Last year, a number of New York City playgrounds opened (or reopened after extensive work) to great fanfare. Seemingly everyone's heard about South Street Seaport's Imagination Playground, Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 and the complete overhaul of the Union Square Playground.
But in upper Manhattan another lovely play spot quietly debuted last November after a year-long renovation. Set in the lush greenery of Inwood Hill Park, Indian Road Playground features a Native American theme in honor of its location along the trail that was once used by the Rechgawawanc clan of the Weekquaeskeek tribe.
Although there were a few road bumps—the playground originally included a mock artifact dig which was removed after Native American leaders objected to it—Indian Road Playground is a very popular spot with locals as well as visitors who decide to spend the day at the picturesque tip of Manhattan.
The playground features a cool and clean sandpit with a shade cover, which is flanked by large round picnic tables and grassy areas that are ideal for picnicking, games of tag and crawling babies. Nearby are two sprinkler areas: one for toddlers and the other for older kids. There's also a large "wooden" canoe that kids can climb into or fill with sand.
Like many playgrounds, the equipment at Indian Road is separated for different age groups. Happily, the play spot is enclosed and intimate enough that you shouldn't have much trouble watching two (or more) kids playing in different areas. I was able to keep track of my two- and six-year-olds!
On one side there are baby swings and a traditional climbing structure that incorporates elements that should appeal to toddlers (a gentle incline, a crawling tunnel) and preschoolers (tall twisty slides).
On the other side you'll find big-kid swings and a complex and unique jungle gym featuring ropes, hoops and a giant, tongue-shaped slide without rails which must be straddled. I was even tempted to try this one—but little kids beware! Update: In February 2012, this slide was removed due to safety concerns.
The playground's local group of supporters, Friends of the Indian Road Playground, is raising funds to replace the sand on a regular basis, and hopes to plan neighborhood events.
Unfortunately Indian Road Playground doesn't have a bathroom, but there's one located at Isham Road about two blocks south between the ball fields and the tennis courts, right by the older Emerson Playground.
We capped off our visit to Indian Road Playground by strolling on the adjacent trails near the duck pond, where we enjoyed stunning views of the Henry Hudson Bridge. Afterward, we had a relaxed meal at the kid-friendly Indian Road Café (600 West 218th Street near Indian Road), which is beloved by locals for its flavorful coffee, but also has full lunch and dinner menus (sandwiches, salads and a few entrees) and serves brunch on weekends.
Indian Road Playground is located in Inwood Hill Park. Enter at 214th Street between Seaman Avenue and Indian Road.
Get the scoop on other Destination Playgrounds in New York City.