All you need to know about taking the kids to the Washington Market Playground near Chambers Street, Manhattan

Playful sand feature
The residents of Tribeca may hate me, but I must “out” their fantastic playground inside the beautiful Washington Market Park. Especially now, during the dog days of summer, it is one of the shadiest playgrounds I’ve encountered and it’s got something for every age group from baby to big kid. There is sand, jungle gyms, water, and a lovely patch of lawn for easy picnicking. Of course, none of that is new to playgrounds, but what keeps my family going back is how it all comes together under a dense thicket of trees. Despite being bordered by busy Chambers Street on its southern side, the playground feels more isolated from the hustle and bustle of city life than the norm. Basically, it’s a little patch of Fairfield Connecticut that escaped.

The Shade: I break this out especially for the skimmers among you. Shade is a big sell here. Large trees surround most of the play equipment and even the water features. While all the coverage may not be the highlight of a winter visit, it does make this playground a key destination on “triple H” days.
Expansive Play Equipment: This is the Starbuck’s of playgrounds with tall, grande, and venti jungle gym options scaled respectively to babies, toddlers, and big kids. Babies and wobbly toddlers enjoy a boat-shaped sand box and low-rise platforms with a wide-slide and some easy climbing extensions. The 2-and-up toddler set can run all over a higher set-up with a twisty slide and more ladder options, as well as a wooden train complete with steam engine and two passenger cars. Big kids get the run of a tall jungle gym festooned with two water tank rooftops to reflect the playground’s old New York surroundings. It’s a long complex featuring decks and bridges reached by a wide-variety of egresses including stairs, standard slides, coil ladders, a serpentine-style ladder, and two large web-like chain ladder structures that allow for ascents as well as traverses. My almost 3-year-old loved the latter ladders, though the space between rungs was tall enough that I stood at the ready to prevent a fall.

Simple water features but lots of fun
Water sprinklers: With just two geysers flowing away inside a generous space, you might think what’s the big deal? I like this park’s water feature for its simplicity, which evokes running through sprinklers in a backyard more than a commercial water park. On two recent visits, kids enjoyed sprinting between the two jets and leaping through the spray. I was able to sit comfortably on the stone wall surrounding the jets and easily see my son while he played amid the spray There’s a water wheel along one side for little ones to play with the runoff from the geysers and plenty of seating on the wall surrounding the area.

The lawn: OK, it’s not technically part of the playground, but it does add to the play possibilities overall inside the park. Bring your Frisbees, soccer balls, and picnics to take advantage of the green expanse bordering the playground. At the northern end of the glade is a gazebo which oplays host to music acts some evenings of the week. Otherwise it is perfect for the role of fort, farm, dollhouse, or Millennium Falcon depending on who’s doing the imagining.

Bathrooms: New park bathrooms are slated to open late this summer, so in the meanwhile, your best bet is to walk a block south on Hudson to the Whole Foods.
Eats: Closest at hand and easily both a blessing and a curse depending on your family relationship with ice cream is the Mr. Softee truck that is seemingly permanently parked right outside the park gate on Greenwich. For healthier fare, the Whole Foods on Warren offers its jumbo array of food bars and a cafeteria with abundant high chairs. Kitchenette on Chambers Street between Hudson and Greenwich is a retro country diner experience with a menu that deliciously covers the full gamut of comfort foods from chicken soup to brownies with nuts. There are more dining spots along Greenwich—pizza, diner, McDonald’s—but none are particularly good.
Directions: Washington Market Park is on Greenwich Street between Duane and Chambers. The A, C, 1, 2 and 3 lines have stations on Chambers at Church for the letter lines and West Broadway for the numbers. In the former case, you’re just a block from the park and the latter, just two blocks. Or you can take the R or W to City Hall, walk one block north to Chambers and three blocks west to the park.
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