Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined

New playgrounds usually spark a lot of attention from us parents. And this one has definitely been the talk of the town (actually more like all of Hartford County).  

Last month, Jonathan’s Dream in West Hartford reopened.  If you are unfamiliar with the history of this playground, you’ll want to check out their website and read all about it. The original playground was built in  the 1990’s and was the first accessible playground. It was a popular and well-loved playground.  It closed in 2013 due to wear and safety concerns.  The community was definitely sad to see such a beloved place shut down.  

Of course, this was not the end for Jonathan’s Dream. Thanks to the love and determination of everyone involved, Jonathan’s Dream opened this October. While I can’t compare it to the original (it closed before my time began as a mom!); the new playground is AMAZING! 

I am learning all about this area since my son started preschool.   And when I discovered this new playground was near his school, I knew I was in trouble. Because every day since our first visit to the playground he asks me to go back. With the weather cooling down and the days getting shorter, our playground time after school is winding down but I have a feeling next spring we will be here a lot! 

Jonathan’s Dream is located on the grounds of the Mandell Jewish Community Center on Bloomfield Avenue, as you head towards University of Hartford.  It is a public playground, and it is open to anyone!

(from Google Maps)

The playground is behind the buildings; tucked into a little wooded area.  

You’ll find plenty of parking.  

You’ll see the big rainbow sign right for Jonathan’s Dream from the parking lot, and the entrance is located right underneath. 

Of course, my favorite feature of any playground: a gated fence! I think every parent of a small child lets out a sigh of relief when they see one of those!! 

Jonathan’s Dream opens 1 hour after sunrise and closes a 1/2 hour prior to sunset. Parents must stay with their children at all times.  The playground is designed for ages 5 to 12 but like most playgrounds, little ones can have fun too. Some things may be a little more difficult for them to do or they may need help getting on a swing or the zipline, but I saw many little ones having a good time. Of course, you use the playground at your own risk so if you do bring your little ones with you, be mindful of this recommended age.  Especially if you have a daredevil like mine. 

When you first enter, take a moment to learn about the history behind Jonathan’s Dream.  As I mentioned, this playground has an amazing story; it was the first boundless playground ever built and it sparked a movement to make playgrounds more accessible for every child.  You’ll understand quickly why this playground means so much to everyone in the community and why it is so well-loved. 

We actually headed to the playground the Friday after it opened. We went after school and when we first arrived, there were only two other moms with their kids. By 4 p.m. though, the playground was bustling! You can tell that everyone is excited to have this playground back up and running!  Do not let my pictures fool you into thinking we had this place to ourselves! We just happened to catch a very short window of quiet time!

Right when you walk in, you’ll spot Kevin’s Kourt which is an all-inclusive Bankshot basketball court.  There are hoops at varying heights for everyone to have a chance to shoot a basket. Although, I still missed because I’m that bad at basketball. 

Honestly, this child really just loved throwing all the balls (they had a bucket full!) … he did NOT love putting them all back in the bucket when mommy told him to.  But that’s what happens when you make a mess.

Around the corner from the basketball court is a climbing area.  Climbing is still a little advanced for this child; which I am totally okay with. One thing you’ll quickly notice is that most of the playground is set on padded ground (under the areas where falls can occur; otherwise, it’s concrete). So even if he did fall, the impact wouldn’t be so bad! He tried a couple things in this area but since it was a little challenging for him, we moved on quickly. 

Instead, this crazy contraption caught his eye. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly this is called… 

Across from the climbing structure, you’ll find a musical play area.  I honestly love these. And so do the kids! 

He had a great time trying out EVERY instrument.  

There is also a buddy bench in the musical area.  I loved the message on this bench: “One friend can change your whole life”. 

I also caught this in the musical area: a little library! These are becoming pretty popular! 

By the musical area, you’ll find the Sway-Fun Glider.  This is an all-accessible glider for all kids to enjoy! 

You’ll also find this fun car right near the musical area.  

As you head further into Jonathan’s Dream (it’s over 25,000 square feet, there is a lot to explore), you’ll find a covered pavilion in the center.  There are a few picnic tables so you can definitely plan a fun afternoon here with a picnic lunch! 

