The Central Park Playground Challenge

Last year, during the endless school holidays, I set myself a challenge aka The Central Park Playground Challenge. I was determined to visit every playground in Central Park before it got too cold.

The Central Park Playground Challenge

I love a challenge, so wrote a list of all 21 playgrounds and thoroughly enjoyed crossing them off, week by week.  After dragging my two children to 3 playgrounds in one morning, I realised that this challenge was more of a personal goal than something that was benefiting them so I visited the last few by myself to see if there were any worth returning to. I have sorted them into categories for ease of reference. This is just my humble opinion. I have no formal playground assessment training but I have spent many, many, many, many hours in playgrounds over the last 5 years.

So this is my summary based on the likes and wants of my 2 and 5 year old also my need for shade, safety and a seat with good visibility.

Playground signs at Central Park New York City

Worth a special trip

All have a good mix of playground equipment, good visibility, plenty of shade and entertaining sprinklers.

W110th Street playground – (I suspect +5 year olds would be bored) However there were no nearby toilets that I could find.

E110th Street Playground – (for +4 year olds) Close to toilets

Adventure Playground – (for +4 year olds) close to toilets in Tavern on The Green

Tarr-Coyne Wild West Playground – (for 4+ olds)

Good playgrounds

E72nd Street Playground – awesome sprinklers, relatively quiet too, toilets down the hill near Alice in Wonderland.

Tarr Family Playground – very little shade but a great playground, no nearby toilets

Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground – perfect for the under 3s, close to toilets in Tavern on the Green

Ancient Playground – terrible visibility but my children really enjoyed it

Mariner’s – Toll Family Playground – great for the little ones

NYC Central Park Playground signs

Meh – okay, have a look if you’re in the area but don’t make a special trip

Billy Johnson Playground – currently under construction. Cool slide but that’s about it.

Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground – my two did love this one but there was a lot of sand and not much else.

Pinetum Playground – not sure there was enough equipment in this one to be considered a playground

Bernard Family Playground

East 96th Street Playground

James Michael Levin Playground

Robert Bendheim Playground

Rudin Family Playground

Ruth and Arthur Smadbeck – Heckscher East Playground

Central Park Playground 3

Don’t bother

Diana Ross – found it unsafe, really needs upgrading

Safari Playground – not really much there except for the odd hippo.

Special Mention

Heckscher Playground – My kids love it but as a parent, I really don’t like it. It has terrible visibility and it’s always packed.  Lots of toilets though!

The Next Challenge

Now that the Central Park Playground Challenge has been completed, I need a new challenge for summer. My children got used to visiting a new playground every time we went out. They’re still a little disappointed when we visit the same playground twice in a row.

Maybe they would be up for visiting every playground in Manhattan? Watch this space!


Photo credits: Helen McWilliam

Author: Helen McWilliam

Helen is a Mum of two boys, who was born in South Africa, grew up in Brisbane but calls Sydney home. She is a social worker by trade and is currently a stay at home Mum in the ‘burbs’ of Manhattan, the Upper West Side.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s