There's a brand-new romping spot in northern Central Park. After 10 months of rebuilding from the ground up, the East 110th Street Playground across from the Dana Discovery Center has reopened and it's a beauty. Aimed at school-age children and organized into four distinct circular sections, the revamped play space has a great water feature, three tire swings, six big-kid strap swings as well as a swing for children with special needs, and a wooden play structure with lots of things to climb, swing across and conquer.
Since this is my family's local playground, my eight-year-old was very concerned about how the renovation would turn out. She really loved the old equipment, even though it dated back to the '80s and was seriously broken-down. I'm happy to report that ever since the new playground opened last Thursday, she's insisted on visiting every single day.
The new East 110th Street Playground is part of the Central Park Conservancy's Central Play initiative to bring all 21 playgrounds in the 843-acre green space up to the same wonderful standards. In addition to the new equipment, the overhaul included important improvements you can't see like all-new infrastructure. Since the toddler-friendly Bernard Family Playground is located a short walk away on the eastern edge of the Harlem Meer, the East 110th Street Playground was designed for big kids. If you have children of various ages and stages be warned: You'll have to watch preschoolers very carefully here.
The first section has sprays shooting up from the ground. Since kids need to press a button to turn them on and they shut off after a few minutes, there's less wasted water. In the winter, the Conservancy hopes the area will be used for games of catch but I suspect it will end up being filled with kids on scooters and bikes (even though technically both of those activities are against the rules).
The second pod features a custom-designed wooden play structure. It has a cool old-school vibe and is a cute tribute to the former playground. In addition to climbing columns of varying heights, kids can also swing on the monkey bars and rings, and swoosh down the twisty slide.
The third section has three tire swings. Be warned: These seem to go unusually high and fast! I've already seen a few kids get hit because they stood a little too close.
The final area is my daughter's favorite: six big-kid swings! Very few Central Park playgrounds have these strap swings for older children. There's also a high-backed plastic swing for children with special needs.
There are many things for parents to admire here, too, especially the abundant and mostly shaded seating, and gorgeous unobstructed views of the nearby Harlem Meer and the Dana Discovery Center, which has year-round bathrooms as well as enriching family programs. Even though the playground is fenced in, it feels open. A buffer of rustic greenery rings playground and gives you the sense of being connected to the larger Central Park landscape. Still in the works: A path along the northern side of the playground so visitors can explore that rustic area (though I saw lots of kids running around in there already). Much of the playground has a soft brown carpeting meant to cushion any spills or falls. But if you're pushing a stroller (or wearing high heels), a twisty solid wood walkway weaves throughout so you can avoid that sinking into the ground feeling.
My one minor complaint: The wooden play structure is so dense, it's impossible to see beyond it. So there's no one spot from which you can see the entire playground. If your children do disappear and you can't find them, check underneath the wooden slats—kids seem to enjoy hiding under there. Also since it's wood, expect the occasional splinter. The upside: Because of the materials used, I doubt most of this equipment will bake in the sun so hopefully there won't be any burns.
In addition to the playground, the Central Park Conservancy also restored the adjacent lawn and reconstructed the entrance path. The organization is now working on the north side of the Meer so expect improvements to the walkway, shoreline and the two park overlooks. The Conservancy also plans to rebuild the East 79th Street Playground, the Wild West Playground and the Adventure Playground within the next year. We can't wait to see them!
Central Park's East 110th Street Playground is located inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues.
Find out about other renovated NYC playgrounds in our Parks & Playgrounds Guide.