On top of the seating in the pavilion, you’ll find benches everywhere. My feet thank whoever designed this playground. It’s such a simple thing to add to a playground but it makes a world of difference! 

The swing area offers a lot more than just swings.

Here you’ll find standard swings, baby swings and accessible swings all along the same swing set. I loved this because often times you have two separate areas where you’ll find the big kid swings on opposite of the playground from the baby swings.  It’s nice to be able to keep all the kids together! 

This giant swing was fun! It can easily fit more than one kid too; so no fighting for turns!

He got a little stuck in this bucket spinner. 

This was another popular “ride” at the playground. He spent a fair amount of time on this; either going for the spin or pushing other kids around.

We had to try out everything

Behind the swing area is this amazing airplace zip-line! Swooon! We were in love with this! So was every other child.  

We had to try out both sides. He’s actually getting really good at holding on to the zipline. As I have a mini-heart attack every time he climbs on… 

As you head towards the back corner of Jonathan’s Dream, you’ll find a play area with different activities including a chalkboard, an abacus, and much more. These are great busy activities for the little learner.  

We also found this butterfly chair which he made himself at home on!  He loved this chair and asked me to “take a big cheese” of him in the butterfly. 

This see-saw was a popular spot once the kids started to fill in. He was happy to find someone to play with on this! 

There is a small cave-like tunnel and a balance beam by the see-saw.

Of course, the last part of Jonathan’s Dream is the huge awesome playscape! 

The main entrance to the playscape is via a ramp that starts near the pavilion.  

The playscape is plenty wide for full access and it also allows for a lot of children to be running through here at one time. 

There are additional ways in the playscape including a staircase located near the back; a rock wall; a rope ladder and a few other means.  

This is NOT a way in. 

Once you are in the playscape, there are different ways around including a shaky bridge and a non-shaky bridge; there is also more steps inside as well as a rope bridge. 

Throughout it, you’ll find places to stop, explore and learn. 

We also discovered this hidden play area underneath the playscape! 

Of course, no playscape would be complete without slides! There are two ways out of this playscape: a double slide and a roller slide. 

The roller slide was definitely the hit of the day! He loves these! 

We spotted a few other neat things in the area of the playscape including this strange but really fun contraption that was kind of like a boogie board. He kept trying that over and over, falling quite often, until he finally got it! He was so proud of himself! 

We spent close to two hours at Jonathan’s Dream that day! Our longest time ever at a playground in fact! And when we did leave, I was of course met with major resistance. Three year olds are tough! Unfortunately with the days ending earlier, we didn’t have much choice and it was time to go home. Thankfully we visited before the cold weather kicked in so we could stay for as long as we did! 

Jonathan’s Dream is a beautiful new playground. You can tell that everyone put their heart and soul into rebuilding this place – the love behind this definitely shows. As I mentioned, I don’t really have much to compare it to since I had never been to the old Jonathan’s Dream but this place is great and it is definitely worth a visit! 

This about sums it up…

Mandell Jewish Community Center – 335 Bloomfield Avenue  – West Hartford, Connecticut 

Website

Hours: Open Daily  – 1 Hour after Dawn to 1/2 Hour before Dusk

Features:

  • FREE!
  • Open to the Public
  • Accessible & Boundless playground
  • Open layout- easy to keep an eye on all areas of the playground
  • Fully Fenced! 
  • Swings- including baby swings 
  • Sensory Garden with Musical Instruments 
  • Zipline 
  • Basketball Court
  • Rubber Ground Cover in the Playground area; concrete in the walkways, pavilion, musical area and Kevin’s Kourt
  • Covered pavilion with picnic tables
  • Many benches throughout the playground 
  • Tree coverage; there should be shady areas (we were there towards the end of the day so it was hard to tell)
  • Large parking lot with plenty of available spaces
  • I did not see any bathrooms nearby

2 thoughts on “Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined

  1. Thank you so much for writing such a thorough and thoughtful review! It was my pleasure to work with my ‘partner in good’ Ronit Shoham, volunteer project manager and community volunteers to bring Jonathan’s Dream back to life. Amy Jaffe Barzach, Jonathan’s mom (and Daniel, Alyssa, and Michael’s mom)

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