Get us in your inbox

Search
Domino Park Playground
Photograph: Courtesy Daniel Levin

The best playgrounds in NYC

It's easy to find a playground in NYC, from classic to innovative

Written by
Tolly Wright
,
Allie Early
,
Danielle Valente
&
Oliver Strand
Advertising

NYC is a playground for adults, but kids have it made here too. From toddler-approved activities to family-friendly Broadway shows to outdoor activities, there are plenty of things to do with kids, including amazing literal playgrounds scattered throughout the five boroughs. Playgrounds in NYC range from classic versions with swings and slides to newfangled, design-forward playgrounds geared towards stimulating kids’ creativity while they burn energy. There are even playgrounds with splash pads for hot summer days.

Keeping the kids entertained and active is easy in New York. For more outdoor fun, check out some family friendly bike trails and kid-friendly hiking trails near NYC. If the weather isn’t cooperating, there’s always NYC’s fun-filled children’s museums or a host of other indoor activities for kids. But with dozens of incredible options, hitting up a playground in NYC is a no-brainer when it comes to playtime. After a day of running around, treat the whole family to dinner at one of NYC’s best kid-friendly restaurants.

The best kids' playgrounds in NYC

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Central Park

Every NYC kid should spend an afternoon bomping around the Ancient Playground in Central Park. The recently-renovated brutalist complex of pyramids, bridges and other structures encourages creative play, while the sideways view of the Met Museum can't be beat. Bonus: The spotless bathrooms have new fixtures. Be sure to spend a moment looking at the intricate sculptures on the entrance gate: The animals are acting out Aesop's fables. 

  • Things to do
  • Williamsburg

This playground on the Brooklyn waterfront has made its mark in NYC. With an industrial aesthetic that pays homage to the neighborhood’s past, Domino Park set up shop in the space where the Domino Sugar Refinery once stood. Now there's a huge splash pad where kiddies can cool off, an epic playground, great views of the Manhattan skyline and of course, sweet spots where you’re able to refuel. Mom and Dad, you’ll be pleased to know that Danny Meyer’s Tacocina is at the ready with tasty cocktails.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Windsor Terrace

This Prospect Park playground bordering Windsor Terrace was renovated in 2010 and it's been a neighborhood fave ever since. There 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. Older kids will love the crazy spinners and a mega climbing structure. Everybody loves the water play zone, where the sprays will catch your kids and make them squeal with delight.

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Rockaways

The Rockaways offer plenty of sandy fun, but just about any child would love to splash around in the Beach 30th St. Little bathers can run under a series of blue arches that will soak them from head to toe and a ship playscape will have kids battling it out with water-shooting cannons to become king of the high seas! In need of dry land? Don't miss out on the playground's jungle gym.

Advertising

Adventure Playground is hiding in plain sight. Tucked up on a tiny hill above Tavern on the Green, the playground is within touching distance of the hordes of tourists who tromp through Central Park and yet it feels like it's for New Yorkers. A water spray feeds a shallow canal that flows through the middle of the sandy playground: It's messy, and kids love it. While Adventure Playground is for older kids, Tarr-Coyne Playground right next door is perfect for toddlers.

Advertising

The name says it all: Slide Hill is a hill with slides. What's the big deal, you might ask? One of the slides has a three-story drop, making it the longest slide in the Big Apple. The ride is a thrill that your kid will want to experience again, and again, and again. There are smaller slides for smaller kids, plus gorgeous views of New York Harbor and Lady Liberty.

Advertising

This Staten Island playground is one of the city's most inventive: 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 the South Shore. 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.

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Brooklyn Heights

For kids, the highlight of Brooklyn Bridge Park is the complex of playgrounds on Pier 6. There's the Water Lab, with its spinning water wheel, splash pools, sprays and more; Sandbox Village, with its structures and sandlots; Slide Mountain, with its impressive wooden tower and slides; and Swing Valley, an overgrown allé with swings. There's so much to do, so much fun to have—good thing there's an Ample Hills ice cream stand close by to give your kids a boost.

