Worth The Drive: 12 Destination Playgrounds in NJ

The accessible playground at Watsessing Park is a dream-come-true for children of all abilities. Photo by Margaret Hargrove
The accessible playground at Watsessing Park is a dream-come-true for children of all abilities. Photo by Margaret Hargrove

There's no doubt New Jersey is home to countless parks and playgrounds, but some play spots go above and beyond, with design features that make them more of a destination than the basic park down the block.

If you've been to your neighborhood playground so many times the slides and swings have lost their thrill, now's the perfect time to switch up your kiddo's routine. Spring has sprung, and these 12 amazing playgrounds are worth the trip!

From cool play spaces featuring awesome jungle gyms you won't find anywhere else, as well as playgrounds with water features, zip lines, a carousel, and even a zoo, these stellar playscapes allow kids to slide, swing, splash, climb, and imagine the day away. Pile into the car and visit each at least once—but we bet you'll want to return again and again.

Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Some photos in this post were taken before the pandemic.

Berry Lane Park – Jersey City

After much anticipation, the Tony-Hawk-inspired skate park at Berry Lane Park opened last summer. Funded in part by a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, the 12,000-square-foot, poured-concrete skate park and pavilion features half-pipes, curbs, a backyard bowl, multiple ramps, and A-frames perfect for little shredders. It's also home to a playground and splash pad, basketball and tennis courts, and a baseball and soccer field. Berry Lane Park is located just five minutes from Liberty State Park, a great jumping-off point for more family adventures.

Dorbrook Recreation Area – Colt’s Neck

While other splash pads have sprinklers a plenty, Dorbrook’s sprayground is a veritable water park with sprayers, water troughs, and cool “raining leaves” to keep your crew cool on a warm day. Reservations are required for admission—check here for 2021 opening dates. Don’t forget your beach toys for the sand area! Just beyond the fenced-in splash area is Challenger Place, one of the first universally integrated playgrounds in New Jersey, featuring wheelchair-accessible soft surfaces and signs in Braille. Home to tennis and basketball courts, an inline skating rink, athletic fields, and 2.5 miles of paved trails for bikes or scooters, this 535-acre site makes a fantastic day trip.

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Community Park Playground is fun for special needs children
The Community Park Playground is entirely enclosed. Photo courtesy of the park

Community Park Playground – Montville

Renovated two years ago, this sprawling playground offers plenty of swings, as well as slides that are twice as wide, allowing special needs children, or toddlers, to slide with an adult. We love the playground’s adorable farmer theme, as well as the flexibility it offers with so many play structures for kids of all ages. Relax and recharge in the picnic area, where you can keep an eye on your kiddos as they run about. But, don’t worry, the entire playground is fenced in, too.

Newport Green – Jersey City

Where else can you find a playground, splash pad, and a sandy beach, all with amazing views of the Manhattan skyline? A trip to this urban oasis is a must for families. After working up a sweat on the playground’s rope climbing dome, rock walls, and steep slides, cool off at the park’s vibrant splash pad, complete with sprinklers and dumping buckets. No need to fight shore traffic for a beach excursion! Dip your toes in the sand at the playground's small, human-made beach. Before heading home, enjoy an easy, scenic stroll to downtown Hoboken along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.

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KidStreet has a fantastic play village
KidStreet Playground is home to a cool wooden play village. Photo by Kaylynn Ebner

KidStreet – Bridgewater

Not your average playground; you’ll find lots of wooden structures and special equipment you won’t come across just anywhere else at this fantastic play village. Obstacle courses, rope swings, and zip lines are the highlight of the bigger-kid attractions. Little ones make a beeline to the enormous climbing structure with a police and fire station, cars, and more—all with interconnecting tire climbs, slides, and bridges. Worked up an appetite? Grab a bite a nearby Bridgewater Commons Mall, making this park the perfect pit spot for a funday afternoon.

