Discovery Zone FuncenterREADERS' PICK: This fabulous indoor playground can thank the academy for this honor, in part, because most Tucson outdoor playgrounds are covered with snow for much of the year. No, that can't be right. Sorry, we're still a little groggy from scooting around inside the giant labyrinth at Discovery Zone. It's hard to say which part of this virtual kiddie gymnasium is best. The winding tubes are human-sized versions of what every well-housed hamster has in its cage, and connect different types of play areas. Pools of brightly colored plastic balls invite you to swim or get covered up. The slides are slick and fast, but there's some padding at the end. Attendants are on duty to make sure the squeals of delight are just that, and are in greater attendance at a section set up exclusively for toddler-aged participants. Some of us like that older folks aren't kept away from the fun, but sedentary parents will also appreciate the many chairs and tables that overlook the scene.
6238 E. Broadway
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP--TIE: Reid Park, County Club Road and 22nd Street, and Dinosaur McDonald's, 6900 E. Tanque Verde Road.
STAFF PICK: TIE--Himmel Park, 1000 N. Tucson Blvd., and Reid Park, 200 S. Alvernon Way, offer great play possibilities for the rugrats. Besides the retired train engine that watches over the playground in this midtown park, stoking the imaginations of children of all ages, Himmel Park has the Goldilocks appeal: not too big, not too small. Just right. Families with little tikes and older sibs love the west playground area for its toddler play structure--complete with swings, slides, miniature picnic table and tons of sand--and adjacent big kids' swings and super-duper slide. Blast off! Just a few miles southeast of Himmel is another family favorite: Reid Park. We like the area north of the pond best for its wooden play structures that include tire swings, a bridge and tunnel, lots of shade trees and restrooms close by (thank you, city planners).
CAT'S MEOW: Grab those perpetual-motion machines you call children, strap their bikes on top of your ancient import and haul them out to Udall Park bike path and dirt mounds, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. Around the soccer fields you'll find a paved loop that beginner and intermediate biker kids will find a blast to ride on, because they can go around and around and around the big circle and not get bored. When they want a little more of a challenge, send them to the dirt mounds, which are apparently a dirt storage area for the city but which kids have no difficulty in identifying as a fun place to wrestle their bikes up and over the top.