Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! As its name suggest, Oz Park celebrates a Wizard of Oz theme catered to preschool aged children. Located in the Lincoln Park community, the park features the Dorothy’s Playlot playground for little ones. There is also an Emerald Garden with beautiful flowers and statues of all of the book’s favorite characters throughout. Spanning over 14 acres, the park also includes many sporting courts which are home to camps and events in warmer months.
The area surrounding Oz Park today is considered enviable real estate, but it was in need of improvement in the 1950s. An urban renewal plan came to light in the years to follow, and by 1974, there was land acquired for a park. In 1976, the park was named Oz Park in honor of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author Lyman Frank Baum, who used to live just several miles from the park. Cast bronze statues were slowly added throughout, with the latest Dorothy and Toto joining in 2007.
Oz Park Features
Dorothy’s playlot features an array of equipment on which for children to swing, run and play atop a soft rubberized material. Along with honoring Oz’s favorite heroine, Dorothy’s Playlot is also named after Dorothy Melamerson, a former Chicago gym teacher. Melamerson donated money in 1994 to fund an athletic field with basketball, volleyball and tennis courts.
The Emerald Garden is located at the corner of Webster and Larrabee, adorned with flowers for visitors to walk through. (Don’t worry, there are no poppies.)
The park is adorned with sculptures throughout. The Tin Man greets guests near the intersection of Lincoln, Webster and Larrabee. It is appropriately made from automobile parts with a plaque reading, “The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum welcomes you to Oz Park.”
Near the Tinman, the Scarecrow is crafted from poured bronze. A bronze Cowardly Lion is situated near the intersection of Larrabee and Dickens. The latest additions are the bronze Dorothy and Toto, who stand on the park’s west side near the playground.
Oz Park Events
The Chicago Park District hosts several youth programs at the park, including day camps, T-ball and golf. Day camps are also held here in the summer. Oz Park is one of Chicago’s parks that hosts Movies in the Park for free on nights throughout the summer. Other past events have included a pumpkin patch for children and Art Therapy Connection’s Chalk Festival.