Overpeck County Park – Ridgefield Park

This Bergen County park stretches out over four towns, but it’s the playground inside the Ridgefield Park section that your thrill-seekers will want to visit again and again. You can’t beat a playground with a trampoline, and you’ll find one in the middle of a massive spider web climbing structure that soars up to 15 feet high. A sprawling play structure allows kids to monkey around on the monkey bars, slide down slides, and navigate their way across wobbly drawbridges to their hearts' content! The location is a bit remote, so pack a lunch or snacks because we bet your kiddos will want to stay awhile.

RELATED: Best Water Playgrounds and Splash Pads in New Jersey

Ponderosa Farm Park
Ponderosa Farm Park has separate play areas for younger and older kids. Photo courtesy of the Scotch Plains Township Recreation Department

Ponderosa Farm Park – Scotch Plains

Two adventures in one? Done and done. With both dry and wet features, Ponderosa Farm is the perfect park combo. Separate play structures for toddlers and school-aged kids help little ones feel more secure. Equipment for the more mature crowd includes a climbing wall, twisty tube slide, tunnels, and a rope bridge. A supersized rope tower and spinning contraption add to the adventure. When you need to cool off (and you will, since the playground doesn’t get any shade), water lovers can get wet in the motion-activated spray fountain at the center of the play area.

Regatta Playground – West Orange

Ahoy, mateys! You’d be forgiven for thinking this waterside playground is called “Pirate Ship Playground” since it’s anchored by a grand sailing vessel. Beneath the towering masts, pirates-in-training can climb rock walls, zip down slides, and peer through portholes. The playground was recently refreshed with a cushy new surface to prevent scrapes, and we also love that there are tons of swings (which means no waiting). The playground is a destination unto itself, but the South Mountain Recreation Complex, home to the Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Treetop Adventure Course, and more, also make it worth the drive.

RELATED: New Jersey Playgrounds Cool Enough for Big Kids

A day at Tony's Place Playground is a beachside treat for kids. Photo courtesy of the park

Tony’s Place Playground – Long Branch

It’s only natural that a beachside playground offers an ocean-themed place to romp. Seal statues, a shoreline-inspired surface, boat structure, sea cave-like rock structures, and a fishing shack take this universally accessible play area to the next level. The surfaces are wheelchair-friendly, and all signage includes Braille. Picnic on the grass or picnic tables with a picturesque ocean view. Located just a few steps from Seven Presidents beach, the playground is also close to Skateplex skate park, making it perfect for families with multi-age kids.

Van Saun Park – Paramus

This Bergen County park is the golden ticket to a day-long visit filled with fun. The huge playground features climbing structures for big kids, small slides for toddlers, plus lots of balance beams, swing sets, and rock walls galore. Even more, the entire play area is ADA accessible so all kids can play. Not to mention, it’s next door to a spectacular splash pad, old-fashioned carousel, soccer field, and miniature train ride. Need more? How about a zoo, home to lions, reptiles, and farm friends? There really is something for everyone here.

RELATED: 10 Great Picnic Spots for Families in Northern NJ

Verona Park
Verona Park offers colorful equipment and enhanced safety features. Photo by Elaine Quicili

Verona Park – Verona

After much anticipation, Verona Park reopened three years ago with brand-new play apparatus and enhanced safety features. There's still plenty of wide-open space for kids to run, but now the playground itself is enclosed by a fence for security. Round blue climbers built into the hillside challenge kids both big and small, while the disc swing is a definite crowd-favorite. A mister provides a quick cool-down on hot days, and after complaints about the sun baking the playground's metal slides, an awning was installed to provide shade and prevent the equipment from getting too hot for kids to play on.

Watsessing Park – Bloomfield

Designed with the needs of kids with physical and developmental disabilities in mind, Watsessing Park's all-access playground is truly a special place. Nestled in one corner of the 69-acre Essex County park, this playground boasts inclusive features such as wheelchair-friendly surfacing and ramps, a seated merry-go-round, special swings, and much more—all in delicious candy-colored hues. The adorable fairy house is popular with the pint-sized preschool set, while older kids gravitate toward the sky-high tower, which invites thrill-seekers to scale the outside. A misting water tent provides the perfect respite on a warm day.

This post, originally published in 2019, has since been updated.

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