As a Staten Island mom with an 18-month-old and a nine-year-old, I spend a lot of time in NYC's numerous parks and playgrounds. More than 170 of them are right here on Staten Island—that's 12,300 acres of protected parkland! No wonder we're known as the greenest borough.
My boys and I have been to quite a few of Staten Island's beautiful green spaces, including the multiple parks that make up the massive Greenbelt, which we've covered in-depth before. While every one has its merits, if you're looking to narrow down your green tour of the borough (12,300 acres is a lot to cover), here are five must-see parks and playgrounds on Staten Island.
Best special attractions: Willowbrook Park
Victory Boulevard to Ashworth Avenue between Richmond Avenue and Forest Hill Road
Part of the Staten Island Greenbelt, Willowbrook Park may be best known to families as the home of the Carousel for All Children, a merry-go-round that is accessible to riders of all abilities. But there are lots of other wonderful attractions in this 215-acre park including tennis courts, baseball fields, many miles of hiking trails, a no-frills playground and a five-acre lake where you can spot ducks and go catch-and-release fishing. The Urban Park Rangers lead many FREE seasonal nature programs here, including canoeing and nature walks where you encounter an abundance of wildlife. It's also one of the few NYC parks with an archery range.
Best for athletes: Miller Field
New Dorp Lane between Hylan Boulevard and the waterfront
If your kid loves playing sports, this is the place to go. Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area—26,000 acres of parkland spanning areas of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey—this former airfield was transformed into 187 acres of play space, including cricket, soccer, baseball and softball fields, a bocce court, a community garden, a playground and picnic areas. It also contains the Swamp White Oak Forest, a freshwater wetland where you can spot a wide array of birds and go hiking. I especially like the playground, since it has picnic tables, including low-to-the-ground ones made especially for children. Bonus: It's a short stroll to Midland Beach, so you can go swimming and sunbathing, too.
Best for imaginative play: Seaside Wildlife Nature Park
Nelson Avenue and Tennyson Drive
What this 21-acre park lacks in size, it makes up for in swashbuckling style. Renovated in 2010 and inspired by the area's seafaring history, the park is located right on the water and features one-of-a-kind equipment like a shipwrecked boat to explore, a shark to climb, play units inspired by the Staten Island Ferry, a play lighthouse, sprinklers, a sandbox and swings. You've never seen anything quite like it and it's the perfect place for children to indulge in pirate play.
Best beach staycation: Great Kills Park
Hylan Boulevard and Buffalo Street
Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and located on a peninsula, this 580-acre park is a nature oasis where you can go fishing, birding, hiking and boating. But the main draw is the miles of shorefront including New Dorp Beach and the in-development Cedar Grove Beach. In addition to sunning, swimming, kite flying and other beach fun, you can take in amazing views of Coney Island and New Jersey.
Best winter playdate: Clove Lakes Park
Forest Avenue to Victory Boulevard between Clove Road and Brookside Avenue/Royal Oak Road
Lovely grassy fields, a pair of playgrounds, a plethora of ball fields, and rowboat and paddleboat rentals to use on one of the lakes make this park a great summer destination. But this 193-acre beauty is quite popular in winter, too, due to its seasonal outdoor ice-skating rink.
Although they may not be destination worthy, here is a short list of additional Staten Island playgrounds and parks my family enjoys.
Lt. Lia Playground
Wall Street at St. Marks Place
Located in historic St. George, this small playground is a favorite of mine because of its amazing views of New York Harbor and the downtown Manhattan skyline. While the equipment isn't special, it's enclosed and safe with lots of shade, and just a few blocks from the Staten Island Ferry.
Wild Avenue between Pearson Street and Melvin Avenue
I visited this recently overhauled green space when it opened in fall 2012 and just loved it. There's a colorful playground with state-of-the-art equipment, soft safety surfacing and comfy seating for parents, plus handball courts, a baseball field and a wonderful walkway that leads to the in-development Freshkills Park.
Old Town Playground
Parkinson Avenue at Kramer Street
This 1.5-acre spot is always crowded with families. It boasts a couple of handball and basketball courts, a playground and sprinklers, plus an outdoor pool.
Davis to Bard Avenues between Delafield Place and Arlington Court
Another great spot for young athletes with tennis and basketball courts, cricket and football fields, and a standard playground.
Read all of our posts about the best things to do with kids on Staten Island.