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Domino Park Playground
Photograph: Courtesy Daniel Levin

The best kids' playgrounds NYC families need to visit

NYC has the coolest playgrounds in the world! Our curated list makes it easy to visit the best in the city.

By Allie Early, Danielle Valente, Tolly Wright and Oliver Strand

This is a golden age of playgrounds. In recent years NYC has completely transformed what playtime is like for a city kid, introducing creative playgrounds to every corner of the Big Apple. There are so many gorgeous playgrounds to visit in NYC, and this list will help you set off on a fabulous adventure.

The secret behind this greatness? The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation pours tons of resources into making sure our kids have great places to play. From the recently-opened Sweetwater Playground in Domino Park to the newly-renovated Ancient Playground in Central Park, the playgrounds in NYC have never been better.

So, let the wild rumpus begin! It's time for your kids to climb, and stomp, and swing, and run around until they can barely move. You can do it again the next day, or you could explore our favorite bike trails for NYC families, or the best hiking trails for NYC families to explore. Maybe you want a total change of pace, and plan on heading to one of the best drive-in theaters in and around NYC? No matter what you decide, we'll help you make this a memorable summer.

The best kids' playgrounds in NYC

Photograph: Courtesy Gaby Dressler

1. Ancient Playground, Central Park

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. 

Photograph: Courtesy Domino Park/Daniel Levin

2. Sweetwater Playground, Domino Park

Things to do Williamsburg

The newly-opened 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.

Photograph: Courtesy Virginia Rollison

3. Vanderbilt Street Playground, Prospect Park

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.

Beach 30 Playground
Beach 30 Playground
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Parks

4. Beach 30th St

Things to do Playgrounds Rockaways

Hurricane Sandy might have taken a serious toll on the Rockaways, but the area has made its comeback. 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.

Adventure Playground Central Park
Adventure Playground Central Park
Photograph: Courtesy Central Park Conservancy

5. Adventure Playground, Central Park

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.

Tarr Coyne Tots Playground Central Park
Tarr Coyne Tots Playground Central Park
Photograph: Courtesy Central Park Conservancy

6. Tarr-Coyne Totts Playground, Central Park

The toddler-scale version of Adventure Playground next door, Tarr-Coyne Totts Playground has water, and sand, and things to climb on, and swings, and everything a little New Yorker could want in a play space. Bonus: You can watch the horse-drawn carriages clop along the Lower Loop.

Slide Hill on Governors Island
Slide Hill on Governors Island
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

7. Slide Hill, Governor's Island

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.

Starlight Park Bronx River Greenway
Starlight Park Bronx River Greenway
Photograph: Malcolm Pinckney, Courtesy NYC Parks

8. Starlight Park, Bronx River Greenway

This 13-acre park on the Bronx River is one of the newest pieces of the Bronx River Greenway, transforming a now-demolished expressway into an oasis of ballfields and playgrounds. The playgrounds have a view of the Bronx River, and the Amtrak trains rolling along the Northeast Corridor.

Seaside Nature Park
Seaside Nature Park
Photograph: NYC Parks

9. Seaside Nature Wildlife Park Playground

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Marielle Solan

10. Pier 6 Playgrounds, Brooklyn Bridge Park

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.

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NYC Playgrounds Map

More fun things to do with kids

Photograph: Timothy Schenck

Outdoor activities for kids in New York City

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. 


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