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Top NYC Playgrounds Near Tourist Attractions

Top NYC Playgrounds Near Tourist Attractions

New York City has more awesome playgrounds these days than a parent can keep track of. Lucky for visitors, several of these NYC playgrounds are located in or near attractions you’ll want to take in;  handy for when kids get to fidgety at that museum or walking tour.

If you are visiting NYC during the sweltering summer months, you’ll want to take advantage the fact that most playgrounds have sprinklers or water-play areas, too.

Crocs or sport sandals are the ideal kid shoes for the city in summer. You can bring an extra set of clothes or just trust that the summer heat will dry your kids off soon enough.

For those moments you’re your kids need to run, climb and shout a little, here is a cheat sheet of top NYC playgrounds where to you’ll be happy to take a break from being a tourist.

The 9 Best NYC Playgrounds for Tourists

If you’re exploring

Wall Street, the Freedom Tower or the 9/11 Memorial.

Take a play break at

The Imagination Playground (top) at John and Front Streets. It’s a new concept in playgrounds where the focus is playing with stuff rather than on stuff. Toddlers will find things to do, but this playground also attracts plenty of older kids.


Inside the Battery Park City complex, near Warren Street and River Terrace is Teardrop Park with one of a new style of nature-inspired playgrounds with a giant slide, rocks to climb on, a sand-play area and great water-play area for toddlers and preschoolers.

teardrop park is a nyc playground in lower manhattan

It’s set within Rockefeller Park, which also has ample grass for running around and relaxing on.

If you’re exploring

Chinatown, Little Italy, or the Lower East Side and its wonderful Tenement Museum.

Take a play break at

The Hester Street Playground, one of Tiny Traveler’s favorites.

It has a sizable toddler area with playhouses and a table with a scaled down model of the city (ideal for Matchbox cars.) The sandbox area is large but it’s BYO sand toys.

The big kids’ area has music notes to stomp on, a variety of neat climbing stuff, spinning seats and tire swings that hang from what looks like a Chinese character.

hester street is nyc playground in chinatown

We go here to work up an appetite before sampling dim sum, Shanghai dumplings, Vietnamese pho or Ferrarra’s cannoli nearby.

Note: This is a fun but very busy playground. Plan to stick close to little kids.

If you’re exploring

Greenwich Village, Union Square or the Flatiron district

Take a play break at

Evelyn’s Playground on the north end of Union Square Park, is another of Tiny Traveler’s favorites. It’s arguably the best playground in Manhattan.

union square is a nyc playground with unique equipment

School-age kids will immediately shed their shoes and socks to better grip the big silver dome everyone wants to climb. Lots of other unique climbing, swinging, sliding equipment will keep them busy, too.

Preschoolers get a large jungle gym and sandbox all to themselves.

If you’re exploring

The High Line elevated park.

Take a play break at:

Waterside Park, a small playground at 23rd Street with lots of modern equipment to climb and spin on.

chelsea waterside is nyc playground near the high line

It has structures for older and younger kids and water-play areas in summer.

 Note: When you get hungry or need to warm up, head a few blocks south to Chelsea Market at 9th Avenue and 16th Street. The food court has savory and sweet nibbles and fun shopping at Pearl River. 

If you’re exploring

Times Square.

Take a play break at

McCaffrey Playground. You’d never expect it. But walk west on 43rd Street until you’re almost at 9th Avenue and you’ll find a pocket park with great equipment for all ages and plenty of shade.

mccaffrey is a nyc playground in a pocket park near times square

This open space is never too crowded. You can sit on a bench and plan your next activity while keeping an eye on your kids.

Note: Nearby 9th Avenue is a great destination for inexpensive pubs, burger joints and ethnic restaurants from all over the world. Our current favorites are Tim Ho Wan for dim sum and Alfie’s for brunch or pre-theater dinner.

If you’re exploring

The Central Park Zoo

Take a play break at

Central Park has several playgrounds, all unique and fun. 

The Billy Johnson Playground, just north of the zoo at 67th Street doesn’t have a lot of equipment.  But it has a large stone slide built into the rocks that frame it.

this slide is at the billy johnson playground in nyc's central park

It’s one of the most unique playground feature I’ve ever seen and you’ll will enjoy it as much as your kids. There’s sometimes a line to go down, but hey, it’s New York.

There is also sand, water and a small climbing structure for preschoolers.

If you’re exploring

The Metropolitan Museum.

Note: The museum a wonderful tree at Christma time and family art programs on weekends. The Art Treks family tours are very well done and work well for a wide age range.

Take a play break at

Take school-age kids to the Ancient Playground, just a few feet north of the museum.

ancient is a nyc playground near the met

Tiny Traveler loves working off her museum fidgits by clambering over and through a maze of tunnels, walls and slides inspired by the museum’s Ancient Egypt collection a few feet away.

There’s a toddler area here, but overall smaller kids will be happier at the Heckscher Playground East a few blocks south at 79th Street.

If you’re exploring

The Brooklyn Waterfront or Governor’s Island

Take a play break at

Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park might just be the very best NYC playground; it’s certainly the most attractive.

A large landscaped water-play area is very popular in summer (this is more than a few sprinklers; your kids will get soaked).

pier 6 is nyc playground in brooklyn bridge park, brooklyn

There’s also a sand-area with playhouses for preschoolers, a yard with climbing towers, webs and giant slides.

In “Swing Valley,” there is always a line for the “Tarzan” swings. The unwritten rules are, stay clear of the swings while people are on them and don’t bogart them when it’s your turn if other people are waiting.

The regular and baby swings are usually easier to grab.

Preschoolers will find a playground just for them a short walk away at Pier 5. This is also conveniently close to Ample Hills, one of the best ice cream makers in New York and worth the line you’ll wait on when it’s open (warm months).

Note: The one challenge to Pier 6 is that older and younger kids will most likely want to do different things and that’s logistically challenging without two adults.

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