Prospect Park is a 585-acre oasis adjacent to Park Slope in Brooklyn, home to the borough’s only forest, bird-life galore, roller-skating, biking, picnicking, and sledding. You name it, Prospect Park has got it. When people ask if we have a backyard, my nature-loving son immediately exclaims, “Yes, it’s called Prospect Park!” How else would we refer to a haven that satisfies our need for fresh air year round? It truly feels like an extension of home for many local Brooklyn kids. We even think it's better than your friend's summer home, and we'll say it again!
Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same duo who designed Manhattan’s Central Park. Many consider Prospect Park their crown achievement and we wholeheartedly agree. Whether you want to ice skate (seasonally, of course!), kayak, or just while away a few hours with your toddler at an awesome playground or splash pad, Prospect Park welcomes you with green space aplenty.
We put together a list of our top 25 things to do in Prospect Park with children. Though the park offers countless activities and experiences, this curated list showcases our true favorites.
1. Getting together with friends and family for all-day picnics is our all-time favorite way to spend time—birthdays, holidays, weekends—we are there from May through September. If BBQ is your thing, go for it!
2. Hike through the Ravine in the center of Prospect Park. You will find 150 acres of woodlands, babbling brooks, birds, and little creatures scurrying through this gorgeous forest.
3. Visit the Imagination Playground, inspired by children’s literature with statues of Peter and Willie (heroes of Ezra Jack Keats classics), and a summer storytime.
Roller-skating at LeFrak. Photo by Paul Martinka/courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance.
4. The LeFrak Center at Lakeside is undeniably one of the greatest additions to Prospect Park. Grab a bite, skate, splash—have a blast all year-round.
5. The Splash Pad at Lakeside boasts 21 water jets to get you soaked on steamy NYC summer days. Did we mention that it is FREE?
6. Roller-skate your heart out at the brand-new modern rink right next door to the Splash Pad. The splash zone transforms into an outdoor ice skating rink in the winter with a second covered rink right next to it.
7. The 1905-built Beaux Arts style Boathouse is one of our go-to spots when the bigger portion of the lake feels too busy. Fish off the deck and run around the bridge and path surrounding the historic landmark.
8. Sign up for youth or adult tennis lessons at the park's outdoor courts.
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Pedal a boat across the lake and you might just forget you're still in the city. Photo courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance.
9. When boating arrived on the Lake at the adjacent LeFrak Center, my son went bananas. Rent kayaks or pedal boats (singles or double; little guys can sit on your lap) by the hour or day.
10. Stop by Drummers Grove on Sunday afternoons for rhythms that will captivate the whole family. Find them in the southeast corner of the park, between Parkside Avenue and Lincoln Road.
11. Horseback riding is a beautiful way to experience the park with older children. Lessons and pony rides are also available for all ages through Kensington Stables located right outside the park.
12. Prospect Park is home to over 200 species of birds. Head to the center of the park (for best viewing) with your own binoculars or join a birding tour with the Audubon Center.
13. Check out Carol Eisner’s four new sculptures around the park and experience firsthand how art complements nature.
14. When the snow starts to fall (yes, winter is actually coming — at some point), hit one of Prospect Park's many sledding hills, including the one near the Picnic House.
Don't miss the one-of-a-kind ramen burger at Smorgasburg. Photo by Shinya Suzuki via Flickr.
15. The Brooklyn-grown foodie haven of Smorgasburg, where 100 vendors convene every Sunday (seasonally) offering delicious food, provides a well-deserved break from home cooking. Hit the local greenmarket year-round for fresh veggies, fruit, fish, baked goods, and meats and dairy.
16. Grab a pole and head to the Lake for a bit of fishing. For best results, catch one of the frequent fishing clinics on summer weekends.
17. See the 200-year-old Lefferts Historic House built by a Dutch family in the 18th-century farming village of Flatbush to check out family-friendly traditional events like butter churning, a working garden, water pump, traditional tools, and more. Check out the full agenda for this coming Labor Day—potato sack races, anyone?
18. The Zucker Natural Play Area offers logs to climb, stumps to leap over, a water feature, and loads of shade.
19. We love carousels and have been visiting the gorgeous antique one in Prospect Park for nearly a decade. It doesn’t get old! (Tip: It’s free on Thursdays in August.)
20. See the baboons, sea lion trainings, and many more animals at the Prospect Park Zoo, which is manageable enough in size for seeing with toddlers in tow.
21. Romp in Harmony Playground at Ninth Street. It has play structures that appeal to bigger kids, bathrooms with changing tables, as well as lots of seating for caregivers.
Watch the fireworks after a concert at the Bandshell in Prospect Park Photo by Marc Cappelletti via Flickr.
22. There are wonderful summer fireworks in Prospect Park, as well as a spectacular New Year’s Eve show.
23. Catch a show at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival concert series in the Prospect Park Bandshell. Sit outside the fence, enjoy a dinner picnic, and don’t feel guilty if you can only stay an hour. Check out our events calendar for family-friendly options.
24. Ride a bike around the 3.3 mile loop and get a great feel of the park. If you don’t don’t own a bike or don’t want to schlep one—rent one at the park instead.
25. Step into the lovely Audubon Center which houses a now-famous turtle, snake, and other live animals. The staff is always welcoming and eager to share more about the Audubon's fantastic nature programs.
Reach Prospect Park through a number of subway lines, including the 2/3, F/G, and B/Q. There are entrances from all sides, including at Grand Army Plaza, Ninth Street, 15th Street, Parkside Avenue, and Lincoln Road, to name a few. Bathrooms are located throughout the park, including at the Picnic House, and port-o-potties are available in warmer months (we cannot vouch for the cleanliness of the latter). Whether you are a native New Yorker or a visitor to our fine city, Prospect Park is a must-see destination.
This article was originally published in July 2010, but has since been updated.
Top photo: Splash pad. Photo by Michael Moran/courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance.