Written by Stephanie Miskowiec
West Park Carmel has been a long-time local favorite when it comes to Carmel playgrounds, but after a recent renovation, it’s now attracting people from near and far! The reimagined park now includes a two-story playground with modern equipment and thrilling slides, a seasonal splash pad, one of the best sledding hills in Central Indiana, increased parking, year-round restrooms, and improved walking trails, including paved trails and over-water boardwalk paths as well as unpaved paths through the woods. There is also a separate nature adventure playground in the woods behind the Jill Perelman Pavilion where you can find respite from the sun as well as a zipline!
West Park Carmel
West Park Carmel, one of the larger parks in Carmel with 120 acres of play space, is one of several area parks that have recently undergone reconstruction. Rather than solely obtaining input from professional designers and architects, city officials gave local school-aged children an opportunity to provide feedback in focus groups. The consensus was to focus on originality in the design of the park, while also including many natural elements.
West Park Carmel has an endless list of things to do now. You could easily spend a day hiking and biking the grounds, playing on the playgrounds, splashing in the splash pad or sledding down the hill, fishing off the boardwalk, picnicking on the grass or at the shelter, or venturing over to the nature adventure playground.
The centerpiece of the playground is a whimsical clock tower structure for climbing and exploring. This towering form is visible as you enter the park from 116th Street. A long metal slide juts out from the highest part of the tower as a thrilling exit for anyone who climbs to the top. The structure does not easily accommodate adult-sized helpers and smaller children may find the climb to the top and the large slide a little intimidating on their own.
Luckily, for younger children and those adverse to heights, there are smaller play structures that include a variety of climbing and sliding elements. A few swings are available in this area, as well as an in-ground merry-go-round and some musical features. Another creative element is a cluster of painted wooden beams sprouting from the ground for more imaginative play. An additional collection of swings is located a short walk from the main play area. Sidewalks provide access to the various playground sections.
The West Park Carmel playground is also unique in its varied elevations. Two separate play areas are connected by a winding sidewalk and a bridge overlooking the splash pad. The metal tube slide also connects the upper and lower play areas. Parents may be glad to hear that the ground cover in the playground is not wood chips or mulch, but rather a cushioned rubber turf.
Splash Pad with Waterfall
Another highlight of the West Park Carmel playground is the unique splash pad. The splash pad is included in the general play area, however, the water features will only be functioning seasonally. Nature-inspired elements here include a waterfall, a canyon design with a bridge above, rocks, and some elevated gutters for directing the water flow. The water flows like a stream for stomping while other in-ground sprayers add more splashing opportunities.
One pronounced element of the redesign is the integration of the playground structures and the splash park. During the summer months, children can climb, slide, swing, and splash as these elements are all included in the general play area.
During the snowy winter months, grab your sleds and slide down the two-story sledding hill. There is a gradual, paved walkway up the hill to make the trek to the top easier for both kids and parents. You can slide down every side of the hill so there isn’t a lot of waiting around when you’ve made your way back to the top. We love sledding here because there is always parking available and our little kids won’t be run over by the bigger kids as they tend to go down the steeper, back side of the hill.
Nature Adventure Playground
When visiting West Park Carmel, don’t forget to explore the Nature Adventure Playground tucked behind the Jill Perelman Pavilion. Access this area by walking along the trails or taking a quick drive to the separate parking lot. This area has been open for a while but can be overlooked, as it is hidden inside the forest behind the pavilion. Here you’ll find nature-inspired play and climbing structures. One of the highlights here is a zip line that appeals to the adventurous thrill-seekers!
Nature Trails and Prairie Maze
Many of the well-loved natural elements remain for anyone familiar with West Park Carmel prior to the renovation. Visitors can stroll over two miles of walking trails with boardwalks, some of which have been updated. There are paved trails throughout the park as well as dirt paths through the woods, perfect for hiking or biking. For those looking for places to go fishing, there are areas along the trails that are suitable for this activity.
The prairie maze and “Jill’s Hill” are both available to explore and enjoy as well. Along your walk through the prairie maze, you are likely to find grasshoppers, praying mantises, rabbits, and many plants in bloom. These areas are a short walk from the main playground and provide an opportunity to explore nature while visiting West Park Carmel.
Visitors can find year-round bathrooms, drinking fountains with a bottle filler, and several picnic tables near the play area. The picnic area is sheltered, but seating around the playground and splash pad areas is not covered. Across the parking lot are additional covered picnic areas that provide a bit more privacy. Some of the picnic shelters will eventually be available to reserve for events online. The parking lot has been expanded and is in close proximity to the playground, shelters, and bathrooms.
The renovations at West Park Carmel make it an ideal place to explore for anyone looking to take to the trails through both the woods and prairie. It is also a must-see for families looking to discover an imaginative, exciting new playground and splash pad for kids of all ages.
For more kid-friendly fun, check out our favorite Carmel restaurants and Carmel activities! Or, book a babysitter and go on a date night in Carmel!
2700 W 116th Street