Looking for an NYC park where you and the kids can cool down this summer? NYC is home to playgrounds and splash pads of all kinds, and you can find many of these refreshing spots — of all shapes, sizes, themes and intensity — in every borough. We’ve rounded up our favorites, including parks for tiny tots, recently-renovated spots, places to spend almost the whole day and a brand new one everyone’s talking about!
To Cool Down in the Hottest Spot in Town: Domino Park
The city's newest waterside destination opens just in time for summer fun. Domino Park is a five-acre park built on the former site of the Domino Sugar Factory in North Williamsburg. (The addition of the park marks the first time the waterfront has been accessible to the public in 160 years!) With gorgeous views of the East River, Domino Park is home to a one-of-a-kind playground designed by Mark Reigelman that's inspired by sugar refining process, an elevated walkway, beach volleyball, a bocce court, and play field. Plus: Mexican food courtesy the Union Square Hospitality Group's Tacocina. The park has two water features offering very different experiences from one another. The first is located in front of stadium-style seating at the heart of the park, and consists of 88 independently programmed water jets, that are illuminated at night. The second is more atmospheric, but very cool: "Fog Bridge" produces a fine mist that envelopes visitors from an elevated perch, where you can also take in the factory's old massive syrup tanks.
Neighborhood: North Williamsburg
Where: 15 River St. Entrances along Kent Ave. at South 5th, South 3rd, and Grand Streets.
For Water On Command (and Water Cannons): J.J. Byrne Playground
Park Slopers have a unique and fun splash park at J.J. Byrne Park, suitable for kids of all ages. Here, any toddler can get button-happy by pushing a button that controls the water sprinklers in the two sprinkler areas. Older kids love the aim-and-shoot water canons and the runnel, which is a manual water pump that is used to fill the mill stream. The area has a naturalistic feel with gray rocks that are fun for climbing. Designed by Brooklyn artist Julie Peppito, the area has various playground areas and a synthetic Astroturf kids can go play on when drying off.
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Where: 5th Avenue and 3rd Street
Photo: NYC Parks/Malcolm Pickney
To Cool Off Like an Egyptian: The Ancient Playground
Located nearby the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this playground has climbing pyramids and other play features inspired by the museum’s collection of Egyptian Art. The Ancient Playground has two user-activated water feature. Big kids can enjoy the main climbing structure where water runs down an obelisk and cascades like a mini-waterfall into an open area with water jets. The other is a semi-circular area for younger kids with spray nozzles in a wall.
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Where: 85th St. and Fifth Ave. in Central Park
photo: Central Park Conservancy/Sara Cedar Miller
For Music-inspired Spray: Harmony Playground
Located in Prospect Park, the Harmony Playground is a classical favorite for toddlers and older kids alike. This playground celebrates the tradition of music at Prospect Park. It is located next to the Prospect Park band shell, home to the Celebrate Brooklyn! Performing Arts Festival. The water area of the Harmony Playground is a perfect place for your little Mozart to fill and dump his or her bucket with spray showers coming from the large harp showers. There are also plenty of misting sprays. Play a little ditty on the interactive xylophones placed in playground.
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Where: 11 St. and Prospect Park West
For The Tiniest of Splashers: Vanderbilt Playground
This playground is a favorite for kids of all ages, with a separate area for little ones to explore, and larger climbing structures for big kids. But the water feature here is perfect for toddlers and those who are just starting to crawl and cruise.
Neighborhood: Windsor Terrace
Where: Prospect Park Southwest and Vanderbilt St.
photo: Prospect Park Alliance/Martin Seck
For a Hidden Mega-slide: Teardrop Park
Considered a hidden gem among the concrete jungle of high-rises, kids can slide their way into Teardrop Park in Battery Park City. The main attraction is the park’s mega-slide, which turns into a wet slip and slide when the sprinklers go off. Naturalistic rock beds surround the water area. Your little climber will have a great time exploring. Be sure to wear good grippy shoes. Neighborhood: Battery Park Where: Between Warren St. and Murray St. Online: bpcparks.org Photo Credit: Battery Park Alliance
For Big Leaves in Queens: Travers Park
Travers Park got a facelift back in 2010. Founded in 1948, it was named after community leader Thomas J. Travers. Kids love being in a life-size garden oasis with the leaf-and-vine shaped spray showers. Nearby there is also an area for handball, tennis and roller hockey for the big ones.
Neighborhood: Jackson Heights
Where: 34 Ave. bet. 77 St. and 78 Streets
photo: NYC Parks/Daniel Avila
For 8 Water Features & Mini-Golf: Pier 25
This 25,000 square feet of gated play space has 8 seasonal water features, including an elevated water-wheel. There is something for all ages. A favorite for the kids is a water play area that has water guns, sprayers and buckets to fill and dump. Spend the morning at the playground, grab a rest and then enjoy “tee time” at Manhattan’s only 18-hole mini-golf course.
Where: North Moore St., Pier 25
photo: via Daquella Manera on Flickr creative commons
For Splashing Among Seals: East River Park
The 57-acre East River Park Playground is home to an amphitheater, playgrounds, sports fields and courts. A favorite among the little ones is the bronze harbor seals to climb over. The unpredictable spouting water is also a fan favorite as kids love trying to stomp on the next water spout and try to predict where it’s going to be.
