With its magnificent swinging bridge, host of slides, tunnels, pirate ships, towers, swings, and beach worth of sand, Dennis The Menace Playground in Monterey, California is the perfect stopping off spot before a long drive or between visits to Monterey’s many attractions.

The park first opened in 1956, after donations to the city by Hank Ketchum, the creator of the Dennis the Menace comic strip, and has undergone many a renovation since then. The city’s best and most famous playground, it is set within Monterey’s El Estero Park Complex – a 45-acre recreation area in the center of the city, which includes a BBQ picnic area, a small lake with paddle boats, as well as a skate park (open daily from 09.00 to dusk) suitable for skateboarders and in-line skaters of all levels and abilities.

Play Equipment Overlooking the immaculately kept sandy playground is a magnificent wobbly suspension bridge joining two ‘hills’, one with stairs to encourage children to make the climb, the other with a tunnel burrowing through the centre.

As is befitting a sandy horizon, there’s a pirate ship for younger children with Captain’s steering wheel, bridge deck and viewing platforms

Three forts are designed for various ages and capabilities: one has a tall whirly slide that curls around at least three times, while another fort has tunnels joining two raised platforms that boast firemen’s poles, ladders and walkways to keep an army of children entertained. At the far end of the playground sits a yellow bridge that arches over a long slide, while two ‘parallel’ slides snake down the slope on the opposite hillside. There is something here for every age group with an additional play area for toddlers that is fenced off with rubber mat flooring. Two platform forts offer peepholes, climbing ladders as well as a whirly slide and a straight slide and are linked by a raised walkway, while a set of swings includes a baby swing.

Why go All the usual reasons why you’d want to stop at a playground, plus the benefit of being able to take a breather on your travels up the California coast…

Who is it best for All ages.

Top Three Features The swinging bridge for its architectural elegance; the slides for their adrenalin factor; and the pirate ship for school-age play!

Shaded Play Areas There are no structured shaded areas, but there are numerous forts where children can play whilst shaded by the equipment itself on a sunny day, plus tunnels for shelter in a sudden downpour.

Top Tip Take your shoes off before you trek out across the sand – then shake it all off before getting back in the car! There’s nothing worse than finding a beach worth of sand in your luggage midway through a trip across California.

Don’t Go If it’s raining and you hate getting sand in your Crocs.

For the Kids to Find Can you find Dennis the Menace? And how do you measure up?

While You’re Here If you have the time, and the weather is hot, set  aside an hour for a paddleboat on the little lake next door – it’s the perfect complement to all that running around. And, of course, dedicate the majority of a day to visit the sensational Monterey Bay Aquarium!!