Visit these splash parks when temperatures rise in NYC to make the most out of your summer! Sure, parking yourself at NYC beaches and swimming pools nearby is great and all, but local splash parks and water playgrounds are excellent for a quick trip and require little planning…just pack a swimsuit, water shoes (depending on the playground) and a towel, and hop on the subway! These low-key splash parks are also great for little ones too young to deal with the crowds at city pools, too. Many spots offer water toys, cannons and water tables in addition to your usual spray showers, and most are either part of or adjacent to a regular playground for dry-land fun. Yippee!
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to outdoor activities for kids in NYC
Don’t forget to check out our favorite playgrounds with famous artwork, plus our favorite water parks in NJ and water parks near NYC. Feeling adventurous? Plan a visit to our favorite kids' amusement parks (some of which also include water playgrounds and water features)!
Splash parks and water playgrounds in NYC
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.
Prospect Park’s all-in-one LeFrak Center effortlessly transitions from an icy wonderland in winter to a summer-fun hot spot for Brooklyn families. There’s a full day’s worth of entertainment, whether it’s biking along the park’s shaded paths or gliding on the 16,000-square-foot roller rink. Pack a swimsuit, because you won’t be able to duck out without dashing through the 41 sprinklers of the awesome Splash Pad water feature (for under-12s).
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.
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. Another thing to know: Chelsea Waterside Playground is getting HUGE renovations in 2017 (check out our article about it here). It'll eventually have two water play areas, ample seating for parents and a seriously massive snake-like structure with slides!
Beach 30th Street Playground
Hurricane Sandy might have taken a serious toll on the Rockaways in 2012, but the area has made its comeback (and taken steps to up its resiliency should another monster hurricane come its way). The NYC beach getaway offers plenty of sandy fun by the sea, but if your child prefers his splashes in a safe playground environment, then the Beach 30th Street 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! Rockaway Boardwalk between Beach 32nd and Beach 28th Sts.
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.
Washington Square Park
Head to Washington Square Park’s iconic fountain to chill out this season (you’ll probably run into some cool outdoor piano performances along the way). It’s huge and well-traveled, so get there early to avoid the crowds! We’d say the fountain is best suited for all ages, since you can perch on the steps that encircle it, remaining mostly dry, or choose to accompany your kids in the water. It’d be smart to bring water shoes and your towel, since parts of the surface can get a little slippery. 5 Ave, Waverly Pl., W. 4 and Macdougal Sts.
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.
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.
When you’re not busy at the adjacent farmers’ market or stuffing your face at Bagel World, you’ll want to stop by J.J. Byrne Playground, which comes complete with large water cannons, traditional sprinklers and an old-fashioned water mill. The playground also offers climbing structures, swings and plenty of seating for parents. 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.
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.
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.
Arrrgh, mateys! Send your mini pirate wannabes (and your landlubbers, too) to visit this spectacular oceanside fishing cove. You’ll find rustic paths through the salt marshes, nautical-themed play areas including a convincing shipwreck and interesting shark and lighthouse-themed components. Your littlest kiddos will likely spend the majority of their time in the sand play area, but you’ll certainly want to check out the playground’s spray showers on a hot day as well.
Ok, ok. So your original plan heading to Madison Square Park was to scarf a burger and shake at Shake Shack. However, that’s not the only reason to visit this cute, conveniently-placed oasis! Kids can stop in to enjoy a 15-foot water wheel sprinkler and water-spouting alphabet blocks to while an afternoon away. Oftentimes, a staffer is present to help keep a watchful eye on the little ones. Don’t miss out on fun kids’ programming during summertime, too!
This Queens play space, designed to accommodate children with and without disabilities, was the first of its kind in the country in 1984. A network of wheelchair-accessible ramps connects jungle gyms, slides, swings and even a 12-foot-long suspension bridge. Kids can explore a mini village, complete with a fire station, a schoolhouse, a house with flower boxes, a fire engine and a bus. After discovering every little nook, they can take to the basketball courts to shoot some hoops or play in the faux river encircling a sprinkler area while parents watch from amphitheater seating.
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. Located at the south end of Rockefeller Park, this maze-like playground offers sand and water play, plus all kinds of exciting equipment to engage your kiddos. Spend the afternoon at the enclosed playground, chasing your tot from the manual merry-go-round to the water and sand table to the well-shaded dodo bird sculpture (created by artist Tom Otterness) which drips water. Older kids will want to hit up the sprinkler area, climbing net and the gazebo. On your way home make a final stop: a wall covered with stone dog and elephant gargoyles (outside the playground) that spit at passersby. Last but not least (and a final perk!) you’ll be close to must-see areas like the Rockefeller Park House (it lends toys and sports supplies including books, balls and games and is generally open from May through October) and the Rockefeller Park Basketball Court, which has adjustable hoops. Closed-toed shoes must be worn.
Yes, you’ll have to pay to gain access to this playground , but the incredible thought BKSK Architects put into this space make it well worth the $4. This outdoor playground has myriad niches that let kids discover for themselves the laws of the natural world—a.k.a. physics—in a way that enchants them. An elaborate Archimedes screw connected to a water table and two plastic slides with a drop that mimics that of a roller coaster are just some of the ways in which this spot sparks and satisfies kids' curiosity in equal measure.
Discovery Playground, Fort Washington Park
At Discovery Playground (one of the quieter playgrounds in the city since it can be hard to access), your kiddos are sure to have a turn on whatever equipment they like. There are a lot of cool nature-inspired pieces, like a zip line, balance beams and a treehouse! There’s also an obstacle course made of leaves, logs and mushrooms. Last but not least, there’s a water fountain feature and a nearby sand pit. Be prepared to use porta potties—no permanent public bathrooms are close enough to handle a kiddie emergency. Near 165th St in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson; Enter at 181 or 158th and walk to 165th.
East 110th St Playground
Find this epic kids’ playspace near the north shore of the Harlem Meer! It’s Central Park’s northernmost playground (and it’s highly-attended for a reason—it has an awesome location). Back in 2013, the playground was totally revamped, and it now offers a circular splash pad with water spouts and an adjacent circle with cool climbing structures complete with bridges and tunnels. There’s also a good amount of wooden bench seating so Mom and Dad can hang out comfortably, too. Grab poles at the nearby Meer for catch-and-release fishing if you’re feeling ambitious! East 110th St at Lenox Ave.
What appeals to kids most about this amazing (and amazingly hidden) spot 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.