When the coolest kids’ playgrounds in NYC are available at your fingertips, you’re in for a fabulous adventure
From the newly opened Domino Park to the ever-popular Central Park green spaces, Gotham’s best playgrounds offer classic features such as splash pads and jungle gyms, but they also take recreation to a whole new level. Where else can pint-sized park-goers construct their own playground, play on a pipefish or hang out with dinosaurs? Of course, this is all up for grabs in NYC. (Be on the lookout for water playgrounds and carousels, too.)
When the youngsters are done running, jumping and swinging, book tickets to cool family attractions for even more excitement. If the weather is a bit too cold for outdoor activities, enjoy a visit to our favorite indoor playgrounds.
The best kids' playgrounds in NYC
The newly opened Brooklyn outpost has made its mark amongst NYC’s best waterfront parks, and it hasn’t even reached its one-year anniversary. 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. In lieu of factories, the Williamsburg go-to sports a huge splash pad where kiddies can cool off, an epic playground that beckons even the oldest members of the family to take a look, 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.
When a park receives a $2 million upgrade, consider your weekend planned. DiGilio Playground—named in honor of the late Deputy Inspector Joseph DiGilio—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. Meanwhile, kids will get a workout of their own while exploring brand-new jungle gyms and taking a spin down new 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.
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).
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.
Hurricane Sandy might have taken a serious toll on the Rockaways, but the area has made its comeback (and taken steps to up its resiliency). The NYC beach getaway offers plenty of sandy fun by the sea, but if your child prefers splashes in a safe playground environment, then the Beach 30th St Playground boasts climbable areas and sprinklers galore. 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! Are your kids in need of dry land? Don't miss out on the playground's jungle gym when your kiddies are all dried up.
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's playground boasts accessible 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.
Big Bush Park Playground just received $1.8 million in upgrades, and Queens families will love spending time at this outdoor oasis. When the weather gets wickedly hot, little ones can enjoy rendezvous through the new splash and spray showers. After they drive off, they can run through the bright-green jungle gym. Moms and dads will be able to relax in the new 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.
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!
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. In late 2018, the space reopened with some major TLC, and weather won’t factor in for kiddos when testing out the new features. A fun tire swing took the place of the bucket swings (which were replaced due to safety concerns), a net-climbing experience now welcomes adventurous tots and—wait for it—a second grand embankment slide made its grand debut. Score!
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.
NYC Playgrounds Map
More fun things to do with kids
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.