Timeout New York Kids

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25 best playgrounds in New York City

We searched high and low for the city's best playgrounds: Visit them all for a summer's worth of hometown fun.

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Vanderbilt Street Playground

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    River Park Playground

  • Photograph: Phyllis B. Dooney

    Union Square Playground

  • Photograph: Gaby Dressler

    East 72nd Street Playground

  • Hudson River Park's Pier 51 Playground

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Vanderbilt Street Playground

20
Vanderbilt Street Playground

Vanderbilt Street Playground

Refurbished in 2010, this Prospect Park playground bordering Windsor Terrace has one of the best toddler spots we’ve seen in a long time. Inside a gated area are steering wheels for pretend road trips, objects that make all kinds of noises, a corkscrew slide and lots of miniature seats on which tots can take a breather. If your little one’s got older sibs, though, no worries: Crazy spinners, a mega climbing structure and antenna-like sprinklers bursting from the ground will keep them happy, too. Prospect Park, Prospect Park Southwest at Vanderbilt St (prospectpark.org)

19
River Park

River Park Playground

However excitement-filled a trip to the Bronx Zoo may be, the sight of this park—ideally situated near the zoo’s Asia Gate entrance—makes little hearts skip a beat. A much-needed makeover in 2007 gave it safe flooring, new swings, slides and sprinklers, and two impressive climbing structures: a huge spiderweb and a jagged complex of rocks that reward adventurous climbers with a bird’s eye view of the leafy surroundings. River Park, Boston Rd at 180th St, Bronx (nycgovparks.org)

18
Union Square Playground

Union Square Playground

Though using many of the same materials and equipment as other city playgrounds, Union Square went out of its way to be extra creative, and the result is a quirky, mold-breaking kid mecca. The playground is best known for its gleaming hemispherical dome, which challenges kids to scale its enormous gleaming surface, but other features—checkerboard rubber flooring, various stainless-steel slides, spiral climbers and horns sticking out of the ground that are redolent of Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who—deserve props too. Union Square between 16th and 17th Sts (nycgovparks.org)

17
East 72nd Street Playground

East 72nd Street Playground

The next best thing to a sandy beach in Central Park is this earth-toned playground, flanking Fifth Avenue near 72nd Street. Most of it is filled with inviting sand, from which rise a huge scalable pyramid with slides, a mega net climber, a wooden tree house and a zippy tire swing. The best way to enjoy it is a treat in itself: peeling off the socks and shoes. Central Park, east side at 72nd St (centralparknyc.org)

16
Pier 51

Hudson River Park's Pier 51 Playground

A playful man-made brook runs through this sunny kid spot on the Hudson River Park, affectionately known as the Water Park or Pirate Park. We’re big fans of the playground’s equipment—including a challenging set of monkey bars and a spiral ramp leading to a pirate’s lookout in the playground’s center—and tot-friendly sand area, but its outstanding feature is the soak-worthy fun it provides via giant kid-activated water gushers and buckets. Don’t forget the towels. Hudson River Park at Jane St (hudsonriverpark.org)



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