Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Enter at Grand Army Plaza, Eastern Pkwy. and Flatbush Ave.
There are several playgrounds situated around the perimeter
of this Brooklyn splendor. Start with the Garfield Tot Lot
(Garfield Place at Prospect Park West), which includes plenty
of safe wandering space. The Third Street Playground (3rd
Street at Prospect Park West) has a sandbox, jungle gyms,
swings, and sprinklers; the Children’s Corner (Flatbush
Avenue at Empire Boulevard) offers a Coney Island–style
merry-go-round adjacent to the zoo; and the Harmony Playground
(9th Street at Prospect Park West, right behind the band shell)
has a working xylophone. Open 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.; bathrooms
available at some playgrounds.
Riverside Park Playgrounds
Seven locations along Riverside Dr., bet. 74th and 142nd Sts.
It’s all about wildlife at the playgrounds dotting the
4.5-mile stretch along Riverside Drive. There’s a mini
Hudson River and huge sandbox at the 83rd Street location,
stone hippos to climb on at 91st Street, and dinosaurs at
97th Street. The 123rd Street playground is dolphin-themed
with fountains and a gorgeous view of the George Washington
Bridge. It’s one of the few places along the park where
parking is a cinch. Relatively clean bathrooms run throughout
the stretch, and plenty of shady trees line the river, making
the parks noticeably cooler than other parts of Manhattan.
Open 7:30 a.m. to dusk.
Central Park at 74th St. Enter at E. 72nd St.
Near Central Park’s toy-boat pond and a small
café (for restrooms and hot cocoa), Pilgrim’s
Hill and its surrounding slopes are steep enough
to excite kids, yet small enough to keep you anxiety-free.
Enter at 66 White St., near Broadway
This 6,000-square-foot indoor playground is excellent for
rainy days or the colder months. The main space is organized
to resemble a small town, with house rooftops functioning
as jungle gyms. The “Womb Room” has toys and chairs
for nursing moms, and a window through which you can watch
your older kids play. Discount packages are available. Open
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday,
Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. $8.50 per
Tompkins Square Park
Enter at Ave. A and 9th St.
Handball courts, swings, and a dog run join several monuments,
fountains, and a three-foot-deep pool at this former squatters’
haven. Today, the 10.5-acre park is an archetype of gentrification,
with strictly enforced closing hours. Nature lovers will appreciate
the variety of trees—crabapple, elm, and beech. Look
for bohemian dads pushing preschoolers on the swing set and
home-schooling moms with packets of soy nuts. The playgrounds
are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; separate kid and adult bathrooms
Tudor City Greens and Playgrounds
Vincent F. Albano Sq. Enter at 41st St., near Second Ave.
This mini village on a safe cul-de-sac is popular with affable
elderly types and their dogs. It’s a great place to
take your kids if the crush of busy playgrounds annoys you.
Two small, gated playgrounds with monkey rings, slides, curly
slides, and benches are located next to two gated parks with
benches, hopscotch-style slates, and fountains. No public
bathrooms. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Washington Square Park
Enter at Fifth Ave. and Washington Square N.
Nestled in the middle of the NYU campus, this park is famous
for its striking archway entrance. The two playgrounds are
suited for different age groups: There’s a classic climbing
apparatus for school-age kids at one; a sandpit, mini climbing
areas, and spouting turtle sprinklers for toddlers at the
other. Play chess with your child, or bring the dog for a
run in the designated canine play area. The park is open 6
a.m. to midnight, playgrounds close at dusk; bathrooms available.
William H. Seward Park
Enter at E. Broadway and Essex St.
A renovation at Seward Park, the oldest municipal playground
in New York City, brought in lots of colorful climbing apparatuses,
swings, and plenty of wide-open space for a game of tag. A
great place to bring the kids and teach them about Old New
York. Open 7 a.m. to dusk.