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by CG News Desk


Indoor playgrounds would be around even if some weather warlock exercised his atmospheric magic on New York and bestowed it with San Diego-consistent temperatures. There are always indoor people and outdoor people, even in the most unswervingly agreeable climates. Sydney's Playground is one of the city's new indoor hotspots for play, and it doesn't much matter whether you're an indoor or outdoor type to enjoy it: it just looks like fun. In fact, there's a little part of it that even looks like New York. Opened this past July, the 6,000-square-foot Sydney's is, according to its spirited co-owner, Jackie Mallon, "the greatest facility for families with young children in the world." (This comment, we should point out, was made without hubris; just good humor). Providing plenty of space for open play, Mallon points out with a little more seriousness that Sydney's was "designed to be safe, fun and stimulating," adding, "We're different in that we tried to develop a concept for both children and adults." (We won't keep you grown-ups hanging: For you, the playground houses Blake's Café, where cappuccino and espresso flow freely. Sandwiches, fresh fruit, snacks and juice boxes can also be purchased there, along with the low-calorie frozen treats of Crema Lita. Not bad, right?) But back to the playground part. Sydney's climbing structure is actually a little city neighborhood of townhouses — not the dreary brownish-red things that people pay astronomical rents to live in, but apple-red and banana-yellow mini townhouses, lined in front with actual trees from an upstate farm. The trees aren't for climbing — they're decorative — but they make for a highly original touch, neatly echoing the lean Corinthian columns of the building's interior. Different, kind of kitschy, and definitely fun to clamber around in. Of course there's a sandbox (what's a playground — indoors, outdoors or on the moon — without a sandbox?), and a toddler corral stocked with balls. For Sydney's smallest visitors, the playground also provides a glass-enclosed carpeted room with changing tables, which Mallon estimates at around 150 to 200 square feet, in which the little ones can crawl all about without having to worry about getting overrun by the bigger kids. Located all around Sydney's 6,000 square feet are a variety of riding toys, blocks, Etch-a-Sketches, and you-name-its. For a more quiet pursuit, there's a 40- to 50-square-foot reading corner with cushiony seating. Stocked with nearly 100 books, the corner is complemented by the playground's own toy store — called, officially/unofficially, the Toy Box — which features only the smartest of current educational and developmental toys. There are also two party rooms that double as classrooms; Mallon reports that Sydney's has partnered with Music Together of Lower Manhattan and Murray Hill and its director Rosanna Magarelli to run classes there. (Parents with children enrolled in Music Together's Tribeca classes can receive up to 30 percent off Sydney's admission packages). Mallon and her fellow co-owner, Louise Jones, are planning their own calendar of events for Sydney's that will eventually include storytelling, puppet shows, music and magic. The partners also have an eye toward perhaps displaying some art suitable for families — not such an odd idea as it sounds, given the abundance of available wall space and the gallery-like feel of Sydney's 18-foot-high ceilings. Daily admission to Sydney's Playground is $8.50 per person. (Once admitted, families can come and go during the course of the day as they please). There are also a variety of membership packages. For more information, call (212) 431-9125 or go to www.sydneysplayground.com. Sydney's Playground is located at 66 White Street, between Church and Broadway. Open 10am-6pm. — Joe Lugara



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