Southern Illinois pit stop: Jeremy Rochman Memorial Park

Southern Illinois is an area with many beautiful natural parks, forests, and lakes to explore. Just south of Carbondale, Ill., home to Southern Illinois University, you’ll find a park you won’t want to miss if you’re traveling through the area. Online, you’ll find it listed as “Dungeons and Dragons Park,” or by its more official name, Jeremy ‘Boo’ Rochman Memorial Park. My kids, however, call it “Castle Park,” and it is at the top of their to-do list whenever we visit the area.

castle park

Southern Illinois pit stop:

Boo Rochman Park is a privately-owned park dedicated to the memory of the owners’ son, who died in a car accident in 1993. Because of his interest in fantasy gaming, they developed the park around that theme. Within its borders are hidden a host of surprises, from the obvious—a huge dragon to climb on, life-sized dueling wizards’ circle, and sea serpent benches—to the fantastic figures peeking from perches hidden in the crook of trees.

The main attraction, of course, is the castle itself—an enormous play structure that doesn’t just look like a medieval fortress; it practically is one. There are hidden passages, trick doors, thrones, towers, dungeons (monsters included)—kids can spend hours there, literally. Even older kids who are too old and “cool” for playgrounds will find this place hard to resist. It is without exception the most imagination-encouraging play area I have ever seen. Parents will want to explore it, too.

Bonus points: the grounds around the castle are mostly shaded by mature trees, and the sculptures tucked into every nook and cranny ensure that you’ll find something new no matter which way you turn. Also, the entire park is fenced in, with only one open entrance by the parking lot.

southern illinois pit stop

Come with friends, if you can. Bring a picnic to share under the trees—but whatever you do, make sure to bring water. Southern Illinois is very hot in the summertime.

Jeremy Rochman Memorial Park is open from 9 a.m. to dusk. It is located at 31 Homewood Drive, Carbondale, IL. From Main Street/Highway 13, take Giant City Road (Highway 12) south 3 1/2 miles. The park is on the left at the intersection of Giant City Road and No Name Road (no kidding!). Admission is free, but donations are accepted to keep the park in good shape.