Great playgrounds aren't the first thing you picture when you think about Midtown West. However, if you move away from Times Square and roam the side streets, you'll be surprised at how many parks and playgrounds you'll find.
Of course Midtown West's most famous green space is Bryant Park, and we could easily do an entire post on all of the cool things for kids there, from the carousel to the seasonal ice-skating rink. The one thing it doesn't have? A playground. As we conclude our month-long focus on Midtown West, we take a look at our top five outdoor romping spots in the area, from small local playgrounds to amenity-filled multiacre parks to a public plaza with an iconic Tom Otterness play structure. You can find all of our posts about the neighborhood in our Midtown West Kids Guide including our roundup of indoor places to play.
40th to 42nd Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
With colorful flowerbeds, lush lawns and London plane trees acting as barriers from the street, Bryant Park is a true Midtown West oasis. You won't find any playgrounds here but there are still lots of things for kids to do. There's the lovely European-style merry-go-round Le Carrousel, which is open year-round. Nearby is the Reading Room, an outdoor space stocked with well-worn children's books and kid-sized tables and chairs. The park hosts frequent family performances, including its summertime Word for Word Kids and magic and storytelling series. There's also the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival and Broadway in Bryant Park—neither is aimed at families but many of the offerings are great for kids. In fall and winter, you'll find NYC's only free ice-skating rink, Winter Village at Bryant Park, and around the holidays the annual market sets up shop. Plus there are clean bathrooms, and tables and chairs strewn throughout the park, so you can bring-your-own picnic or grab a meal at the 'wichcraft stand. And if you're caught there in the rain, you can always take shelter in the main branch of the New York Public Library, which serves as the park's eastern border.
Hell's Kitchen Park
Tenth Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets
A popular neighborhood gathering spot, this pretty park has an oval seating section with lots of shady benches, a fenced-in tot lot and a larger play area for older children with sprinklers, a climbing structure and swings. There's also a very busy handball/basketball court. The downside? No bathrooms, but if you buy something at the deli directly across the street, the owners will usually take pity on you and let your family use the facilities.
DeWitt Clinton Park
52nd to 54th Streets between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues
This out-of-the-way gem is beloved by locals because few visitors bother trekking all the way here. But it's well worth the energy as it's surprisingly large (almost six acres) and contains fenced-in sports fields, a dog run, the lovely Maria's Perennial Garden and lots of shady trees. My son loves the Erie Canal Playground, situated on the Twelfth Avenue side, which has swings, sprinklers and a large climbing structure with a "tree house" where you can spot the tops of cruise ships moored on the Hudson River. A large, smooth rocky protrusion in the middle of the playground serves as a makeshift climbing wall. Bonus: There are restrooms that are open year-round.
43rd Street near Ninth Avenue
Originally built by Robert Moses in the 1930s, this playground has an old-school, bare bones vibe (though improvements have of course been made since the last century). There is lots of pavement, brick restrooms (open year-round), tall metal fences and only a couple of small trees, but it's still fun and often busy, probably because of its proximity to Times Square. The handball/basketball court is usually filled with teens, and the two play structures and swings overflow with elementary schoolers. Fun fact: The playground is named after Joseph A. McCaffrey, a pastor who dedicated much of his career to banishing crime and pornography in Times Square!
Silver Towers Playground
42nd Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues
Sandwiched between the Silver Towers high-rises, this unique playground (which is really more of a public plaza) is a must-see thanks to its centerpiece: a giant Tom Otterness play structure. Whimsical and surprising, with little figures doing funny things in various hard-to-find locations, the sculpture has slides for arms and legs, and ladders and hiding spots galore. Kids just light up when they see it. There are also a few benches, trees and a small dog run. The big downside here? The plaza isn't fenced in, so you have to keep a very careful eye on toddlers to make sure they don't run out onto the sidewalk or street.
Find out about other cool things to do with kids in Midtown West.