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Playgrounds continued

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.

Sledding Hill
Pilgrim’s Hill
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.

Sydney’s Playground
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 person.

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 available.

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.

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From the Fall 2004 edition of the New York Family Guide