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Ancient Playground
Enter Central Park at Fifth Ave. and 84th St.
Built in homage to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian-art collection, Ancient Playground has slides, chain bridges, baby and tire swings, ropes, and a sprinkler mixed in with obelisks and pyramid-like structures. Bathrooms available. Open daily, dawn to dusk.

Carl Schurz Park
Enter at East End Ave. and 84th St.
Clean, quiet, and located in a kid-friendly area not far from Gracie Mansion, the play space here is off the beaten path and therefore often less crowded than other city parks. Features include two dog runs, swings, slides, a spray shower, and sandbox. Kids like to watch the ships passing along the East River. The park is open from dawn to 1 a.m.; bathrooms available.

Carroll Park Playground
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Enter at Carroll St. and Smith St.
Acquired in 1853, Carroll Park is one of the borough’s oldest. It has a paved court for pickup games, two boccie courts, two fully equipped playgrounds, a spray shower, and a clean bathroom, just in case. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Whirling around on the Central Park Carousel. (Photo credit: Kristine Larsen)

Central Park
Visit Central Park’s myriad kid attractions at your leisure, but don’t miss the climbable Alice in Wonderland statue (Fifth Avenue at 75th Street); the slide, bucket swings, sandbox, and fountain at James Michael Levin Playground (Fifth Avenue at 77th Street); the tree house, slides, sandbox, and tire and rope swings at Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground (Central Park West at 85th Street); the seesaws, wooden suspension bridge, swings, and water-spewing spirals at Heckscher Playground (Central Park South at Seventh Avenue); and the tire swings and corkscrew slide at Diana Ross Playground (Central Park West at 81st Street). Playgrounds are open from 7:30 a.m. till dusk; bathrooms are available throughout the park.

Hudson River Park Playground
Pier 51. Enter at Gansevoort St.
212-533-PARK; 212-791-2530
This micro amusement park resembles an outdoor Chuck E. Cheese set on the waterfront. Kids in bathing suits run in and out of the sprinkler area, climb, swing on monkey bars, and gawk at the Statue of Liberty through binoculars. Just outside the gated playground you’ll find ice-cream carts and pristine bathrooms. Open daily, dawn to dusk.

Madison Square Park
Enter at 25th St. and Madison Ave.
There’s never a dull moment at Madison Square Park. Aside from the classic jungle gyms and slides, kids are kept busy with scheduled arts-and-crafts workshops and puppet shows. The surrounding area includes lush lawns, flower beds, and a restored nineteenth-century fountain. Culture-vulture parents will love the sculpture exhibit in the summertime. Open 6 a.m. to midnight; no bathrooms.

Mercer Playground
Enter at Mercer St., near Bleecker St.
This half-acre park is fantastic for kids on wheels. An evenly paved space is the perfect surface for helmeted skaters, bladers, cyclers, and kids on their scooters. There’s also a sprinkler and boulders to climb on. Open daily, dawn to dusk.

Nelson A. Rockefeller Park
Battery Park City. Enter at Chambers St. and River Terr.
This relative newcomer (opened in 1992) has a pedal-driven carousel, a rubbery surface for chalk drawing, a sandpit, bronze animal sculptures, and a wading fountain for the tiny ones. You’ll also find chess tables, slides, swings, jungle gyms, and climbing nets. River views and shady benches for mom and dad make a visit fun and relaxing for everyone. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; bathrooms available.

96th Playground
Enter at 96th St. and Fifth Ave.
The biggest perk of this spot is its treehouse: a five-foot-high wooden fort built around a thick tree, from which kids exit down a pole. Other accoutrements include a sandbox, sprinkler, six baby swings, and three tire swings. Bathrooms are only five minutes away in Central Park. Open daily, dawn to dusk.

Playground for All Children
Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Flushing. Enter at 111th St. and Corona Ave.
Beyond the famous Unisphere, left over from the 1964 World’s Fair (please don’t climb!), this playground is home to a wonderland specifically designed for children with physical disabilities. There’s a boat glider-swing for kids in wheelchairs, and a crutch-friendly musical walkway, plus a ramp-accessible jungle gym, a mini firehouse, and a set of working play traffic lights. Open 8 a.m. to dusk; bathrooms available.

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From the Fall 2004 edition of the New York Family Guide