Best water playgrounds in NYC
The Williamsburg waterfront has been reborn. What was home a booming Brooklyn industry is now the site of the gorgeous 5–acre Domino Park. Since the green space made its grand debut in 2018, this modern attraction—which features nods to the neighborhood's past—has been the talk of NYC, and rightfully so. The playground provides a taste of of the sugar industry with its iron and metal-clad Sugar Cane Cabin and Sweetwater Silo. When the warm weather strikes, you and the kiddies will want to head to the fountain and seating steps to cool off. Each geyser is illuminated by colorful pink and purple lights while the Manhattan skyline and Landmark Refinery Building loom in the background.
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 is an additional $5.
The newly designed play area is essentially a taste of the Hudson River on dry land. Kiddies will love making their way through the multi-colored pipefish jungle gym and slide, which pays homage to one of the most popular residents of the Hudson River Park Estuary. When it comes time to cool off, tiny tots will love making their way through the gentle yet refreshing sprinkler features and small sand area. Parents will definitely enjoy taking it easy in a new shaded region while their little ones enjoy the playground.
The quintessential way to usher in the warm-weather season in NYC is to roll up your jeans and dip your toes in the Washington Square Park fountain. An iconic symbol, which typically turns on for the season in late April or early May, is the perfect place for an exciting afternoon outdoors. Expect to hear some piano playing and witness some impressively large bubbles while you're out and about in the 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.
It's tough to beat Brooklyn Bridge Park. Not only is the Dumbo destination photo-worthy from every angle—boasting scenic views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and downtown Manhattan skyline—but it's a utopia for kiddies who love to swing, slide and climb. Head to Pier 6 (with waterproof shoes in tow) for a refreshing adventure. The water jets provide a much-needed break from the summer sun and the Water Lab Play Area will keep them busy for hours on end. Once they dry off, there's still plenty of fun waiting. Enjoy swing sets, ropes, Sandbox Village and, of course, sweet confections from the nearby stands. Trust us, you could spend all afternoon in this lovable Brooklyn attraction.
Escape the city without leaving the five boroughs. The Rockaways boast a laid-back, summer vibe you won't find in the middle of Manhattan. Although the beach town was greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy, it's back and thriving. If your kiddies are a bit too young for Rockaway Jet Ski and Rockaway Water Park's floating Tarzan Boat, your best bet is to opt for an afternoon at the 30th St Playground. 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!
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.
Nestled along the Hudson in an unassuming corner of the Meatpacking District sits this marine-themed playground, which provides 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After taking a dip in the Olympic-size swimming pool, 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.
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, which received $4.75 million in funding, 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. All ages.