Advertising
Advertising

The Splash Pad is one of the best things about Brooklyn: The water play zone at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside is massive, a vast expanse of splishy-splashy fun for children 12 and under. The 16,000-square-foot playsapce has 47 jets of water. Sorry parents, but good luck getting your kid to stop playing when it's time to leave.

It’s hard to top other playgrounds in terms of whimsy, but Tom Otterness Playground in Chelsea trumps them all in terms of turning an art piece into a play structure. Built in the form of a sitting man, this playground offers spots for climbing, swinging and sliding that your tykes will love. Did we mention it’s also a great photo opportunity? If you’re in search of more of the artist’s famous works?  Head over to the 14th St Subway Station to see his work “Life Underground,” a collection of bronze sculptures.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Long Island City

Waterfront parks are having a moment, so if your kiddos can play while taking in breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline, why not? Hunter's Point South Park in Long Island Cityboasts accessible playground equipment for all little visitors, including swings, ground-level play features and more. Be sure to stop by the volleyball and basketball courts or take your little crew for a bike ride through the cycling routes. 

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Randall's Island

Once you’ve made your way to Randall’s Island, Scylla Playground ensures that no one in the family will dare utter the dreaded “I’m bored” phrase. There’s simply too much to do. When you’re not busy indulging in the Island’s DIY projects or striking a pose near the public art on display, you’ll want to make sure the kiddos are sliding, swinging and climbing on the vibrant, bright hues of the jungle gym. When the weather gets warm, bring a towel so the littles can cool off in the spray showers. While you’re at it, make sure to pack a hearty lunch—the picnic area is perfect for hungry families.

Advertising
  • Things to do

Built back in 1984, this classic Queens play area was the first of its kind. It was created for all children, both able-bodied and disabled, and is widely considered a prototype for other playgrounds of its kind around the city and the world. It contains a 12-foot-long suspension bridge, slides, swings, plaques with braille and English, a water wheel area for kids needing to cool off and also a performance area. Feeling sporty? This playground offers a basketball court, an area for volleyball and other net-type games, and a baseball diamond.

Advertising

This small park in SoHo doesn't have the newest gear or coolest design, but this classic playground is perfect for toddlers and little kids. The main attraction is a castle-like structure with ladders, poles and slides. There are two ways to get to the top: One with gentle inclines for early walkers, another with steeper ramps that build little muscles. Bonus: The 3-foot-deep pool in the corner of the park is perfect for young swimmers.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Brooklyn

DiGilio Playground is a place where the whole family can enjoy a sunny afternoon. Adults will be able to perfect their workout routines while testing out the new equipment, while kids will get a workout of their own when they explore the jungle gyms and take a spin down the slides. If you’re looking to spend time outdoors but don’t necessarily want to run around, there’s no sweat (literally). Grab the crew and make your way toward one of the game tables for a little family-friendly competition. 

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Central Park

They say the greatest gifts come in small packages, and in this case, that mantra rings true in NYC’s communal backyard. Central Park’s smallest playground makes the most of its square footage and packs in plenty of activities for visitors, even if it boasts a smaller space than the other destinations. With photo-worthy views of the Harlem Meer dangling in the background, the park is a perfect place for parents to watch their children cool off in the water spray feature and bucket swings, perfect a castle in the sandbox and enjoy new equipment where they can climb and slide. When the tots tire of the playground, take a breather before making your way to the neighboring  Charles A. Dana Discovery Center where you can enjoy seasonal activities, cool concerts and of course, the highly-anticipated Halloween Pumpkin Flotilla (a feast for the spooky senses—and your Instagram feed).

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Woodside

Queens families love spending time at Big Bush Park Playground, an outdoor oasis where little ones can run through the new splash and spray showers, then climb the bright-green jungle gym. Moms and dads will be able to relax in the seating area or enjoy the game tables while kiddos play. Fitness areas are also available for those who want to sneak in a workout in between playground pitstops.

