Browse our guide to the best parks for kids to make the most of your sunny afternoon! There's no need to wonder, "Where are the best parks for kids near me?" when cool spots that include climbable structures, perfect picnicking areas and free programming are right under your nose!
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to outdoor activities for kids in NYC
While this is by no means an exhaustive list (there are so many pretty parks to choose from!), we particularly love these spots for socializing, tossing a frisbee and simply hanging out. We hope you'll make the most of the best parks near you!
Best parks for kids in NYC
Venture out to Governors Island (open May through October), where there’s plenty to see, do and enjoy as a family. Grab a ferry from Manhattan or Brooklyn ($2, children under 13 & IDNYC holders free; Sat, Sun until 11:30am free) to explore 172 acres via bike (there’s more than five miles of bike lanes, and bike rentals are easily found at Blazing Saddles (Colonels Row), or head to spots like the Hammock Grove/Hammock Grove Play Area to kick back and relax in one of 50 hammocks or climb around on a nearby play structure. Families might also visit the Compost Learning Center (starting May 27, 2017 for the 2017 season) to learn all about compost, how to compost and what to compost! Last but not least, The Hills portion of Governors Island opened in 2016, and offers heights of 70 ft. above sea level (there are stunning views to be seen!) plus four huge slides, including the longest slide in NYC. Hungry? There are plenty of food trucks located on the island so you can snack, but we’d recommend bringing a picnic just for the experience.
There's everything to do in Prospect Park...the question is, are you ready for an all-day adventure? Check out the Prospect Park Zoo, Carousel, LeFrak roller/skating rink (depending on the season), bandshell for awesome summer concerts and the Lefferts Historic House for a little taste of history. There's also free programming at the Audubon Center for kids.
Central Park's unique history, accessibility and design make it (undoubtedly!) New York City's most famous park—Oh yeah, and it's appearance in countless beloved films does, too! It was the first public park built in the United States, sees about 25 million visitors per year and contains 36 bridges and arches and around 50 monuments, sculptures and fountains. Perhaps most important to families, the park contains 21 playgrounds, Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, charming paddleboat rentals and, of course, the Central Park Zoo.
There’s so much to see and do at the High Line that it’s difficult to recommend where to begin! New York’s famed elevated park features plants and grasses native to the area, along with regular art shows and performances, plus free history, art and nature tours (found under the High Line website’s “Things to Do” tab. Stay on the lookout for Make It kids’ programming, which occurs throughout spring, summer and fall and generally caters to kids ages 1–12. Have tots in tow? Elevator access can be found on Gansevoort St, West 16th St, West 23rd St and West 30th St in case you’re lugging a stroller on your journey.
Visit Brooklyn Bridge Park for the Pier 6 playground, which boasts the Water Lab (a stone-strewn area with water to splash in), Sand Village (a huge sandbox with large metal slides) and Swing Valley (Tarzan-style ropes). There are also soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, handball courts, bike paths plus a roller skating and boating area for families. Jane's Carousel, built in 1922, is also worth visiting.
Enjoy Mad. Sq. Kids activities throughout the summer like the annual Kids' Fest, featuring art, crafts, theater, storytelling and face-painting. It's also the location of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party (yum) and one of New York's most beloved restaurants, Shake Shack. Last but not least, kids can also play at the Police Officer Moira Ann Smith Playground to get soaked under sprinklers and a 15-foot water wheel!
Bryant Park has plenty to offer your family year-round. In warmer weather, take a trip to the Art Cart in front of the NYPL to borrow crayons, colored pencils, stencils and other art supplies so the kids can make their next masterpiece nearby (there are professional-quality supplies available for adults, too)! If you’re more in the mood for a relaxing read, check out the Reading Room (no I.D. or library card required), where there are a wide variety of books available to use for free, plus kid’s furniture and books to keep little ones occupied. In summer, you'll certainly want to stop by The Lawn to see HBO Summer Film Festival screenings (some are good for kids, some are just for adults!). In wintertime, don’t miss the Winter Village pop-up shops and free skating (ice-skate rentals are available for a fee).
Wear the kids out at Randalls Island’s 60+ athletic fields, go for a bike ride or drop by the apple orchard or native wildflower meadows to explore seasonal events. In the likely event that you'll want to make a day of your Randall's Island trip, secure a BBQ pit and grill up some hot dogs and burgers for the little ones.
Go for a stroll in the flower-filled waterfront gardens, or educate the kids on sustainability at Battery Urban Farm this summer, where kids can plant and harvest their own crops during summer programs, festivals and workshops. At Battery Park, families can also take boats to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Stop by one of four playgrounds (Classic Playground, Sachkerah Woods Playground, Southwest Playground or Woodlawn Playground) to let the kids run wild and climb to their heart’s desires. The playgrounds also contain spray showers that come on when it hits 80 degrees! If it’s sports you’re after, you’ll want to enjoy the numerous fields and courts for basketball, baseball, handball, football and more. Prefer to hike? Choose from tons of trails to see gorgeous trees, flowers and cute critters. Last but not least, this spot offers three dog runs and plenty of spots to barbecue.
Feel the wind in your hair as you take the kids on a Pier 62 carousel ride, practice putting with the family at the miniature golf course on Pier 25 or kayak through the Hudson. You can also fish in the Hudson River for free during the summer—just don’t try to eat your catch of the day. In addition to formal fishing instruction from Big City Fishing, kids ages five and older will get a lesson in the ecology and biology of the Hudson River and its species from environmental educators. All fishing equipment, including rods, reels and bait, are provided.
Sprint around McCarren Park’s 35 acres of baseball, football and soccer fields with the little ones or watch 'em conquer the skate park on their own. McCarren hosts outdoor film screenings during the summer months, and you can’t miss its huge pool for cooling off when the heat’s too much to bear! The park also features two spray showers, basketball, baseball, soccer and football fields, tennis courts, a playground and a dog run in case you decide to bring your pooch with you on your adventure.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is not only the site of two World's Fairs, but it also offers plenty of space for soccer, tennis, cricket and more. The Park additionally holds a baseball stadium (Citi Field, home of the Mets), a zoo (Queens Zoo), a science museum (New York Hall of Science), botanical gardens (Queens Botanical Garden) and six different playgrounds.
Toss a Frisbee in one of Fort Greene Park’s lush green fields, play "H.O.R.S.E." on the basketball court, perfect your serve at the tennis courts or watch the little ones climb around on Fort Greene Park's huge playground complete with towers, ladders and slides. There are also outdoor grills in case you feel like bringing lunch!
At Riverside Park, you can roll your doublewide stroller down four miles of scenic waterfront with your babies, try and hit all 14 playgrounds with your older kids or involve the whole family with an afternoon bike ride down the park’s bike path. There are also sports courts and fields for public use, plus a skate park for adventurous tweens.