There are literally hundreds of parks in New York City. A great resource for finding one near you is the City's Parks and Recreation page. Here are the five playgrounds that my five year old son couldn't get enough of.
1. Billy Johnson Playground in Central Park
Central Park is an obvious must-see for families visiting the Big Apple, but at over 250 acres, there's a lot to do. While strolling through the park or laying on the lawn reading a good book is right up my alley, my son favors slides, swings, sand and being around other kids. Billy Johnson Park on the east side at 67th Street was perfect. There were plenty of structures to run around on, but his absolute favorite was a granite slide built into the side of a hill. Kids ran up to the top of the hill and came barrelling down over an over. Note: sliding down on an old piece of cardboard ups the speed and fun factors significantly, but safety is compromised for sure.
The one downside to Billy Johnson, and many of the playgrounds in Central Park, was the absence of a nearby restroom. The interactive map of Central Park says there's one within five minutes of the playground. Maybe so, but that's an eternity for a little one who "has to go" and it assumes you can actually find the restroom on the first try (we could not). That aside, Billy Johnson, and other playgrounds are a great way to give the little ones a break from walking, viewing and museum-ing (the Natural History Museum and The Met both boarder Central Park).
Before you go consider buying an interactive map app for Central Park: iTunes or Android. It's $1.99 well spent.
2. Washington Square Park
Built to commemorate the centennial of President Washington's 1789 inauguration (back when New York City was still our Nation's capitol), Washington Square Park is 9.75 acres of fun. The park is most known for it's giant fountain and its arch, but it also has a great playground. I really liked that the playground was gated so it was harder for the kiddies to escape. Judging by the conversations I eavesdropped on I would say the crowd was a good mix of locals and visitors.
The play structure was large and there were swings and sand to dig in. I also liked that there were food vendors throughout the park making a cold treat or drink very accessible. Bathrooms were relatively close and easy to find. The artists and street performers really gave the park an eclectic and fun atmosphere.
3. Rockefeller Park
I think my son's favorite park was probably Nelson A. Rockefeller Park in north end of Battery Park. The play area here was one of the best we encountered. The two main structures were very large and had unique features like a big red net the kids could walk across. The playground also boasted a merry-go-round, sand tables and water features (perfect for a warm day). I liked that it was on the water so you could stroll along the walking path all the way back to our hotel, The Ritz Carlton Battery Park. Mommy Poppins offers a great review of this playground with lots of pictures.
4. Bleecker Playground
This was my favorite playground for two reasons: the shops and the cupcakes. Bleecker Street is home to swank boutiques like Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs and one of the yummiest bakeries in town, Magnolia Bakery.
On one of our last days in the City, my son and I went to Magnolia Bakery where he got a red velvet cupcake and I bought a carton of the best banana pudding I have ever had. Since the bakery was our destination, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Bleecker Playground just across the street on Bleeker between Bank and 11th Street. This playground was all locals. I felt like a real New Yorker (except that I'm pretty sure I was one of the only adults who wasn't a nanny) and my son quickly buddied up with a couple of mini-locals who were playing on their way home from school.
This playground definitely qualified as a city space with little or no grass, but it was still fun and made me feel better about dragging a kid half-way across town just so I could buy some fancy cup cakes and pudding.
5. Victorian Gardens in Central Park
To be fair, this is not a playground, but an amusement park. I've included it here because it was a ton of fun and something that I was not inclined to visit when I read about it, but was glad we did after the fact.
Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink in Central Park is a seasonal attraction that's only open during the summer. It's very small and the games and rides are geared toward kids 8 and under. I would highly recommend buying the unlimited ride bracelet for your children. The rides are very short and at $18.50 ($21.50 on the weekends) it will save you money in the long run. Parents can simply pay the $6.50 admission and buy individual tickets if you want to play games. There are plenty of other attractions to see first, but if you've done it all and are looking for something that's relatively inexpensive and fun for the kids, then check out Victorian Gardens.
Are there any playgrounds in New York City that you would recommend? Post a comment and share with other Chic Mamas.