Ninigret Park has fast become one of my family’s favorite places to spend an afternoon. I would consider my three-year-old son somewhat of a playground connoisseur at this point, and this one gets top billing from him. Besides the regular playground staples of swings, slides and monkey bars, Ninigret’s playground boasts a zip line and a “gaga pit,” and is surrounded by other family favorites include a small beach, a shaded pavilion, ball fields, basketball and tennis courts, a bike path which also doubles as a stroller walking path, and my personal favorite – clean kid-friendly bathrooms.
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If you’ve never heard of a gaga pit, you’re not alone. I hadn’t either and just thought it was a new fun way to contain your unruly children. Place in an enclosed pit, close gate and enjoy a few moments of peace. However, upon reading the sign with the official rules, I learned that gaga is basically a tamer version of dodgeball, good for both kids and adults alike. The pit was built as an Eagle Scout project last summer and is quite the hit with park-goers of all ages. Just don’t forget to BYOB (Bring your own ball!).
The beach area, which is staffed with lifeguards during the summer months, is perhaps one of the area’s best-hidden gems. It sits on Little Nini Pond, a spring-fed freshwater pond that’s shallow, clear and calm. It’s the perfect sandy shore for little kiddos to get their toes wet, play in the sand, learn to fish, and take a lunch break at the nearby picnic tables.
If you’re feeling more adventurous and want a larger body of water with more to offer, you can head over to Ninigret Pond, the largest of Rhode Island’s salt ponds, for some clamming, kayaking and more.
Also within the confines of Ninigret Park is a frisbee golf course, a dog park, a community garden, a senior center and the Frosty Drew Observatory. The observatory is another seriously underappreciated local attraction in my opinion. It’s open every Friday night year-round and Wednesday nights in the summer. Weather conditions play a big part in how late they stay open and what you’ll see, but during peak stargazing events, it’s one of the most spectacular ways to spend an evening. Be sure to dress appropriately with plenty of warm layers during the winter months and plenty of lightweight coverage and insect repellent in the summer.
Although my kids aren’t quite there yet, and I myself have had “buy a bike” on my summer to-do list for the last 10 years or so, the Criterium Bike Track is another great feature of the park. The 9/10 mile long paved track is available to the public when races or private events are not scheduled and can be used for walking, biking or jogging. From April to September, NBX holds its Summer Criterium Series there, which is a series of races for all levels on the closed course.
On a final note, Ninigret Park is home to some of the best festivals Rhode Island has to offer. In August, they host the famous (and delicious!) Charlestown Seafood Festival, and Labor Day Weekend they play host to the beloved Rhythm & Roots Festival.
If you haven’t spent an afternoon enjoying all this amazing local park has to offer, I highly recommend you change that, and plan a visit very soon!