The Best Playgrounds in and Around NYC
Everything parents should know before taking children to a playground in NYC.
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From the toddler-friendly play fountain, sandbox, and swings (one adaptive) at its north end, to the novel pedaled merry-go-round at the southern side, this enclosed playground packs in an intense amount of action. The space, which reopened after renovations last October, also includes water-spurting hippo statues, a sandbox and sand tables, extensive climbing equipment, and slides that lead into the sandbox. Big-kid swings are located in a separate, enclosed space just to the north, beside the Parkhouse, which offers more possibilities for play May-October, including tumbling equipment and ping-pong. A restroom is located across the street from the Parkhouse. You won’t need anything more to fill the day, but if you’re itching to move, nearby Teardrop Park, nestled between high-rises, offers a shady splash pad in summer months and a couple of spectacular giant slides year-round.
Eisenhower Park is 930 acres of beautiful space in Nassau County—it’s actually bigger than Central Park! There are three playground areas: the largest (which includes a sprinkler pool) is located on the Hempstead Turnpike side of the park near Parking Field No. 2; a second is on the Merrick Road side by Parking Field No. 1A, and a third is by the Park Boulevard side toward Hempstead Turnpike, near Parking Field No. 4. The main playground by Hempstead Turnpike has been completely renovated and offers climbing apparatuses, slides, swings, fitness equipment, and more. Families can also reserve picnic areas, take swimming lessons in an Olympic-sized pool, enjoy an 18-hole round of mini golf, and enjoy live music and outdoor movies at the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre.
Cedar Creek was voted “Best Playground in Long Island" by the Long Island Press for good reason. This park has multiple playgrounds for both younger and older kids. Even better: The main playground is fenced in, so parents don’t have to worry about their little ones wandering off. The playground has rings, zigzagging monkey bars, hang glider, and a seesaw. There’s also a roller rink and a six-mile path connecting Cedar Creek to Jones Beach.
What’s better than a playground right next to the beach? Situated on 155 acres, Nickerson Beach is home to a campground, fun zone, ball fields, beach volleyball courts, cabanas, and lockers. The Fun Zone includes a playground with a climber, spiral slide, and puzzles, as well as a skate park and basketball courts. There’s also the Pitch and Putt, which is nine holes of mini golf. Visitors can swim in one of the two swimming pools, along with small kiddie pools, for an additional fee. There are unreserved and reserved (for a fee) picnic areas that include barbecue equipment.
Considered by many to be the “Central Park” of Huntington, Hecksher Park is located on 18 acres of parkland, where there are three playgrounds featuring jungle gyms, slides, swing sets, and a sandbox. The soft-surface playgrounds are enclosed by gated fences. There are also shaded picnic tables nearby and a 1/3-mile jogging path loop. The Heckscher Museum of Art has great art education programs for kids of all ages, so feel free to stop in before or after the playground visit.
5. Diamond in the Pines
It’s no great surprise that Jack’s Friendship Garden, located next to the Huguenot Children’s Library, was listed in the New York Times as one of the great places to take your kids in Westchester. It is one of the few wheelchair-accessible playgrounds in Westchester County. The park also stands out because of cool features such as climbing structures for different ages, reclining seat swings (think sofa lounger on chains), a sandbox with a hand-controlled crane, a large boat-like apparatus that sways back and forth, and ramps that kids can run up and down. Benches are plentiful and the ice cream truck makes frequent stops at the park, so the only thing you really need when you go there is plenty of time to hang out.
5. Julieanne’s Playground
The layout of Julieanne’s Playground (dedicated to Julianne Borsella who lost her battle with cancer when she was 8 years old) makes it easy to keep kids of all ages entertained. It’s anchored by a large play structure that features a tunnel, a climbing net, and several different slides. There are two different swing areas, a toddler climbing area, a mini zip-line and a hand powered trolley car. A paved area for bike riding, hockey, or scooters, plus tennis courts makes this park a favorite of both my 10-year-old son and my 7-year-old daughter.
6. Flint Park
Flint Park is designed for fun. It features a large pirate ship play structure for the younger set, another play area with rope ladders and slides for bigger kids, large disc swings, a huge sandbox, and even a rock climbing wall. It’s surrounded by a variety of sports facilities, including tennis and paddle courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, and basketball courts. Bring your bikes and take a family ride around the bike path before you retire to the picnic area for lunch or snacks.
