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.
Wed Apr 25 2012
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Gantry Plaza State Park Playground
Gantry Plaza State Park Playground
Situated practically at the foot of the Pepsi sign in Long Island City, this new playground in nysparks.com)(it opened in 2010) is worth visiting for lots of reasons. State-of-the-art play equipment includes the likes of spinning, egglike saucers, a huge spiderweb to climb and three posh play structures, some with mini chairs built into them; the ground is covered with colorful rubber; and we’re guessing that the cool-looking concrete-and-wood spray-fountain installation (currently fenced off) will be ready for action by the time temps soar. If that weren’t enough, Gantry State Park itself is stunning. Sexy wood chaises longues face the ocean, should you want to catch a few rays with the kids, and a willow-tree grove makes the perfect spot for a riverside picnic. 4-09 47th Rd at the East River, Hunter’s Point, Queens (718-786-6385,
Playground for All Children
Built in 1984, this Queens playground designed to accommodate children with and without disabilities was the first of its kind in the country. A network of wheelchair-accessible ramps connect various jungle gyms, with Braille signs marking the way. A mini village beckons kids with a one-room schoolhouse, complete with a chalk blackboard, a fire station, a house with flower boxes, and vehicles like a fire engine and a bus to drive, all cozy nooks for play-and-pretend. Basketball courts surrounded by amphitheater seating, plus a faux river encircling a sprinkler area with ample shading, ensure unfettered fun for every child who visits. Corona Ave at 111th St, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens (nycgovparks.org)
The most buzzed-about imaginationplayground.com)in recent memory was this downtown kid hub designed by architect-dad David Rockwell. Eschewing standard playground design, Rockwell instead hands kids the building blocks (some literal) for their own fun: blue foam shapes that fit together every which way, spurting sprinklers and barrels with hoses they can cool down with, and park helpers there at the ready to facilitate mini builders’ grand plans. (Rockwell got the idea from his kids, who, when he brought them home an art table, gravitated toward the foam and box it came in over the gift itself.) Its whimsical seaside-themed elements, like a semicircular boardwalk and mastlike poles in the sandbox, make it fit right in with its seaport surroundings. John St at Front St (866-986-5551,
Hudson River Park's Pier 25 Playground
The dazzling hudsonriverpark.org), a stone’s throw from Battery Park City to the south, is a dream for sporty types of all ages. Tots have their own swing area and jungle gyms, while older kids can test their mettle on two climbing walls, a huge geodesic-dome-shaped climbing net and an elegant, Space Age–inspired play structure. Fountains with a mind of their own make cooling off fun for all. But what stands out most here is that the playground is surrounded by myriad diversions—a skate park for tweens and teens, a miniature golf course, an on-site snack bar and a field where kids can play tag or soccer or just settle in for a picnic. It’s also located relatively close to the Hudson River bike path and tennis and basketball courts, so when the gang’s had enough of one offering, you can easily move on to the next. Hudson River Park between Harrison and North Moore Sts (
Pier 6 Playground
Situated on a pier that just a few years ago was considered no-man’s-land, this park has changed the Brooklyn waterfront indelibly, bringing the Dumbo cachet all the way to Atlantic Avenue and becoming Brooklyn’s new go-to destination for families. Taking its cue from Hudson-fronting playgrounds like those of Pier 51 and Pier 25, it ups the ante with a number of awesome amenities, including the Water Lab, a stone-strewn area with water underfoot to splash in, water tables and a spinning water wheel, and Sand Village, a huge sandbox with molecular-looking climbing structure and flanked by two long metal slides. Add to them clean bathrooms, a food court where families can find the likes of fresh milk shakes and hot dogs, and even spots for fishing and beach volleyball and there’s not much room for improvement—especially when views of downtown Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor are included. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Atlantic Ave at Furman St, Brooklyn Heights (brooklynbridgeparknyc.org).
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