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Splash parks for kids in NYC

Cool off from the summer heat with sprinklers, fountains and wading pools in these splash parks and water playgrounds

Photograph: Julienne Schaer
Pier 6 Playground WaterLab

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to outdoor activities for kids in NYC

Posting up at NYC beaches and swimming pools is a great way to spend summer days as a family, but sometimes you and the kids are looking for a quick and easy way to cool off. These low-key splash parks and water playgrounds let little ones romp through fountains and sprinklers without packing up the beach bag or waiting in line at a crowded pool. Like Prospect Park's Splash Pad, many of these H20-fueled spaces are located within some of the best NYC parks for families, meaning there's plenty of dry fun to be had once the kids have had their fill of water play.

Note: Make sure to bring your tot's swimsuit along—some playgrounds require kids to wear proper swimwear while splashing around. When you dry off, take a trip to some of our favorite playgrounds with famous artwork!

Splash parks and water playgrounds in NYC

Ancient Playground

Inspired by the Egyptian Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this lavishly redone playground just north of the great institution is also the perfect postmuseum destination. In a nod to the mighty Nile, a not-too-torrential blast of water pours down several steps onto a stretch of sand that represents the Delta. Other pharaonic flourishes include scalable pyramids and Cleopatra's Needle–style obelisks. Be sure to tote along sunglasses and sunscreen, as trees are in Sahara-like short supply.

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Central Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 Playground

This wonderland of water, sand and swings is epic. Kids will beeline it to the stone-strewn WaterLab play area to dance around in a field of water jets, so swimmies are a must. Once they've had their fill of getting sprayed and climbing the surrounding rocks, move on to the Tarzan ropes and swing sets to dry off. You’re going to be here for hours, so slather on the sunscreen and bring plenty of water! We'd also highly recommend bringing water shoes for your child—the rocks can get very slippery. With killer views of downtown Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor, this spot is hard to beat.

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Brooklyn Heights

Chelsea Waterside Playground

Kids have plenty of space to tire themselves out at Chelsea Waterside Playground, an outer space–themed area that matches the sleekness of the 'hood's taller riverside constructions. Bask under one of the grooviest water features in the city: Towering, turquoise-blue sculptures resembling exploding raindrops, which drench those passing underneath. There's also a wall of faucets for frontal soaking. While little ones frolic in the sand and water or climb on the Danish-built play equipment, parents can take a break under the space's giant shade umbrellas.

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East River Park

This 57-acre park boasts amazing views of the East River, as well as an amphitheater, playgrounds, gardens, sports fields and walking and bike paths throughout. For a spot to cool off with the kids, head to Delancy St and FDR Drive near the Williamsburg Bridge to track down a cluster of spray showers. Little ones will love climbing on and running between the cute, bronze harbor seals as water shoots up from various ground fountains.

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Kips Bay

Heckscher Playground

This massive compound has had a home in the southwestern corner of Central Park since 1927, providing a fun-filled pit stop for families on summer days. Tots can scale a climbing pyramid surrounded by bridges, moats and tunnels. Equip the kids with grippy, water-resistant footwear—as they work their way to the pyramid’s peak, they’ll slosh through a steady stream and won’t be able to resist stomping on the fountains that spray up from its base.

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Hudson River Park Pier 25 Playground

The dazzling makeover of Tribeca's pier, a stone's throw from Battery Park City to the south, is a dream for sporty types of all ages. Fountains with a mind of their own—and others that are user-activated—make cooling off fun for all. Youngsters can romp around in the sandbox, stand under an elevated water wheel and dry off on the swing sets. Just outside the playground you'll also find a skate park that's perfect for tweens, a mini golf course, and a field for kicking around a soccer ball or just having a picnic.

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Hudson River Park Pier 51 Playground

Nestled along the Hudson in an unassuming corner of the Meatpacking District sits this marine-themed playground, providing interactive play for landlubbers and water babies alike. Challenging climbing equipment, including monkey bars, a jungle gym and a spiral ramp leading up to a lofty pirate’s lookout, gets them moving, while kid-activated water fixtures that spray cool streams from the ground and dump buckets from above keep them comfortable in the heat.

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West Village

Imagination Playground

Eschewing standard playground design, architect David Rockwell 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.

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J.J. Byrne Playground

Park Slope tots can cool off under the playground's sprinkler system before they practice their pumping skills with J.J.'s old-fashioned water mill (a.k.a. a "runnel"). Older kids too will be hooked once they get their hands on the ground's aim-and-shoot water cannons. Check out cool interactive panels by Brooklyn sculptor Julie Peppito that share a theme of the farming and Revolutionary history of the Old Stone House, the playground's esteemed Washington Park neighbor.

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Park Slope

Lyons Pool Recreation Center

After taking a dip in the Olympic-size swimming pool, take high-energy rascals over to the basketball-court–size sprinkler area to run off some steam as surrounding hoses spray them down.

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Splash parks map