Garth Road Playground is fenced in, which makes it easier to keep track of more than one kid at a time (an impossibility sometimes when play areas are not enclosed). It features two separate climbing apparatuses, swings, slides, basketball courts, and a Little League field. When you are ready for some down time but don’t want to head home, the playground offers checker tables and picnic tables, and since it’s situated next to the Metro North Railroad tracks, kids can watch the trains zoom pass. This just never gets old for some little ones!
If you have a child with special needs or disabilities, there are numerous playgrounds in the New York metro area that are accessible and ADA-compliant, making them places children of all abilities can play together (as long as they are following COVID-19 safety precautions).
Of course, you may not want to take your children to playgrounds right now, and that’s understandable. Caroline Stockert, CPNP-PC, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Crystal Run Healthcare suggests considering the size of the playground before heading over to play.
Use good judgment and try to go to either a large playground where children can practice proper social distancing or choose a non-crowded playground, John B. Steever, M.D., who specializes in adolescent medicine at Mount Sinai, recommends, adding that your family stay home if you or your children feel unwell.
Telling your children to stay away from other children is hard, especially at a playground, but your children should not go to a playground without some form of a debriefing. Stocker advises parents tell their children to avoid sharing playground equipment, toys, or snacks with kids outside their families. It’s also a good idea to tell your children, in advance, that they may have to leave the playground if it becomes too crowded or if they cannot follow the rules. Kids may find this hard to grasp, but being honest with them about the possibilities will make it go down a little easier.
Everyone should wear masks, and it's important to remind kids to not touch their faces. Both Stocker and Dr. Steever urge parents to remember the importance of washing hands or using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available. They recommend children use hand sanitizer when arriving to the playground, while they are playing, between using different equipment, and after leaving the playground.
Dr. Steever urges parents to monitor their children at all times, since it’s easy for a child to wander off or get too close to someone else by accident. “I’d hope that parents would be understanding they are monitoring their own children to follow the rules,” Dr. Steever says.
One way parents can further help their kids remain socially distant is to talk to other parents there and make arrangements. “For example, one family may play on the slide while another family uses the swings,” Stocker says.
When it’s time to head home, families should leave the park quickly and wash their hands immediately when they get home.
Children are more likely to do something if you make it sound fun—like making a game of picking up their toys. Dr. Steever suggets taking the same approach when talking to and keeping your children engaged in staying safe. If you haven’t already, get masks with fun designs that your kids will want to wear.
Another fun idea from Dr. Steever incorporates superheroes. Suggest to your kids that they play on the playground as if they are a superhero, like Batwoman or Spider-Man, and they need to keep their mask on to hide their secret identity. And some heroes have a very powerful touch, so they have to avoid touching others to keep people safe.
Dr. Steever equates this to vegetables at dinner. If you give two vegetable options, rather than just offering them one and telling them to eat it, then they have a choice in the matter. Playing a game works in the same way. They are actively involved in the social distancing protocols and making a choice to play the game.
The CDC recommends children younger than 2 not wear face masks. Stocker says this is because children that young could suffocate while wearing a mask. She suggests children younger than 2 be put in a stroller and go in walks around the neighborhood to avoid crowds. If you choose to bring young kids to the playground, follow them carefully and help them wash their hands, Stocker says.
Dr. Steever adds that your young child should be fine if they are in an area where you can be socially distant. Maintaining social distance with kids this young is crucial. So that may mean waiting to bring them to the playground.
If you’re not comfortable heading to the playground just yet, there are still ways your children can be active. Dr. Steever suggests parents take their kids to parks and large fields where there is more space to move around. Also, walks around the neighborhood are appropriate.
Parents also have many options to keep their kids entertained in their own backyard. With a little time and effort, you can easily recreate some of your favorite classic summer activities right in your own backyard, like camping, the carnival, and water play. Your kids can burn off their extra energy with some fun, safe outdoor activities, such as rollerblading, going for a bike ride, or even playing a socially distant game of flashlight tag. Plus, you can deck out your yard with some of this season’s hottest toys and play equipment to make your backyard into your kids’ personal playground!