The East 72nd Street playground in Central Park reopened this month, welcoming kids with slides, swings, a redesigned sandbox and climbing structures after an eight-month rehab. The Central Park Conservancy has undertaken a massive playground renovation project with a lofty goal of upgrading all 21 of the park's perimeter playgrounds.
The playground debuted in 1936! It underwent renovations in 1969 and again in 2000. The current project was more of a facelift than a total overhaul, with improvements focused on increasing accessibility and updating safety standards. We couldn't wait to have a look—and the many happy, romping kids seem to have given their seal of approval.
The maze-like design of the playground keeps kids interested.
The granite-faced climbing pyramid has been a part of the playground since its 1969 renovation and still remains a focal point within the play area. The fast slide thrills youngsters who shoot off it into the new cushy carpet-like padding below, which replaced the previous sand area. Adjacent to the larger slide is a small, more toddler-friendly version.
The south end of the playground houses a row of strap swings (the non-bucket variety), including a pair of tire swings with plenty of space to spin them high and one universally accessible swing. Just be wary if you have a wandering toddler: The area also houses a chain-link climbing structure, which proved too difficult for the tots I had in tow.
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There are ramps to run and stairs to climb in the amphitheater section of the playground.
On the north end of the playground, the concrete amphitheater still stands, with push-button sprinklers that shoot from the wall in multiple places. The concrete ramps that connect the top part of the playground to this sunken area create a fun maze for kids to navigate. My toddler and her buddy delighted in chasing one another up, down and all around. I can only imagine how much fun they'll have when the water is on and sprinklers are in the mix!
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Toddlers peer into the redesigned sandbox.
The small corner sandbox is a unique feature of the playground. On one side, a ground-level sandbox appeals to toddlers who want to sit right in the sand, while an adjacent, raised-portion of the box lets little ones stand and just get elbow deep in sand. Go around to the other side of that raised level and you'll see the higher side of the sandbox is actually built to be wheelchair accessible—a great feature for kids of all abilities!
The sandbox's creative design offers access to all.
Like most of these playground renovations, the Conservancy has been careful to incorporate existing landscaping. Large shade trees abound and rows of benches line the perimeter giving caregivers plenty of space to relax and watch, although the varied levels and maze-like concrete structures actually make it a bit difficult to see the whole of the playground from any one spot.
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Sun streamed through the trees on a beautiful fall day.
A low-level fence replaced the old barrier and fresh landscaping around the playground's edges help it blend into the park as a whole.
To reach the East 72nd Street Playground, enter the park from Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street. The playground is just south of the intersection. The nearest bathrooms are a bit further north, across 72nd Street near the Conservatory Water at the Kerbs Boathouse. You'll also find the newly opened Le Pain Quotidien there.
The East 72nd Street Playground renovation was part of the Conservancy's Central Play initiative, which will infuse the Park's playgrounds with $40 million worth of capital improvements.