If you're looking for a nice spot to picnic along the Fox River (No. 6 on the Go West Sand Pail List) you won't go wrong with the latest in our "Great Parks!" series.
Park Name: North Aurora Island Park, a nearly 10-acre park that is part of the Fox Valley Park District.
Location: In the middle of the Fox River in North Aurora, just south of Route 56 (Butterfield Road). To get there, use either Route 31 or Route 25 to get to North Aurora, then the State Street Bridge across the Fox River. The park, and its parking lots, are to the south of State Street.
Amenities: The park underwent a major renovation in 2009. It features two shelters, restrooms, a picnic area, trail access and water access. I confess I didn't check out the restrooms, so I'm not sure if they are just port-a-potties or something more permanent. The playground is extensive and features lots of slides, climbing opportunities, monkeybar-like elements, a teeter-totter, two huge fish sculptures and eight swings, including baby swings. There is also a large sandpit with boulder "outcroppings," so make sure to bring your sand toys! It's easy to walk to the riverfront to feed birds, admire nature or skip rocks.
Good for: Children who love to play in the sand or get up close to nature and the river. (A textured concrete walkway in the playground contains real blue heron and raccoon tracks imprinted in it.) Also for parents who appreciate a modern, very clean playground in a scenic setting.
Our experience: I've driven along the riverfront through North Aurora on Route 25 and Route 31 so many times, but I was never sure exactly how to access the actual river. Finally, a friend more familiar with the area suggested we meet with our kids at Island Park one morning for a picnic and some playtime. Even after she gave me directions, I wasn't exactly sure where I was going ... but I figured it wouldn't be so hard to find an island in the river, and it wasn't.
I was impressed with the modern playground equipment. I also love a park filled with good, old, shady trees, although much of the playground was still in the sun. Our kids spent probably about as much time throwing rocks into the river as they did on the playground. They also enjoyed playing in the sand. When it was time for lunch, there were plenty of shaded picnic tables to choose from.
Only one one family appeared while we were there, but it's such a wonderful park, I'm sure it's usually not so desolate.
The only problem? We did have to avoid some pesky geese. But they won't keep me from returning to a lovely park with such a great location on the Fox River.
Note: Visit the Go West Flickr albums to take a look at more photos from North Aurora Island Park.