Great City Playgrounds

Here is a cheat sheet of playgrounds across key areas of the city.

Luckily New York doesn’t lack for awesome playground these days and many of them are located in or near attractions you’ll want to take your child to. Here is a cheat sheet of where to get a play break.


If you’re interested in:


• Wall Street or the WTC Memorial: Take a break at the Imagination Playground next to the South Street Seaport. It’s a new concept in playgrounds where the focus is playing with stuff rather than on stuff. My nearly 4-year-old killed a good four hours here on Columbus Day. Afterward, skip Pizzeria Uno and explore the streets on the opposite side of the Seaport, where a lot of new local restaurants in all price ranges are springing up. You can begin or end your day with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.


Chinatown or Little Italy: My preschooler asks to go to Chinatown so she can go to the Hester Street Playground. It has a great toddler area with playhouses and a table with a scaled down model of the city that is ideal for Matchbox cars. The sandbox area is sizable, and the bigger kids’ jungle gym has a variety of neat climbing stuff. Note the tire swings hanging from what looks like a Chinese character. It’s a great place to work up an appetite before sampling dim sum, Shanghai dumplings, Vietnamese pho and Ferrarra’s cannoli, or to take a break from souvenir shopping on Canal St.


• The Highline: The artful benches in this up-in-the-air park make for some good climbing, but if the kids need more activity than that, climb down at 23rd Street and head toward the river to Waterside Park, a small playground with lots of Seussian stuff to climb and spin on. When you want to warm up, it’s a short hop to Chelsea Market for a snack. Or head a few blocks East to the Half King, one our go-to places for burgers and brunch.


• The Metropolitan Museum: The museum itself has more to offer kids than you might imagine, including a wonderful Christmas tree and family art programs. But when the kids get bored (which they will), take older kids to the relatively new Ancient Playground, where they can clamber over and through a maze of tunnels, walls and slides inspired by the museum. There’s a toddler area here, but overall smaller kids will be happier a few blocks south at the East 72nd Street playground. On your way home stop by the Billy Johnson playground just north of the zoo. It’s small, but the huge granite slide set into the rocks in the back is worth a detour.


• Multi-cultural Queens: The Main Street area of Flushing offers way more exotic Chinese food than you’ll find in Chinatown these days, while Jackson Heights offers Indian Buffet, brightly colored Bangladeshi sweets and good window shopping in its Little India section. Astoria is still the go-to place for Greek food or—if the weather behaves—a huge Czech beer garden.


If it’s a rainy day you can tire the kids out before lunch at The Hall of Science in Flushing Meadow Park But if it’s sunny day, head a few blocks south along 111th Street to the huge Playground for all Children with musical features, playhouses, giant trains and other colorful features. (This is all easier with a car, but if you’re subwaying it, Main Street, Flushing Meadow and Jackson Heights are accessible by the 7 train.)


If there’s a location you want to hit with your guest that I’ve missed, check out the run-down of new playgrounds in New York magazine.

Happy Thanksgiving!