The best kids' playgrounds in NYC
Built back in 1984, this quintessential Queens play area was the first of its kind. It was created for all children to play on (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. It’s truly a great spot for everybody, making it well-worth its original budget of $3 million.
It’s hard to top other playgrounds in terms of whimsy, but Tom Otterness Playground 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. Silver Towers, Midtown (tomostudio.com).
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. Governor's Island (govisland.com).
A playful man-made brook runs through this sunny kid spot on the hudsonriverpark.org)., 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. Don’t forget the towels. Hudson River Park at Jane St (
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. Burling Slip, John St between Front and South Sts.
The dazzling , 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.
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 nycgovparks.org).’s South Shore. Eschewing the high-tech tack other city parks have taken, 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.Staten Island (
If you feel the weather is too nice to stay cooped up inside, give the kids a taste of history without the museum. Modeled with the Met in mind, Ancient Playground will transport kiddos to Egypt (no passport required) by way of pyramids, tunnels and wooden forts (ideal for the older kids in tow). It’s the perfect place to play in the sandbox and enjoy the water features, which the tots definitely will on a hot day—there’s little shade in the playground, so bring a hat and sunblock.
The Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area reopened in August 2018 after nearly a year of renovations, and the neighborhood’s littlest residents are certainly taken advantage of the $3.4 million upgrades, including spray areas, climbing features and a funky multi-colored pipefish, who we can find in the Hudson River Park Estuary.
Brooklyn Bridge Park transformed into Kings County’s favorite family hangout, and it comes as no surprise that the waterfront venue is so beloved. When the dog days of summer approach, expect the Pier 6 playground to be a popular destination. Thanks to water tables, a spinning water wheel, a water lab and more, kids can beat the heat and stay cool while having a ball in the process. Parents, we wouldn’t judge if you take advantage of the amenities, too (if only briefly). The park will soon receive a new pool (and bid adieu to the loveable, but small Pop-Up Pool), so the Pier 6 Playground will tide kids over until the construction is complete. Don’t forget to score a lemonade or get a scoop of ice cream (Ample Hills will soon take the place of The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory) when the temperatures begin to rise.
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.