Once Upon a Playground At Fort Collins Museum of Discovery!

This Fun Interactive Look At Playground Equipment On Exhibit For Kids & Adults To Enjoy.

By Melissa Shrader Editor Publisher Loveland Macaroni Kid February 12, 2019

For more than a century, playgrounds have figured prominently in shaping children’s lives and lifelong memories.


Once Upon a Playground, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s special traveling exhibit opening January 29, offers a visual and interactive tour of over one hundred years of American playground equipment, and celebrates both the evolution and lasting power of these objects and structures that are synonymous with childhood.

For those of us who grew up with classic American playground equipment, the historic images in this exhibit are likely to bring back fond memories of gathering with friends on swings and slides during school recess or spending long afternoons with our families at local parks. We’ll remember how playgrounds helped us make new friends, and how time passed quickly as we exhausted ourselves with endless trips own the high metal slide, held contests to see who could swing the highest or move across all the monkey bars the fastest, and made ourselves dizzy on the whirling merry-go-rounds.

 Children of a younger generation may not share the nostalgia for these older objects, but they are creating experiences and memories of their own. As our collective ideas of childhood, community, and play have changed, so too have our playgrounds—from materials, to design, to the stories they tell. 

Contemporary playgrounds are also increasingly designed to be more inclusive so that they can be enjoyed by children of all abilities. As different as our new playgrounds may seem from those of previous decades, the common threads remain: the timelessness of children at play and the joy of uniting imagination with the excitement of carefree physical activity.  

Once Upon a Playground offers a visual tribute to vanishing playgrounds of our past, celebrating their place in American culture and the collective memories of generations. Co-curated by Brenda Biondo, author of Once Upon a Playground: A Celebration of Classic American Playgrounds, 1920–1975 (University Press of New England, 2014), and Carol Johnson, recently retired curator of photography at the Library of Congress, the exhibition combines contemporary photographs of classic equipment, vintage images of playground scenes from the Library of Congress’ collections, and images from period playground catalogs and other ephemera. By bringing together these diverse sources, the exhibition highlights a playground vernacular that developed over decades, while providing historical context and cultural insight.

In addition to the nostalgia-inducing photographs, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s special exhibition celebrates playgrounds of Fort Collins’ past, present, and future. In partnership with the City of Fort Collins Park Planning and Development, the museum secured a giant sugar beet play structure for the exhibit that is slated to be installed in a new City park in the summer of 2019. The sugar beet, designed by Earthscape Play Inc., has been retrofitted for the museum’s Woodward Special Exhibition Gallery Featuring a variety of ways to climb, traverse, and explore, this 12’ tall sugar beet, with a 7’ slide, is sure to put the “play” in playground.

We invite you to touch, to see, to smell, to listen, to climb, to build, to play — and to experience this interactive exhibition that is sure to enliven all your senses. Once Upon a Playground, organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO., is open for play,  exploration and reflection January 29 – May 26, 2019.  

This special traveling exhibition is $4 in addition to general admission and free for members of the museum. Climb into the past. Slide into the future. Ready, set… 


Tag @focomod in your Once Upon a Playground Photos!  #LetsPlay

Macaroni Mama Review:

Do you remember what your playground looked like? Do you remember the first time you climbed to the top of the biggest slide on the playground, looked down, and thought Wow! This is really high! But you went down anyway, then again and again? Do you remember the merry go round that you spent hours on spinning around till you thought you'd throw up? I remember getting off of it and walking sideways for a bit till I got my land legs back.

This exhibit brings those memories back along with some historical playground images via pictures and booklets. It also includes the newest creation available to play on, soon to be in a new park this summer.

There are pictures, brochures, diagrams and more on display from several decades of playground equipment that will make you ask how we all survived being kids. Some of the equipment looked like you really had to be physically fit to use and other equipment simply looked hazardous.

I couldn't get my daughter off the giant beet structure on display for kids to explore. It has several ways to climb around the structure and an incredible slide that several kids said they loved. There is also an area with large blue blocks that the kids can create their own play experience with. I would recommend allotting an hour or so for a trip to see the exhibit and play at the permanent displays. You could really make a day of it there with the snack area and all the exhibits. If you take pictures, and who doesn't? Tag Fort Collins Museum of Discovery with @focomod and add #LetsPlay in your photos.

About Fort Collins Museum of Discovery 

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is a state-of-the-art facility designed to engage people in hands-on and collections-based explorations in science and culture. The vision of the museum is to inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the future. Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is located at 408 Mason Court in Fort Collins. For information about the museum, please visit

About ExhibitsUSA

This exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to over 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. For more about ExhibitsUSA, email or visit

About Mid-America Arts Alliance

Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout our region and beyond. We achieve this primarily through our national traveling exhibition programs, innovative leadership development, and strategic grant making. We are especially committed to enriching the cultural life of historically under served communities by providing high quality, meaningful, and accessible arts and culture programs and services. Each year M-AAA’s programs reach one million people. We believe in more  art for more people. Additional information about M-AAA is available at