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Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard

The best water playgrounds for kids in NYC

Visit water playgrounds for kids when your little ones want to splash and play. Don't forget those waterproof shoes!

Written by
Allie Early
,
Hannah Doolin
,
Danielle Valente
&
Oliver Strand
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NOTE: AS NEW YORK CITY CONTINUES TO REOPEN, NEW REGULATIONS REGARDING PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS ARE BEING PUT INTO PLACE. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE NEW RULES BEFORE GOING TO ANY PLAYGROUND.

When the summer heat strikes, you can always head for a water playground. The city's best water playgrounds for kids are unmatched—along with the best beaches for kids in and around NYC and the NYC pools that will reopen August 1, these cooling play zones are an essential part of a New York summer.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to outdoor activities for kids in NYC

Waiting are you waiting for? Pack your water shoes, grab a towel and head to the Water Lab in Brooklyn Bridge Park, or the Beach 30th Street Playground in the Rockaways, or the Chelsea Waterside Play Area in Manhattan! Many of the best water playgrounds are a part of the best kids’ playgrounds in the city—we guarantee you hours of fun.

And when you're ready to get out of the city, we can point you to the best hiking trails for NYC families to explore, or one of the best drive-in theaters in and near New York City. We'll help you make this the best summer ever.

Best water playgrounds in NYC

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Brooklyn Heights

It's tough to beat the playgrounds on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are massive slides, epic sandboxes, Swing Valley— and the Water Lab, the park's hot-weather crown jewel and arguably the best water playground in the city. The Water Lab encourages creative play, with water screws to turn and sprays to operate. There's a canal your little ones can fill with flowing water, or damn up—you can watch the children negotiate who does what. All that splashy fun will build appetites—good thing a wood-fired pizza enjoyed on the roof deck of Fornino is just steps away.

Beach 30th St Playground, Rockaway Boardwalk
Photograph: NYC Parks

2. Beach 30th St Playground, Rockaway Boardwalk

When you go to the Rockaways, it's as if you've escaped the city without leaving the five boroughs—the laid-back summer vibe and legit beach scene is more Santa Monica than Manhattan. The Rockaway Boardwalk concessions are clustered at the eastern end of the beach, but if you head to the 30th St Playground you will find one the best play spaces in the city. 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! 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The newly-renovated play area is a colorful jumble of things that will get your kids climbing, running, splashing and shrieking with delight. The iconic pipefish jungle gym and slide pays homage to one of the most popular residents of the Hudson River Park Estuary. Parents will definitely enjoy taking it easy in a new shaded region while their little ones enjoy the playground. 

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Tribeca

The recent renovation of makeover of the Pier 25 Playground in Tribeca brought some much-needed love to this popular spot—the water park has never looked better. There are fountains with minds of their own, and user-activated water elements that make cooling off fun for all. The newly-finished surface is thick and soft—perfect for toddling tots who tumble when they run.

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  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • West Village

Set out on the Hudson close to the Whitney, the Pier 51 Playground was just given a much-needed renovation—just in time for the heat of the summer. This marine-themed playground has climbing equipmentmonkey bars and a spiral ramp leading up to a lofty pirate’s lookout, plus sprays that feed a snaking stream embedded with fossilized remains of sea life from past eras. Your kids will love the playspace; you'll love the breeze off the Hudson and the river views.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Post-industrial Williamsburg is looking good. The old Domino Sugar factory has been transformed into glittering condos and a waterfront park with million-dollar views—and Sweetwater Playground, one of the best play spaces in the city. When the air warms up the water elements are turned on, transforming the playground into soaky fun that's sure to get your kids squealing with delight.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Battery Park City

Teardrop park feels like a natural part of the landscape, a rocky outcropping and a natural spring that were miraculously untouched while skyscrapers were built around it. That's why the towering wedge of rock with its water elements appeals to kids—they feel like they discovered it, and are among the first to explore its secrets. Canopied paths wind past huge boulders and grassy lawns, a ginormous metal slide seems a part of the mini-mountain.

The iconic NYC park lets you welcome warm-weather season by splashing around the Washington Square Park fountain. Children can run around in the playground, where they'll find swings, climbing elements, a sandbox and water play where a cooling spray will help them beat the summer heat while using up their little-kid energy.

