Water Feature: Great Water Playgrounds in NYC
[UPDATED: May 21, 2013] When we were growing up, playgrounds had sprinklers. Now playgrounds have "water features." You know, fountains, geysers, rivers, pumps and beautiful spraying statues. The kids just love them, and we parents prefer to go to these newfangled playgrounds because they're pretty and cool, and make us feel like our exorbitant NYC housing costs are justified.
Sprinkler season (or whatever we call it these days) is almost upon us. Since folks always ask us when playgrounds turn on the water, we wrote a post with all of the details. There's no official date; the general rule is 80 degrees or warmer.
There are literally hundreds of water features in city parks, so there's no way we could include them all. But here are 15 of our favorite fancy playgrounds where kids can get wet in NYC. For even more ways to cool off in the city, check out our Water Fun Guides.
Ancient Playground – Upper East Side
85th Street and Fifth Avenue in Central Park
Sitting right next door to the Metropolitan Museum, this intimate, adventure-style playground is a great destination for kids of all ages. The play structure of pyramids, catwalks, tunnels and slides also has water running along the bridges, so kids can splash through it or stand under small waterfalls. Younger kids will be fascinated by the water squirting from nozzles set into the walls. Read our full review of this playground.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 Playground – Dumbo
Furman Street and Atlantic Avenue
We absolutely adored this play spot when we visited, and the Water Lab area, one of four distinct sections, is phenomenal. Sprinklers shoot water all over an enclave enclosed by small man-made cliffs. It's gorgeous and fun but also slippery. Be very mindful of younger children! Read our full review of this playground.
Chelsea Waterside Park – Chelsea
23rd Street and Eleventh Avenue
The name of the park says it all. Water is everywhere! There's a small wading spot, and water rushing all over the play area thanks to three fantastic looking blue fountains that spray H20 straight up into the air, down onto the ground, and horizontally at kids. Read our full review of this playground.
East River Park – Lower East Side
Delancey Street and the FDR Drive
We stumbled upon these spray showers underneath the Williamsburg Bridge one summer while biking along the East River, and we were instantly taken with them. The park has slate pavers, and tall grasses wave in the breeze, giving it a very pretty and natural atmosphere. The bronze harbor seals are really cute and fun to climb on. As for the water, it shoots up randomly from different geysers. It's like a giant whack-a-mole game as kids run from spot to spot, trying to guess where the water will emerge next. To get to the spot, head to the end of Delancey Street and cross the FDR Drive, then head south. It's also easily accessible via the bike.
Harmony Playground – Park Slope
Prospect Park West between 9th and 11th Streets in Prospect Park
Taking its inspiration from the nearby band shell, this playground has an interactive music motif, including xylophones that kids can play. But the real draw is the plethora of water features. The designers really covered all the bases here: geysers, spraying animal sculptures, misters and a shower. It's got it all.
Heckscher Playground – Upper West Side
62nd Street near Seventh Avenue in Central Park
The biggest playground in Central Park offers two ways to get wet. The first is up on the giant climbing structures, which connect via small pathways with water flowing through them. The second is at the awesome sprinkler section, where water rains down from tall tubes and shoots up from jets in the ground. Read our full review of this playground.
Hudson River Park Pier 51 Water Park – Greenwich Village
Hudson River at Horatio Street and West 12th Street
Many families consider this to be one of the best parks in town with great water play. It's got a fun little replica of Minetta Brook, perfect for clogging with sand, and wonderful sprinklers. But take note: It gets ridiculously crowded and there's no shade,
Imagination Playground – South Street Seaport
Burling Slip, South, John & Front Streets
This innovative play spot, which was designed by celebrated architect David Rockwell, opened to great fanfare in summer 2010. While it doesn’t have a sprinkler, it does have an amazing water play area with pools and fountains that's surrounded by wooden steps that parents can lounge on. Kids manipulate the water with piping and other tools while getting drenched. It's truly a one-of-a-kind play experience. Read our full review of this playground.
Imagination Playground – Crown Heights
Ocean Avenue between Parkside Avenue and Lincoln Road in Prospect Park
No relation to the South Street Seaport spot, this charming, kid-lit-themed playground boasts a black-and-white play structure, and a statue of Peter and Willie (of Ezra Jack Keats fame). But the hot weather draw is the gorgeous bronze dragon fountain that gets the kids good and soaked. Find out about other fun things to do in Prospect Park.
Madison Square Park Playground – Flatiron
26th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues
Due to its close proximity to multiple family-friendly neighborhoods, this playground is always packed. The space itself is tiny and the jungle gym is huge. There's also a neat spinning wheel that dumps water from the top of a 15-foot pole straight onto kids waiting below, as jets shoot water out of the ground.
Madison Street Park – Hoboken
Madison and 3rd Streets
Okay so we're cheating a bit here, but Hoboken's just a short PATH train ride away! This stunning water park brings NYC playground glam to the left shore. The water features are plentiful, and you don't have to fight through the hordes to enjoy it.
Rockefeller Park Playground – Battery Park City
North end of Battery Park City, west of River Terrace
This play spot is famous for its playground. Everybody seems to know about it and with good reason. I really appreciate the way that the water features are separated by age group. Let's face it: Toddlers often dislike sprinklers (water in the face freaks them out), which is disappointing because we want them to have fun and cool down. Here's a water feature that won't frighten them: The Tom Otterness bronze sculpture of a dodo bird that gently drips water and forms a puddle around its feet. Toddlers can splash in the pooled water, and play at the water and sand table. Older kids have a ball over by the fabulous sprinkler area, which means toddlers are safe from their rowdy play. Read our full review of this playground.
Spiral Fountain – Financial District
Battery Place and State Street
While I normally don't encourage my son to play in fountains (they're not sprinklers!), this one was created specifically for frolicking. (There's a similar one in Washington Square Park.) Kids will love the jets of water that burst up out of the ground, and parents will appreciate the fact that the water drains, so they don't end up jumping round in a pool of filthy water. Find out about other great things to do in the neighborhood.
St. Vartan’s Playground – Murray Hill
First Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets
This playground is totally old-school in its water fun, but hey, the kids still get wet. In the center of the park, there's a large recessed concrete pit with water jets along the side. There's also a short concrete pillar inside that shoots water, too.
Teardrop Park – Battery Park City
Warren Street and Murray Street, East of River Terrace
Swooshing down the long, perpetually wet slide is addictive, so don't be surprised if your kids do it over and over and over again. Water jets spout water up into the air, as kids climb over the funky wet rocks.
Readers have also shared some of their favorite playgrounds for kids to cool off. Recommendations include Tribeca's Washington Market Park, Riverside Park's Elephant Playground, Clement Clarke Moore Park (a.k.a. Seal Park) and Sandbox Park in Chelsea, Downing Street Playground in the West Village and Hell's Kitchen Park.
Originally posted on May 25, 2008