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: David Handschuh/NY Hall of Science

    Science Playground at the New York Hall of Science

  • Photograph: Gaby Dressler

    Ancient Playground

  • Photograph: Robin Holland/Battery

    Teardrop Park

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Billy Johnson Playground

  • Photograph: NYC Parks & Recreation

    Seaside Nature Wildlife Park Playground

Photograph: David Handschuh/NY Hall of Science

Science Playground at the New York Hall of Science

Playgrounds in New York City

Playground at New York Hall of Science

Science Playground at the New York Hall of Science

Yes, you’ll have to pay to gain access to this playground (New York Hall of Science admission plus a $4 per person fee), but the incredible thought BKSK Architects put into this space compelled us to zoom it into our list’s top ten. The playground’s myriad niches let kids discover for themselves the laws of the natural world—a.k.a. physics—in a way that enchants them. An elaborate Archimedes screw connected to a water table, two plastic slides with a drop that mimics that of a roller coaster, a precariously wobbly, wood-slatted bridge that conjures the quintessential jungle movie scene, and a giant working seesaw are just some of the ways in which this spot sparks and satisfies kids’ curiosity in equal measure. New York Hall of Science, 47-01 11th St, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens (718-699-0675, nysci.org)

Ancient Playground

Ancient Playground

Inspired by the Egyptian Wing of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this lavishly redone playground just north of the great institution is also the perfect postmuseum destination. Originally designed as a European-style “adventure playground” (think pretend play over athletic feats), it reopened in 2009 sporting an all-new network of stone pyramids and tunnels and treehouse-like wooden forts—ideal for somewhat older kids—plus two user-activated water features, a sandbox with a mini obelisk in the center and nine slides. Be sure to tote along sunglasses and sunscreen, as trees are in Sahara-like short supply. Central Park, east side at 85th St (centralparknyc.org)

Teardrop Park

Teardrop Park

Like many things in Battery Park City, this lush playground exudes the kind of personality that comes from thoughtful, imaginative design. Once you find it, the park feels like an ancient piece of land around which tall modern skyscrapers were built (of course that’s hardly the case, as all of BPC was built on 1970s landfill). But what appeals to kids most is its wild side and the sense of discovery it awakens. Canopied paths wind past huge boulders and grassy lawns, a ginormous metal slide seems part and parcel of a mini rocky mountain, and the tiered rocks surrounding the water-play spot make it feel more like a natural spring than part of a playground, let alone one in the city. River Terr between Murray and Warren Sts (batteryparkcity.org)

Billy Johnson Playground

Billy Johnson Playground

Plenty of sparkling new playgrounds in The ten best things to do in Central Park are tricked out with posh design elements and expensive equipment, but we chose this oldie but goodie because its charms have withstood the test of time. An extensive sand area, rustic summerhouse-like structures made of wood, and a stone bridge alone would endear it to local families, but the coup de grace is the 45-foot-tall, carved-granite slide that awaits in the playground’s leafy back. Shiny, smooth and pretty darn fast especially when kids use stray pieces of cardboard to sit on, the “ride” is well worth the wait on line along the steep rocky path leading to the top. Central Park, east side at 67th St (centralparknyc.org)

Seaside Nature Park

Seaside Nature Wildlife Park Playground

Imagine a breezy oceanside fishing cove with rustic paths meandering through salt marsh vegetation to the beach and you have a pretty good idea of this playground’s exceptional location on Staten Island’s South Shore. Eschewing the high-tech tack other city parks have taken, the park’s planners put the sea theme front and center with two boatlike play structures—one with a regal dragon shiphead—an open-jawed shark jungle gym, a mini lighthouse and a gleaming, anatomically correct brass horseshoe crab, just for the fun of it. Plus, the soft white stuff in the huge sandy area seems as indigenous as the salty air. Nelson Ave at Tennyson Dr, Staten Island (nycgovparks.org)

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