Park of the Week: Polar Bear Park
Ask any kid in Anchorage and most likely they’ll know about this east Anchorage park.
After I took my daughter there last year, she talked about it for weeks. I don’t blame her. For any kid under the age of 10, sliding out of the mouth of a gigantic polar bear head is a pretty awesome and memorable experience.
Last weekend, my friends had a birthday party for their 5-year-old at Polar Bear (Russian Jack Springs) Park. It was the perfect backdrop for the group of about 20 or so kids -- from babies like my toddling 1-year-old still testing their balance -- to the daring kindergarteners ready to climb up on every piece of play equipment.
The Kubic’s set up the party to be relaxing for both the kids and the parents. There isn’t a shelter right next to the play equipment at Russian Jack Springs Park, so the Kubic’s brought folding tables and a few lawn chairs and threw out boxes of Costco pizza and a giant frosted cake. Their goal was to have the emphasis on playing -- with food and cake for the kids whenever the kids wanted to take a break, something they noticed didn’t happen at some other, more expensive birthday party venues they’ve been to.
“The only thing I think they know the difference of is how much time they get to play because at the ones you have to pay money at you’re like okay you have to go play now -- and now it’s cake time -- and now we’re caked out. But here, you let them run rotten and pump them full of sugar and then try to get them to bed,” Andy Kubic chuckles as he jokes about the kid’s impending bedtime.
If free and relaxing is your vibe, this is a great park for a celebration. One downside could be that the party tables were set up so close to the playground that random kids joined in – and helped themselves to food and cake.
If a shelter, picnic tables and a grill is more your style, there are several parks around town where you can reserve that space. The cost varies depending on the park, but the average amount for four hours is around $90.
Best for kids that are: climbers. From ropes to monkey bars to multi-story structures, this park offers a plethora of choices and levels of difficulty for the daring. There’s also what looks like a rock wall which all the kids thought was very cool.
My 4-year-old was able to navigate up and over several of the features at the park, but there was plenty left over for her to grow into. While there were several play pieces that my 15-month-old enjoyed, he didn’t really engage with the features. He had fun inside what looks like a snow cat, but grew bored quickly and then screamed to get down. In my opinion, the best age for this park would be 8 to 11.
Best piece of equipment: Polar Bear slide. After all, all the cool kids call it Polar Bear Park – which means the slide has got be pretty cool, right?
The slide is long and fast and has a kid either going down or in perpetual states or climbing back up.
So if you have a small tot like me, who always tries to climb up slides, keep a close eye out. Also, those small tots can fly off the end on the way down, so heads up, you probably want to be at the bottom to catch them.
The other things: There are several very clean port-o-potties a short walk from the playground and there are plenty of places to park -- even on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.
Located off Debarr Road near Williwaw Elementary, this would be the perfect place to go either before or after a Costco trip, but it made such an impression on my daughter that she regularly asks and most often I say yes because it’s a different pace and nice change from our neighborhood park.
One more thing: the Kubics want to add that this is a great park during all of Anchorage’s seasons. The kids appropriately named it after a winter animal; Andy says he takes his family there because the Muni (or someone) does a great job of keeping the snow off the play equipment.
So, I hope to see you at Polar Bear park no matter what time of year!
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