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: Daniel Avila

    Printers Park Playground

  • Hester Street Playground

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Elmhurst Park Playground

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Heckscher Playground

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Mullaly Park South Playground

Photograph: Daniel Avila

Printers Park Playground

Playgrounds in New York City

Printers Park Playground

Printers Park Playground

One of the Bronx’s newest additions is also one of its greenest. Built on land that once belonged to Richard Hoe, the inventor of the rotary printing press, the playground boasts a spray shower that recycles runoff water for irrigation of the plant beds, rubber safety flooring made of 90 percent–recycled material, granite blocks fashioned from the remains of the West Side Highway, and tree species like dawn redwood and golden weeping willow chosen for their ability to absorb stormwater. Best of all, however, is the park’s kid magnet: play equipment modeled after Hoe’s invention, from steps that mimic the press’s cylinders to sweeping white curves representing paper as it travels through the printer. Hoe Ave between Aldus and Westchester Aves, Bronx (nycgovparks.org)


Hester Street Playground

When it was time to refurbish this park straddling the Lower East Side and Chinatown, its planners did something unusual: They enlisted the input of the Hester Street Collaborative, a grassroots group that works to transform neglected spaces into spaces the community can be proud of. The result is a superbusy playground with Asian accents (a swing set with the elegant curvature of a pagoda, teahouse-like enclosures), brick walls adorned with mosaic tiles made by local kids, neighborhood-friendly lighting, and exquisite equipment like a hoop-shaped spray shower and a pair of balancing tire swings. Sara D. Roosevelt Park between Grand and Hester Sts (nycgovparks.org)

Elmhurst Park Playground

Elmhurst Park Playground

The crown jewel of the year-old green space known as Elmhust Park—built on the site of a former gas storage facility—is, for parents, the capacious, gorgeously landscaped playground. Thanks to smart engineering, lovely graded hills mute the traffic noise of the Long Island Expressway and keep exhaust at bay. Kids, though, will be more intrigued by its climbing structures, which look like squiggly doodles come to life, and graded pile of rocks that acts as a lookout for little explorers (there’s even a fast slide for quick getaways). Rubber flooring throughout, energy-generating stationary motorbikes and a gated-off spot for toddlers ensure it pride of place in the industrial neighborhood. Off Grand Ave at 57th Ave and 74th St, Elmhurst, Queens (nycgovparks.org)

Hecksher Park

Heckscher Playground

Central Park’s oldest and largest playground is also one of its best, thanks a top-to-bottom renovation (it reopened in 2006) that cleverly connected it to Umpire Rock, the Manhattan schist outcropping behind it: Kids not only get to a scale stone pyramid but, after crossing a small bridge, an actual cliff, too. (Consider packing a lunch for a picnic on top). Colorful, rubber-topped humps change up the usual flat landscape and divide the area for smaller kids, complete with a dedicated tot water area and an enormous sandbox with a climbing net, from the main complex of tunnels, moats and bridges, and the bigger kids’ spray fountains. An old-school spot with a single metal slide and two popular tire swings on the far western edge is a sweet nod to the Central Park playgrounds of yore. Central Park, midpark between 61st and 63rd Sts (centralparknyc.org)

Mullaly Park Playground

Mullaly Park South Playground

The southernmost part of the grounds once home to Yankee Stadium now has a decidedly musical bent, thanks to the 2009 arrival of this design-forward playground. When struck by little hands, metal pipes let off sounds whose pitch depends on the pipe’s length. A square of five panels acts as a musical instrument underfoot, ringing when jumped on. And two large metal saucers aren’t just ethereal to look at but also amplify and focus sounds made between them. Rounding out the fun are swings, spinners and two climbing walls, plus a serpent-like tube that lets kids on opposite sides of the playground chat telephone-style with each other. 164th St between Jerome and River Aves, Bronx (nycgovparks.org)

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