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  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Central Park

Inspired by the Egyptian Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this lavishly refurbished playground just north of the great institution is also the perfect post-museum 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.

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  • Playgrounds

Eschewing standard design, architect David Rockwell hands kids the building blocks (literally) for their own fun at Imagination Playground: Blue foam shapes that fit together every which way, spurting sprinklers and barrels to use on hot days. (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.) The venue's whimsical seaside-themed elements, such as a semicircular boardwalk and mastlike poles in the sandbox, help it fit right in with its seaport surroundings.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Prospect Park

LeFrak Lakeside get a ton of foot traffic, regardless of the time of year. When the winter months set in, Brooklynites flood to the park for ice skating (fairly priced skating at that). However, the real lure is the summertime, when the Splash Pad's 41 sprinklers are waiting for kiddies (12 and under) to take a quick respite from the heat. But the water activities certainly don't stop there. After cooling off near the Splash Pad sprinklers, make sure to take advantage of kayaking, paddle boarding and other fun amenities.

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  • Playgrounds

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.

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  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Park Slope

J.J. Byrne Playground 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.

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  • Playgrounds

Arrrgh, mateys! Send your mini pirate wannabes (and your landlubbers, too) to visit this spectacular oceanside fishing cove in Staten Island. You’ll find rustic paths through the salt marshes, plus 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 as well.

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  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Flatiron

Though your original plan was to head to Madison Square Park for treats at Shake Shack, 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! (And you can get a burger and shake while drying off on line, so don't fret.) 

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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.

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  • 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. 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.

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Financial District

Kids in lower Manhattan now have a new and improved place for splashing around. Pearl Street Playground, located near the South Street Seaport, reopened in 2012 after a two-year makeover. In addition to swings, slides and a shaded seating area where parents can rest their weary legs, the spot has an oyster-shaped sand-and-water play space—a nod to the former oyster shell heaps that once lined the waterfront.

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Discovery Playground, Fort Washington Park
Photograph: NYC Parks

19. Discovery Playground, Fort Washington Park

Discovery Playground is one of the quieter playgrounds in the city, since it can be hard to access. Once you get here, 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 sandpit. Be prepared to use porta-potties—no permanent public bathrooms are close enough to handle a kiddie emergency.

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.

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  • Attractions
  • Kips Bay

This park boasts amazing views of the East River, an amphitheater, playgrounds, gardens, sports fields and walking and bike paths along its 57 acres. 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 and running between the cute bronze harbor seals as water shoots up from various ground fountains.

Greenpoint Playground

22. Greenpoint Playground

Though this playscape looks fairly tame, it’s certainly worth popping over for a refreshing moment under the spray shower on a hot summer day. There’s also a red and green climbing structure, a swingset and plenty of bench seating, so your crew members can enjoy other activities once they've had enough of the water. 

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  • Sports and fitness

After taking a dip in the Olympic-size swimming pool in Staten Island, take high-energy rascals over to the basketball-court–size sprinkler area to run off some steam as surrounding hoses spray them down. It's a fun, yet tame, way to keep cool when the scorcher strikes. 

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Brooklyn

Within striking distance from your favorite Coney Island attractions—Luna Park, Original Nathan's—is another exciting feature the kiddies will love: Assery Levy Park Playground. The newly upgraded site includes play areas and swing sets for various age groups (ages 2–5 and 5–12), a spray shower (which is certainly a welcomed relief during the summer months), new pathways, improved lighting and much more. We think it's a perfect place to visit after a few rides on the Cyclone.

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  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Queens

Note: This is closed for the 2020 season.

The New York Hall of Science is one NYC museum that doesn't limit the fun to indoor exhibits. After catching a glimpse of the venue's interactive elements, kids are invited to head to the 30,000 square-feet outdoor science haven to explore the subject from a new vantage point. BKSK Architects' impressive oasis features a water play area that your kiddo won't want to leave. Aqua fun begins with Archimedes Screw, which provides a wheel and axle that allows water to move up and down the gizmo. Water Mist on Music Path, which exposes littles to sounds of African, Asian and Caribbean drums, is another winner on a hot day. Note that access to the playground requires a ticket.

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