Dante Fascell Park - South Miami – Best Shade, Best Character/Least New - located on the northwestern corner of SW 57th Avenue/Red Rd and SW 88th St/Kendall Drive.  The nicest features of Dante Fascell Park are that it is located near downtown South Miami (good shopping and entertainment), it has a shady playground with new and varied equipment appropriate for toddlers through early elementary aged kids, and it has plentiful shady picnic tables, including many under a pavilion roof.  It also has two distinctive features:  plenty of ducks to feed and an old, very large modern statue/sculpture of a nude woman that kids love to climb on (kids climb up to her shoulders, which seem like they're about 6 feet off the ground).  There are also public restrooms, drinking fountains and vending machines, a short (not especially appealing) walking path, a volleyball court, and a well-run tennis concession.  The playground is very popular. It has big kid swings and baby swings. It has two new, good-sized climbing structures, typical of many playgrounds; one for toddlers and one for kids 5 years and older.  It has a new teeter-totter with a big platform in the middle, so two kids can ride and another two can "surf" in the center as it moves up and down.  It also has a pretty big, old-fashioned slide that older preschoolers find exciting. It also has old-fashioned monkey bars that are at least 5 feet off the ground, so challenging too. It has a small sandbox with parallel bars at a low level that challenge younger kids.  The only drawback is that the ground near the playground has a dark dirty which is always dry and really dusty, so even if the kids don't get really dirty, their sneakers always do.   A caveat: small children have to be watched VERY carefully at this park, because the playground is bordered on one side by very busy 57 th Avenue and on another side by a canal.   There is a rustic wooden barrier (kind of like a guard rail) between the playground and the street and canal, but kids often end up being rescued at the edge of the street and the edge of the canal…

Coral Reef Park - Palmetto Bay – Best All Around, Best Playground, Best Walking - located on the northwest corner of SW 152 nd Street and SW 77 th Avenue.   This is a great park, located about 20-30 minutes south of downtown Coral Gables, and well worth the drive.   Coral Reef Park is the pride of the recently incorporated village of Palmetto Bay.   Its best features are a very large, mostly shaded playground with equipment suitable for children from infants to elementary ages and a 1.4 mile walking path that is beautiful and shady.   It also has bathrooms, drinking fountains, enormous playing fields for soccer, football, and baseball, tennis courts, a snack bar, handball courts, basketball courts, picnic tables, par cours exercise equipment, and a canal with a ramp to put in canoes and jet-skis.  
The playground is exceptionally varied. There are five distinct playing areas. The first has the original (30+ years old) cement equipment for children to climb on…not especially safe, but very popular.   All made of cement and recently given a new coat of paint, are: a tortoise; a duck; and small mountain that looks a bit like Swiss cheese; a vertical, double helix; and a large, above-ground tunnel large enough to stand in and also design to climb atop and slide off of.   The cement toys used to be on sand, but they are now over a rubberized surface.   The second is the swing-set area, which has five or six baby swings and six big kid swings all on top of sand.   The third play area has just one piece of equipment, a really tall (7 feet?), inverted cone made of rope ladders to the pointed top with a metal base that kids can sit on, and the whole thing spins if enough adults or big kids are willing to push.   The fourth play area is also over a rubberized surface, and it is made up of three good-sized play pieces for small children (toddlers to pre-school) for physical challenge (climbing), imaginative play (a little store, a little cooking area), and just plain fun (small sized slides).   The fifth area is loosely organized around the little kids play area, with a whole bunch of challenging spinning and balancing equipment and a piece of modern climbing equipment made up of ropes tied at all angles from a bar 7 or 8 feet off the ground to the ground.   There are also two painted hopscotch areas and an area for four-square.
The walking path is scenic: it weaves in and out of landscaped groves of trees and passes back and forth over a canal on nicely designed and neatly landscaped bridges.   The park is usually busy, all the Y teams and some of the high school teams practice there, so there is a lot to see as you walk or jog.

Finally, because it is so big and has the canal, Coral Reef Park has a comfortable breeze even when the rest of Miami is baking.

Evelyn Greer Park (Formerly called "Pinecrest Park") – Pinecrest – Cleanest, Good Fun for Little Ones - This is a very neat park, located 15-20 minutes south of downtown Coral Gables. It is the pride of the village of Pinecrest, which was incorporated separately from Miami-Dade County in 1997.   Pinecrest Park is the country club of parks in this area. Everything is brand new, and well made. The large playground area is shaded with enormous awnings, and it has two large pieces of play equipment, one for young children and one designed for kids over age five.    The playground area also has baby swings (no big kid swings), but they are not in the shade.   The whole playground area is built on a base of woodchips, which get in the kids shoes and sandals.   There is a large, clean pavilion with possibly a dozen picnic tables and there are very clean, spacious bathrooms in the new community building.   The playground has a big, purple rocking dinosaur (not Barney) that holds up to four kids and is pretty popular.   There is also a clean, quarter-mile walking path with par cours equipment along it, around the playing fields. Pinecrest Park is often busy with playgroups, birthday parties, and soccer and baseball games, which makes it an active and sociable place to play.

Salvatore Park – Coral Gables – Charming and Varied Neighborhood Park - Pretty setting on a lovely, shaded street across; Tough to find parking; busy tennis concession; beautiful, shady, moderately sized playing fields; four neat picnic tables in a shady pavilion (often taken); drinking fountains and bathrooms; playground equipment on sand; small path for bikes, tricycles and scooters; gated perimeter to keep little ones away from the street.

Jaycee Park – Coral Gables – Best Basketball
Busy neighborhood park on two busy streets. Three new basketball courts. Interesting playground equipment. Tennis courts. No bathrooms. Click this link for photos.

Merrie Christmas Park – Coral Gables – Easiest to Find, Sunniest, Dogs Allowed?
No bathrooms. Really cool old banyans right along a busy road, tempting to play hide and seek and hang from the dangling roots.   Good and varied playground equipment, newly installed chain link fence around the playing area.   Dogs.   Very sunny! No shade!  

Sunrise Park – Coral Gables – Cutest, Good Neighborhood Park
Neat park on a square block in a residential neighborhood, surrounded by a low brick wall and gates, so safe for small kids. One small shady basketball court.   Not much shade, so hot and buggy in the summer. Nice grassy field with four different play areas and shaded picnic tables in the corners. A sidewalk on the internal perimeter for scooters and small bicycles.   Plenty of benches along the bike path. Click this link for photos.

Coral Bay Park – Coral Gables – Shady and Cool
Very buggy in the summer (no see ‘ums and mosquitos). Click this link for pictures.

Coral Pine Park – Pinecrest

Pinecrest Gardens – Pinecrest – Most Exotic Setting, Water Play Park, Petting Zoo

Suniland Park – Pinecrest - Basketball