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Upper West Side

Some Upper West Side residents aren’t like the rest...they’re extinct! When you’re not ogling the life-size dinos at the Museum of Natural History, head over to Dinosaur Playground to keep all pint-sized paleontologists occupied. When you visit the Riverside Park destination, be on the lookout for fiberglass dinosaurs who are relaxing next to the slides and jungle gyms. This spot will be a hit...but if the triceratops and hadrosaur were real, we’d say take a pass on a visit!

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Midtown West

If you’re in search of things to do in Central Park with your younguns, look no further. The go-to green space holds a special place in all city kids’ hearts, largely thanks to Billy Johnson Playground and its epic 45-foot slide. After a 2018 renovation, a net-climbing experience now welcomes adventurous tots and—wait for it—a second grand embankment slide made its grand debut. Score!

Pier 51 Playground, Hudson River Park

26. Pier 51 Playground, Hudson River Park

A playful 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. The playground reopened in 2020 after a renovation.

Advertising

Governors Island is NYC’s playground when the summer hits, so it comes as no surprise that The Yard is a premiere destination for littles. This 50,000 square foot space lets kids choose their own adventure—quite literally. Small visitors are able to get their hands dirty and actually construct their own fun thanks to the donated materials in the playground. Imagine the possibilities that await when your pint-sized architect is able to construct his or her own afternoon entertainment. Once called Play:ground, The Yard a switcheroo to pay tribute to the first “junk playground” in the U.S.—a Minneapolis park of the same name, which opened in the late 40s.

Architect-dad David Rockwell designed this neat playground with the littles in mind. Here, kids get hands-on with blue foam building blocks 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.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Tribeca

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. 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. A renovation in 2020 has this playground in fine form.

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Park Slope

We couldn’t possibly resist a visit to a playground in one of NYC’s most family-friendly nabes. The Park Slope playground is situated near the scenic Old Stone House and includes epic summertime features. Water cannons will be the kids’ new best friends (so make sure you have an extra towel on hand) and splash pad areas are always a hit. When it’s not warm enough to get wet, enjoy swings, tunnels, jungle gyms and more. Check out the family program offerings at Old Stone House before you make a visit—you’ll be able to align a fun event with a playground visit.

Advertising
Imagination Playground, Prospect Park

Creativity is highly encouraged at this Prospect Park attraction. The destination, which features plenty of cool amenities for play, also makes the most out of the arts. The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation commissioned a sculpture of the writer’s famed character, while the stages throughout the space are home to various productions throughout the year. Plus, littles will love the dragon water feature, which feels as though it came straight from a fairy tale. See? Even green spaces in NYC have an artistic quality to them!

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Lower East Side

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 that reflects the neighborhood: 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. 

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Battery Park City

Though built mostly from wood in 1992, this leafy enclave just north of North Cove in Battery Park City gains our vote for most unique play structures. Acting like an ersatz second floor, one of them sports a red fabric grid to bounce on, plus a network of wooden walkways and bridges and ladders and slides. At the southern end is a one-of-a-kind, kid-pedaled carousel that kids never seem to get enough of. 

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds

Central Park’s oldest, largest and busiest playgrounds is also one of its best, thanks to 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.

Situated in what may well be Manhattan’s wildest, most history-laden nature preserve, the refurbished Indian Road Playground in Inwood Hill Park lends its bucolic surroundings a welcome kid-friendliness. Built with American Indian references in homage to the nearby road of the same name and the people who used it, the playground sports a wooden canoe that kids can sit in or fill with sand, a Native symbol–bearing tic-tac-toe game and a thoughtfully shaded circular sand pit, plus two climbing structures (one for tots, the other for older children) that resemble science-class atomic models. After the kids are done playing, head down to the river for a gorgeous vista of Spuyten Duyvil and a peek at the park’s kid-friendly Nature Center.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Queens

Naturally, kids love when the New York Hall of Science wows them with neat exhibits and fun hands-on activities. The museum’s playground just makes a trip to the Queens attraction all the more delightful. A tube slide will give littles the 4-1-1 on science topics, while the climbing area mirrors a giant spider web (no arachnids in sight, so don’t stress). There are also wind pipes, metal drums, sandboxes and much more. What better way to make the most out of science?

