The History of McDonald’s PlayPlace

the classic Mcdonald’s Playplace from my childhood

First PlayPlace in the USA

The first PlayPlace was installed in 1987 in St. Louis, Missouri. The concept of an indoor playground for kids was revolutionary at the time, and it was a huge success. The idea for the playground had come from noticing that the restaurant was regularly full of families with young children. By providing a fun and safe environment to play, McDonald’s was able to attract even more customers.

The Idea Spreads Worldwide

As word of the playgrounds spread, McDonald’s began installing them in restaurants all over the world. The playgrounds were designed to be easy to manufacture, install, and maintain, so they could be found in McDonald’s from America to Australia.


Over the years, the PlayPlaces have had their share of controversy. Some people have argued that the playgrounds are too noisy and disruptive. On the other hand, others have argued that they are an important part of the local community, providing a safe and fun environment for children to play.

Modern PlayPlace

Today, the PlayPlaces are safer than ever before, with modern safety features like padded floors and fences. They have also taken on a new, interactive form, with features like tablet games and augmented reality experiences.


The PlayPlace is an important part of McDonald’s history and has become an iconic part of the brand. It has provided countless children with entertainment and given parents peace of mind that their kids are safe.


– “McDonald’s PlayPlace.” Accessed April 22, 2021.

– “McDonalds History: PlayPlace Is Born.” Accessed April 22, 2021.

McDonald’s PlayPlace History


The McDonald’s PlayPlace, known as the “Happy Place,” has delighted children for decades and remains a popular destination for families. This colorful and engaging environment provides an opportunity for kids to play and get creative, while parents can take a break and enjoy a snack. In this article, we explore the history of the McDonald’s PlayPlace and the lasting impact it has had on children and families all over the world.

1960s: The Children’s Playground Revolution

In the 1960s, fast-food restaurants revolutionized the way families ate meals, and this opened the way for the playground movement. Seeing an opportunity to appeal to families with young children, Ray Kroc – the founder and CEO of McDonald’s – developed the concept of the “Happy Place” and implemented it in a dozen restaurants around the country.

These playgrounds featured large, colorful, plastic play structures – modeled after aircraft carriers, castles, and mountains – that allow children to climb, slide, and explore. Before the introduction of the McDonald’s PlayPlace, playgrounds had to be designed and built on-site, which was a labor-intensive and expensive endeavor.

1970s: Expansion and Innovation

The popularity of the Happy Place quickly spread, and by the 1970s hundreds of McDonald’s restaurants around the world featured the PlayPlace. In this decade, McDonald’s began to add additional features to the playgrounds, such as sandboxes, slides, and ball pits. This expanded the playgrounds’ appeal to even younger children and made them even more attractive to parents and families.

In some parts of the world, McDonald’s also branched out to offer other attractions such as mazes and go-karts. In the UK, McDonald’s is even piloting a “Virtual Reality” playground system that allows kids to explore virtual worlds and interact with digital objects.

1980s-Today: Continuing to Adapt and Evolve

Since the 1980s, McDonald’s has continued to reinvent and adapt the Happy Place concept to meet the changing needs and tastes of children and their families. In the 1980s, McDonald’s PlayPlaces featured interactive games and rides, which eventually gave way to more modern attractions such as laser tag and mini-golf.

Today, McDonald’s PlayPlaces remain a popular destination for parents and children, who come to explore the playgrounds’ vibrant and colorful environments. The Happy Place concept continues to evolve, as McDonald’s strives to provide an ever-changing and engaging experience for the whole family.


The McDonald’s PlayPlace has been an integral part of the fast-food experience for decades. Its impact on families and children reaches around the world, ever-evolving and adapting to meet the needs of a new generation.


McDonald’s PlayPlace History

The Beginning of Fun for Kids

McDonald’s began introducing PlayPlaces into their restaurant locations in the late 1980s. The popular play areas quickly became an icon for McDonald’s and an attraction for kids and families looking for a place to have fun and fill their bellies with happy meals.

Innovative Design

McDonald’s PlayPlaces featured an innovative design with brightly colored plastic and rubber pieces in the shape of oddly shaped tubes and slides for kids to move through. The playscapes often featured fake trees, oversized animals, mini-trains, and other unique elements.

Challenges and Improvements

As the years went on, health and safety concerns began to arise with McDonald’s PlayPlaces. Accessibility lawsuits were filed against the franchise for their play structures not being compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, the franchise faced criticism for not adequately sanitizing the play structures in a timely manner, increasing the risk of germs and bacteria.

In order to address these concerns, McDonald’s has made significant improvements to the PlayPlaces in recent years. The franchise now follows strict cleaning guidelines and has made several modifications to ensure compliance with ADA regulations. They have also created an electronic game system, which monitors the sanitization process and provides staff with reminders when there is a need to clean.

Keeping the Kids Happy

McDonald’s PlayPlaces remain a popular feature for kids and their parents and continue to provide a fun and safe environment for families. With the company’s continued commitment to innovation and safety, kids can look forward to hours of entertainment and fun.


The History of McDonald’s Playplaces

McDonald’s Playplaces are some of the most beloved features of the international fast food chain. The first Playplace opened in 1987 and continues to delight children of all ages to this day. Let’s take a deeper look into the history of this iconic destination.


1987 – The First McDonald’s Playplace Opens in Illinois

The first of the signature Playplaces opened in 1987 in the first McDonald’s restaurant located in Deerfield, Illinois. This original design was a large playground area filled with slides and mazes.


1990s – Playplaces Become Popular and Start Expanding

The late 1990s saw a surge in the popularity of Playplaces with many more being built throughout the U.S. and around the world. The designs of these Playplaces varied, but the fundamental appeal remained the same – a safe place for children to have fun while parents could relax and have a meal.


2002 – DVD Arcades Debut

In 2002, McDonald’s began introducing DVD Arcades in certain stores which included interactive gaming consoles and computer gaming capabilities.


2008 – Ball Pits and Interactive Play Areas are Redesigned

In 2008, McDonald’s began redesigning its Playplaces to make them even more engaging and interactive. New elements were added such as ball pits, climbing walls, and interactive play areas. The chain also added seating for adults and older children to relax while watching their little ones have a blast.


Today – Playplaces Remain a Highlight Across the Global McDonald’s Network

The iconic Playplaces are now a mainstay in McDonald’s across the globe. From the original in Deerfield, Illinois, to the most recently redesigned ones in Australia, Playplaces delight children of all ages, and their parents too.



– (n.d.) “The History of McDonald’s Playplaces.” Retrieved from

– McDonald’s Australia. (2018). “Selina, Play & Party at McDonald’s”. Retrieved from



McDonald’s Playplaces have come a long way since 1987. Whether you remember the original slide and hamster wheel models, the DVD Arcades of the 2000s, or the interactive designs of today, there’s no doubt that these Playplaces have provided memorable experiences for countless families for generations.


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