age of 4, that really depends. What’s your criteria? Is it my favorite because I’m happy, or because my kids are happy? And if it’s because are kids are happy, does that mean it’s at my expense?

Let me explain. I love all of Anchorage’s 82 playgrounds and more than 200 parks – well, let’s be honest. I haven’t been to half of them – but I love the excitement of experiencing somewhere we haven’t been before. (Mostly because my 4-year-old won’t stop talking about that new park for like two days. Which is a really long time considering her attention span.)

So. Whew. Let’s go back to my original quest: what is my favorite park in Anchorage? Based on the next three very important criteria, I decided on Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park in Westchester Lagoon.

KTVA's Emily Carlson and her daughters play at Anchorage's Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park in Westchester. (Credit: Emily Carlson/KTVA)

Trail access: We have very close access to what I think is Anchorage’s crown jewel: the more than 120 miles of paved trails the city has to offer. My kids and I can bike, run, walk, ski, sled, or do whatever we want to – wiggle or walk or dance – our way to Westchester. Last year, when my then 3-year-old Charlotte and newborn were the wiggliest and squiggliest worms on the planet, I was forced to bribe Charlotte to (willingly) get in the double stroller for a visit to the park. Westchester was one of the many places we stopped and played at.

KTVA's Emily Carlson and her children play at Anchorage's Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park in Westchester. (Credit: Emily Carlson/KTVA)

Other important access points: Let’s face it, parents: sometimes you just DON’T WANT TO RUN. Or walk. Or bike. Or move. Period. That’s when you load your screaming kids into the car and haul them to a park and park your big SUV covered with the dried food your kids smeared on the back windows and car seats and cracks and crevices you didn’t even know you had while they scream their way to the park as you sing your heart out to a Disney song because YOU couldn’t scream (and swear) into the mirror like you really wanted. So when you get to your destination, you just need a parking space. A lot of parking spaces, actually, in case there’s a lot of parents losing their minds like you with the same idea. Don’t worry; Westchester has you covered with 16 very wide spots. Also – just in case your kids need them on short notice – there are four very nice and clean porta-potties at your disposal.

KTVA's Emily Carlson and her children play at Anchorage's Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park in Westchester. (Credit: Emily Carlson/KTVA)

Variety of play equipment: As you know by my frantic and sometimes panicked writing by now, I have two small children. And while they are very adorable and Instagram-able – they also refuse to do anything for more than 10 seconds. Wait, make that 5. I would say that most of the time, parks don’t cater to both my kids. And let’s be brutally honest, my 1-year-old has the attention span of a frantic squirrel (basically 2 seconds). However, he loves Westchester and I’ll tell you why. That awesome yet weirdly shaped structure, which now houses sand and wood chips but I’m pretty sure is supposed to be for water? It’s exactly his height and he LOVES sticking his head in and screaming wild boy noises.

Maybe I’m an eco-friendly nature-loving adult who enjoys getting her kids to play outdoors – or maybe I’m a sleep-deprived mom searching for whatever makes her kids happy. But let’s be real: The reason I love Westchester is because it doesn’t just make my kids happy, it makes this mama happy too.

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