  • Things to do

This Forest Park gem re-opened to the public in summer of 2016, replacing outdated equipment with newer structures that are safer and more sturdy for the kids. The NYC Parks Department reportedly dedicated $1.4M to replace the old playground and add an ADA accessible entrance, plus more trees to provide shade on hot summer days. The new playground includes a wild netted climbing structure with a plastic tunnel to crawl through. 

Advertising

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.

If you need a break after the weekly farmer's market, try bringing the kiddos to the Union Square Playground after you've picked your produce. They'll swoon over the hemispherical dome, checkerboard rubber flooring, spiral climbers and other fun, quirky features. A second play area for toddlers is next door.

Advertising

The next best thing to a sandy beach in Central Park is this earth-toned playground, flanking Fifth Avenue near 72nd Street. A huge pyramid with slides, a mega net climber, a wooden treehouse and a zippy tire swing sit in a sea of sand. The best way to enjoy it is a treat in itself: Time to peel off those shoes and socks.

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.

Advertising

The crown jewel of the 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.

This playground opened in 2015, and it has a climbable metal-and-rope dome with plenty of footholds, four climbing ropes, three monkey bar-like rope lines, three rope ladders and two hammock seats. Kids can also climb up the middle of the dome in a tube-like rope ladder to reach the top of the structure, play telephone on one of eight colorful speaker setups and bounce around on the playground’s soft synthetic panels. There’s also another perk—the entire playground is shaded by a weather-resistant cloth tarp, plus large multi-colored panels shade half of the dome. Your kiddos will remain cool and partially protected from the sun as they play (but slather on the sunscreen anyway).

Advertising

The southernmost part of the grounds once home to Yankee Stadium now has a decidedly musical bent, thanks to 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.

Washington Market Park
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Tribeca

It’s a rare thing in the city to have a spot where one sibling can play in the toddler area, while the other kicks around a soccer ball on the grass—all in one enclosed setting. That’s just what Tribeca residents enjoy on a daily basis at Washington Market Park. Its tripartite playground has climbing structures for every age kid, including the “steerable” ship for tots by the entrance; the adjacent park consists mostly of an expansive field of green surrounded by benches and a gazebo that morphs into a perfect castle with a little imagination.

Advertising

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.

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Flatiron

Four teal turrets announce the Moira Ann Smith playground, named for the only female NYPD officer to perish on September 11, at the northern end of lush Madison Square Park. Variously sized play structures, plus a colorful area with a towering waterwheel and water-spouting alphabet blocks, mean the space is packed with mini fun-seekers year-round. Add to that summer kids’ concerts in the park just outside plus the proximity of Shake Shack and the spot’s practically a day trip in itself. 

Advertising

Situated practically at the foot of the Pepsi sign in Long Island City, the playground in Gantry Plaza State Park 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 the cool-looking concrete-and-wood spray-fountain installation is perfect for when the 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.

  • Things to do

If your kids aren't one for dinos, fear not: Riverside Park focuses its attention on another animal. The Hippo Playground features plenty of hippopotamus artwork designed by Bob Cassily that adds a quirky, unusual element to outdoor play—those babies wouldn't necessarily fit down the slide!

NYC Playgrounds Map

More fun things to do with kids

  • Things to do

There are plenty of outdoor activities for kids in New York City—many you'll even love doing as a family! When you're not busy cuddled up with our favorite family movies on Netflix and our list of the best kids movies (come on—it's time to head outside!), you'll love exploring the coolest family attractions and the other amazing outdoor activities this amazing city has to offer. 

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising