Waterside Plaza: A Day Trip Without Leaving NYC Featuring a Drop-in Play Space, a Waterfront Playground & Awesome Views
Nestled on the East River in the 20s past the FDR Drive, Waterside Plaza is like its own secret haven, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. Accessible to pedestrians via the 25th Street footbridge, the community of highrises has a lot to offer visiting families, including a public playground, unobstructed views of Greenpoint and Long Island City, a private pool that sells day passes, FREE events in summer like outdoor movies, and Creative Dream Playhouse, a popular preschooler party space that recently started offering drop-in play sessions on select weekday mornings.
The other week, my kids and I traveled to Waterside Plaza ostensibly to check out Creative Dream Playhouse. But after spending some time there and also exploring the development, I recommend all of Waterside Plaza as a destination. It's like taking a day trip to a charming small town without leaving New York City.
Our first stop was Creative Dream Playhouse, located on the plaza level of one of the apartment buildings. Aimed at children ages 0 to 6, the space is colorfully decorated and quaint, not slick and soulless like some national kiddie gym chains, and the staff is welcoming and friendly. The 3,000-square-foot space features the usual smattering of educational toys, a play kitchen, a dance area and a tool bench, with kid-friendly music playing softly in the background. The emphasis here is on imaginative play since there isn't much active play equipment. There's also a Parents Parlor where grown-ups can sit down and enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee. There was only one other family there when we visited so it's pretty under the radar and could be a good place to schedule an indoor play date in bad weather.
Creative Dream Playhouse offers open play sessions Monday through Wednesday from 7am to 7pm (except in July and August), and reservations are required by 7pm the night prior to your visit. It costs $11 per hour, and drop-off care is available for $18 per hour, in case you want to get your nails done at Xia Spa located a few doors down or just have some time alone to read.
One of the most exciting and unexpected surprises of our visit was discovering the quiet two-acre landscaped plaza and beautiful views overlooking the East River. There are play sets scattered throughout the grounds and a full-fledged playground overlooking the plaza. You'll find dozens of tables and chairs throughout, perfect for a picnic lunch, or you can grab something from the small Gristedes grocery store or the Robbins Nest cafe, which sells sandwiches and salads. Since Waterside Plaza is fairly isolated, it's not overrun with families so your kids can run free and it's easy to keep an eye on them. I never dreamed all of these attractions were tucked away in an apartment complex near the highway!
A tip: We arrived by car and parked in the garage however if you take the 25th Street footbridge be prepared to lug your stroller up and down the stairs. Better to take the M34A bus, which drives straight into Waterside Plaza. Also, if you lose your way, check this handy map of the development.