Big Al’s Top 10 Playground Round-up

Who doesn’t love a good list? I put this list together based on playgrounds I’ve visited this summer (and left out the ones that I didn’t care for) in Manhattan. I tried to include kosher food nearby, although I quickly realized that I often plan my destinations around the nearest Coffee Bean so there’s a lot of Coffee Bean in this list. So here it is, starting with the southern tip of the island:

1) Robert F. Wagner Park

20 Battery Place

Grab sushi and a cheese danish from Cafe 11 (located in the lobby, open Monday through Friday) and then sit on the grass and overlooking the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty and Jersey City — I know, it doesn’t sound so appealing, but it’s beautiful from far!

From now until October 29, 2014 they have Interactive Preschool Play on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 – 12:00. It’s like a giant outdoor playroom.

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(Bathroom on premises!)

2) West Thames Park

West Street between Albany Street and West Thames Street

Grab an iced coffee (or any other snack, they just happen to make excellent lattes!) from Battery Place Market and head on over. I only discovered this one a few weeks ago and it’s instantly become a favorite. It’s located practically in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, along the West Side Highway. There’s a great climbing structure, sand, sprinklers, a tire swing, a small basketball court and a great lawn right outside! I love it because it’s just the right size for little ones and even Lisi was able to keep busy!

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3) Imagination Playground

2 Fulton Street 

Sure, I only rediscovered this one on Labor Day, BUT the staff informed me that the sprinklers will stay on for another few weeks so we’re good. We actually stumbled on this park walking back from the Governor’s Island ferry. It was like 90 degrees out and this was exactly what we needed to cool down. There’s sand, sprinklers and sprinklers in the sand (a staff member brought it over), which wasn’t as gross as it sounds — it was the perfect amount of sprinkler for building a sand castle! There’s also a cute little roof deck (great if you lose a kid, just go up there and scan the whole playground!) and of course those giant foam blocks so the kids can get creative. Not to mention plenty of seating for the grownups which is always a plus in my book!



(Bathroom on premises!)

4) Pier 25

On the water at North Moore Street

We’ve just done the playground but there’s lots to do on the pier. This is a great water park — there’s a full sprinkler area so get ready to get wet! There’s also a crazy climbing structure, swings, sand and fun little pieces of equipment along the way.  If you keep walking, you’ll find mini golf, a skate park, beach volleyball and more!

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(Bathroom on premises!)

5) Washington Square Park

5th Avenue between Waverly Place and West 4th Street

You can likely spend the entire day here. There are four play areas, the Fountain, the Arch, chess and some awesome regulars (music, pigeons and bubbles!). There’s a Coffee Bean over on Macdougal and Bleecker, get yourself a latte and macaron and head on over. There’s so much to do, see here for more!


(Bathroom on premises!)

6) Horatio Street Playground

Hudson Street between Gansevoort Street and Horatio Street

I’d passed this one a bunch of times and finally got around to popping in. It’s kind of hidden among the basketball courts but it was pretty solid. If your kid likes climbing this is a great one. There are also swings, sprinklers and shade!

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Bonus: only a few blocks from the Coffee Bean on 14th and 9th!

(Bathroom on premises!)

7) Pier 51

Horatio Street and West 12th Street

I admit that this one was my favorite last year. The main reasons I loved it were the view and the fact that it was close to the train station and the Coffee Bean on 14th Street and 9th Avenue. Convenience-wise it’s still up there, but after seeing what the playgrounds south of this have to offer it got bumped down a bit on my list. Don’t worry, it’s still a great one! You get your sprinklers, sand, no swings (which is good and bad) and this giant spiral structure to run on. The park was under construction this summer but everything should be up and running next year!  More on the this gem here.

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(Bathroom on premises!)

8) Splash Pad

Roof Deck at the American Museum of Natural History (enter through the pathway by 79th Street and Columbus and take the elevator to the second floor)

You got me, this isn’t a playground, but I felt that it definitely belonged on this list. First, it’s directly across from the Coffee Bean on 79th and Columbus (hollllaaaa). It’s literally a roof deck with 4 sprinklers coming up from the ground. There’s seating with tables, some shade and a view of the Planetarium. This was an MVP this summer and one of NYC’s best kept secrets (did I just blow it?).


More on it here.

9) Discovery Playground

Around 162nd Street and the Hudson River

I love this one but there’s a pretty big BUT: it’s located at the bottom of a huuuuge hill. I don’t do hills very well. I don’t like feeling as if I might not make it back home. Whenever we go I tell them to enjoy it because we probably aren’t going back. And yet, we keep going back because it’s so good. This one is nature-themed, complete with a tree house, mini zip-line and a giant climbing structure. There’s also sand, sprinklers and swings (the playground ‘s’-trifecta). I hope I’m not scaring anyone away, but that hill is quite the pain. On the flip side, it’s never really so crowded!

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More on our trip here.

10) Dolphin Park

180th Street and Cabrini Boulevard 

 And the best for last. This one is a hidden gem. But really a hidden gem. If you don’t live in Washington Heights there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of it. You might even make the trip up to Washington Heights and be like, what’s the big deal? Well, this one is the best. It’s only for children up to 5 years old, but they don’t check IDs so Annie will be back next summer. It’s a small park with monkey bars, a sandbox, a sprinkler (which is really a seal, hence the name of the park. Wait, no, why is it called the Dolphin Park?) and an activity table. Judah has taken a liking to that table this summer. He sits there playing games, coloring and chilling with the staff. The park is run by the Port Authority and volunteers. There’s a beautiful view of the ramp leading to the GWB (fine, that might be a little subjective). BUT here’s the the thing. The park is only open from May to September, between 3:30 and 6:30pm. I don’t even know why I’m teasing everyone because it’s not open anymore. I just thought it was appropriate since we come here at least twice a week. It’s the best!

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And there you have it, the top 10 playgrounds I’ve visited in NYC this summer. Only 264 days until the sprinklers go back on!

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