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Where: Montgomery St. to East 12th St., FDR Drive
photo: via edenpictures on Flickr creative commons
For Outer Space-inspired Splashing: Chelsea Water Park
This West Side waterside retreat has become a favorite for those that enjoy being right along the Hudson River. Chelsea Waterside Park mirrors an out of this world outer-spaced themed fun zone. The water park highlights its “access for all” equipment, meaning you can get on it from the ground. This means even the tiniest of water waders can enjoy the fun. The umbrellas there provide ample shade for adults under the scorching sun.
Where: 23rd St. and Eleventh Ave.
photo Credit: via Amiyr B on Yelp
To Make Like A Castaway: Seaside National Park
Never has anyone been so excited to be ship wrecked with a huge boat to explore and fun play equipment to climb. The equipment is inspired by well-known Island mainstays like the Staten Island Ferry and the Lighthouse. Once the kids are done climbing they can cool off in the spray showers.
Neighborhood: Great Kills, Staten Island
Where: Nelson Avenue, Staten Island
photo: via A.R. on Yelp
For a Waterwheel Near a LEGO Store: Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park Playground is known as a smaller space with big fun. The playground features a jungle gym and appropriate play equipment for both tots and older kids. The highlight during the summer is when the 15-foot tall waterwheel and sprinklers are activated. After everyone's cooled off, drop by the LEGO store/experience located a stone's throw away at 5th Avenue at 23rd Street.
Where: Madison Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets
photo: Madison Square Park Conservancy
For Gentle Spray From Above: Heckscher Playground
On a scorching day, this large water play area with sprinklers is a great place for kids to run around. With a stream that crosses over a number of hills with tunnels and ladders, there are plenty of places to explore. This is the oldest and largest playground in Central Park at 1.8 acres. Parents of little ones especially like Hercksher Playground for its semi-enclosed area with a soft and pleasant spray.
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
Where: Mid-Park from 61st to 63rd Streets.
For a Recently-renovated Spot: Pier 51
This play area, which received an upgrade a few years ago offers water fun for all ages including giant, kid-activated water gushers and buckets. The little ones can bring their favorite sand toys into the tot-friendly sand area. This area features a replica of the Minetta Brook, which runs during the summer.
Neighborhood: Greenwich Village
Where: Horatio St. and West 12th St., Pier 51, Greenwich Village
photo: Eden, Janine & Jim via Flickr
For Surprise Sprays: Spiral Bosque Fountain in Battery Park
Designed by Weisz & Yoes Architecture, this $1.4 million fountain features 35 in-ground, interactive illuminated jets laid out in a spiral pattern. With views of the river, it really is water water everywhere — the kids are sure to get soaked, and cool off.
Neighborhood: Battery Park
Where: Battery Place, State St. and Whitehall St.
photo: Jennifer Woodard Maderazo via Flickr
To Get Sprayed in the Rockaways: Beach 30th Street Playground
For a salt-free spray in Far Rockaway, head to the nautical-themed sprayground at Beach 30th Street. A 2012 $30 million renovation of this spot and the adjoining dry playground produced a playscape featuring spray guns, a big red boat, sprinkling shapes of all kind and water tables.
Neighborhood: Far Rockaway
Where: Boardwalk between Beach 29th and 30th Streets
photo: NYC Parks Department/Malcolm Pinckney
For Splashing with a Killer View: Gantry Plaza State Park
Part sprinkler, part sculpture, the water feature at Gantry Plaza State Park is not only cool-looking, it also helps conserve water, operating for 45-minutes at a time. The shiny metal rods are kid-activated, and users can also regulate the water pressure as well. Nearby hammocks and seats offer a place to rest and enjoy the spectacular view of midtown. Don't forget to take a stroll in the 12-acre riverside park and marvel at the Pepsi Cola sign or the large metal gantries — vestiges of the shipping industry — the structures that give the park its name.
Where: 4-09 47th Rd.
Neighborhood: Long Island City
For an Ice Rink Turned Splash Pad: LeFrak Center at Lakeside
In the winter, the Prospect Park LeFrak Center at Lakeside is an ice skating rink. Come summer, it turns into an outdoor splash pad for kids 12 and under. The area has dozens of water jets shooting out periodically. A playtime favorite for the regulars is bringing buckets and cups to fill and dump. The Splash Pad is open daily from 10a.m. – 7 p.m. Parents love the variety of activities to do. If you’re hungry, grab a bite at the Bluestone. Want to do something while drying off? Rent a bicycle or enjoy the outdoor covered roller-skating rink.
Neighborhood: Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Where: Southeastern side of Prospect Park near the Parkside/Ocean Ave. entrance and the Lincoln Rd./Ocean Ave. entrance
photo: via Lakeside BKLYN Facebook page
To Get Sprayed Every Which Way: Roberto Clemente State Park
Not only does this Bronx park feature and Olympic-size pool (which opens at the end of June), you'll also find a new sprayground with more than 20 spray features in a rainbow of colors and multiple shapes. The 25-acre waterfront park runs along the Harlem River, and charges a nominal fee ($2 for adults, $1 for kids) to use the pool complex.
Where: 301 West Tremont Ave.
Neighborhood: University Heights
photo: New York state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
For a Real Hot Spot: The Water Lab, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 Playground
This popular water park is a place where your little Tarzan or Jane can swing and slide his or her way into some wet fun. Slide down a great-big magical mountain, or enjoy the water wheel and river that runs through one side of the park. This area opened up only 5 years ago and it's already become a favorite for parents and kids. Head to the Waterlab in the earlier hours on a weekday to beat the crowd.
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Where: Furman St. and Atlantic Ave
photo: Carolina Q. via Yelp
Where do you go to splish and splash? Share it with us in the comments!
—Kathy Young & Mimi O’Connor