Elephant Playground in Riverside Park Reopens After Renovation
Like the recently renovated Pearl Street Playground at the South Street Seaport, another popular Manhattan playground has just gotten a makeover: Neufeld Playground in Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. Called Elephant Playground by locals because of its signature pachyderm sprinklers, the overhauled play spot reopened on July 13 after seven months of construction and it's now much more engaging than the last time we visited.
The renovated Elephant Playground features two revamped play areas, one for toddlers, the other for older kids. When you walk in, the big kid equipment is straight in front of you. It's a nifty structure with twisty slides, rings for swinging, and rock walls, rope ladders and plastic platforms for climbing, plus cool built-in toys like bongos, telescopes, spinning wheels and speaking tubes.
The water area (still intact with those iconic elephant sprinklers) and a segregated sandbox section separate the big kid area from the tot lot. The play equipment here is pretty standard, although the art-themed playhouse is cute. There's also a set of toddler swings but sadly no swings for older kids (so hard to find those these days). Other improvements include state-of-the-art safety surfacing, a wall for sitting around the sandbox, an accessible sand table for children with mobility challenges, new benches and a drinking fountain.
While the new Elephant Playground isn't quite a Destination Playground, it's a fun, extremely shady spot (trees hang over most of the space), kind of like a smaller Hippo Playground. Also of note: It has bathrooms, and is near Riverside Park South's Pier I on 70th Street, which frequently hosts kids' events, and one of our favorite family-friendly outdoor restaurants, Boat Basin Cafe.
There are a few downsides to Elephant Playground: It's located right next to the West Side Highway, no grassy buffer like at Hippo Playground, and there's an adjacent basketball court. Nothing wrong with that, but when we visited we did hear lots of cursing from the young adults playing there.
Neufeld "Elephant" Playground is located at 76th Street in Riverside Park.
Read about other fantastic NYC playgrounds in our Parks & Parks Guide.