For Kids of All Abilities
W. 70th St. nr. Amsterdam Ave.
Refashioned in 2003 as an inclusionary playground—meaning children with disabilities can enjoy the facilities as easily as those without—Playground 70 has ramps instead of steps, swings that accommodate physical limitations, basketball hoops that can be lowered, and handicap-accessible bathrooms.
Union Square Playground
16th St. at Union Sq. W.
A frisson of peril shoots through this megapopular playground. There’s the controversial metal mound, of course, but also steep slides, spinning saucers, and lots of climbing ropes and bendy poles, all designed to test kids’ physical limits.
Oldie But Goodie
Riverside Park at W. 91st St.
Arguably the most popular playground on the Upper West Side, Hippo Playground is beloved for good reason: It’s loaded with swings (one set for toddlers, another for school-age kids), six climbing apparatuses, a soon-to-be-refurbished sandbox, shady honey-locust trees, and, best of all, two herds of mountable hippo sculptures.
22nd St. at Hudson River
Whether you skateboard or not, the moonscape that is the new Hudson River skate park is a spectacular sight. From 8 a.m. until dusk, helmet-wearing skaters can attack 15,000 square feet of structural foam molded into peaks and valleys, and pretested by Tony Hawk. Bike groups are petitioning to get their wheels in, but right now it’s skaters and rollerbladers only.
Public Space That Feels Private
The Village (Playground 12)
Stuyvesant Town, 14th St. at Ave. A
The best of Stuy Town’s dozen playgrounds is also one of the most underutilized in Manhattan. No matter the time of day, you’ll get two sizes of swings, a huge climbing structure topped by a clock tower, and a bright-red wooden fire truck almost entirely to yourself.
Hoe Ave. nr. E. 165th St., the Bronx
The orange-and-white multitasking jungle gym at Printers Park is actually a larger-than-life version of a printing press—an homage to Richard March Hoe, the inventor of the “lightning press,” whose estate once stood where the park is now. The graduated steps represent the cylinders; the white ramp is a stand-in for a roll of paper.
Enid A. Haupt Glass Garden
34th St. at First Ave.
The botanic garden off the lobby of NYU’s Rusk Institute is blissfully off the radar, even though it opened in 1958. If parents only knew about the 1,700-square-foot indoor area with orchids, a koi pond, and a trove of chatty tropical birds. Two weeks ago, a new element arrived: a freestanding pentatonic chime that can be played with mallets.
Fifth Ave. at 85th St.
The ramparts, pyramids, chutes, and tunnels at this newly spiffed-up, Egyptian-themed playground make for one atmospheric game of hide-and-seek. It helps that real-deal King Tut artifacts are just a block away at the Met.
Washington Square Park
Fifth Ave. at Washington Sq. N.
Frolicking in Washington Square Park’s gloriously resurrected fountain is an irresistible rite of passage for city kids. Though you’re technically not allowed inside the 76-foot-wide basin, the park’s minders typically look the other way as kids treat the 45-foot-tall central gusher, blasting daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., as their personal outdoor shower.