Playgrounds of Central Park
Posted Thu, Mar 17, 2016 in Attractions
There are currently 21 playgrounds in Central Park, and through the Central Park Conservancy’s Central Play program and their Playground Partners, each one is going through (or has gone through) a major overhaul and renovation. Some are having original concepts reincorporated into their design, such as the recently re-opened Adventure Playground.
This program was initiated in 1991 by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. Playground Partners is a group of volunteers who ensure that Central Park’s 21 playgrounds are kept safe and well maintained.
Heckscher Playground is the oldest playground in Central Park, and was created in 1927, it is also the largest at 1.8 acres. Below is a list with brief descriptions and photos of each playground broken down by areas within the park. All playgrounds offer sprinklers during the warm days of summer. Each playground is open daily, unless there is a snow storm, and remain close until they can be cleared of snow and made safe for play.
W. 110th Street Playground – After 10 months of rebuilding from the ground up, the East 110th Street Playground across from the Dana Discovery Center reopened in the fall of 2013. Aimed at school-age children and organized into four distinct circular sections, the revamped play space has a water feature, three tire swings, six big-kid strap swings as well as a swing for children with special needs, and a wooden play structure with lots of things to climb, swing across and conquer. This playground is geared for older children. The playground is located inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues.
Bernard Family Playground – Located in one of the most beautiful settings in the Park — across from the Harlem Meer — the playground is also near the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, which offers additional recreational opportunities. The playground includes bucket swings, an enclosed sandbox and a play structure with a bridge, slides, climbing poles and multiple platforms, as well as a sprinkler. It is geared to younger kids.
Tarr Family Playground – Located on the West Side at 100th Street, this playground was reconstructed in 2009. The playground is divided by a central bridge that stretches over a “lake” of sand, creating an area for preschoolers and one geared toward older children. The playground includes a large conical climber with a tunnel and slides; a modern net climber; a variety of swings for all ages; a wooden tree house; and a concrete maze. It also includes a water feature during the summer months.
Robert Bendheim Playground -Located on the East Side at 100th Street, the playground is considered a “playground for all children,” this play space was designed to be accessible to children with and without disabilities. This playground is home to a play structure equipped with ramps, a corkscrew water feature fit for wheelchairs, and a sandbox with elevated tables. A large play structure features tunnels, slides, sound-generating play components and wheelchair-accessible ramps.
East 110th Street Playground – Located across from the Harlem Meer, Central Park’s northernmost playground has been completely rebuilt by the Conservancy in 2013, featuring the latest in playground design. Aimed at school-age children and organized into four distinct circular sections, the revamped play space has a great water feature, three tire swings, six big-kid strap swings as well as a swing for children with special needs, and a wooden play structure with lots of things to climb, swing across and conquer.
Rudin Family Playground – Located at 96th Street off of Central Park West, this playground’s centerpiece is a large, wisteria-covered trellis that provides shaded seating. The playground includes a sandbox, bucket and tire swings, and three play structures for climbing and sliding. It has game tables for chess and checkers, which can also be used for picnicking. Three granite posts project an arc of spray for children to run and play through during the summer months.
E. 96th Street Playground – This is one of Central Park’s largest playgrounds, the East 96th Street Playground features a great variety of play equipment and ample open space for running and playing games. The playground includes two play structures with bridges, slides and climbing poles, wooden climbers, a tree house, tire and bucket swings, a sandbox and picnic tables. Has a sprinkler during the summer months. The East 96th Street Playground is located near the northeastern corner of the Reservoir, in a landscape bounded by the East Drive, Fifth Avenue, and the 96th Street Transverse Road. It was last renovated in 1994.
Wild West Playground – This western-themed playground features wooden play structures resembling a frontier town. The Playground recently reopend after a year long major reconstruction to modernize the playground’s infrastructure, create separate play spaces designated for different age groups (from 2 to 12), improve playground accessibility for visitors with disabilities, and improve the playground’s connection to the Park landscape. The playground is located on 93rd Street just off of Central Park West.
Safari Playground – This playground features naturalistic hippopotamus sculptures by the artist Bob Cassily, set in a “river” of blue safety surfacing. A canoe and water-spray features further animate this safari-inspired scene. In addition to the play sculptures, the playground includes two tree houses, picnic tables and a sprinkler in the summer months. Set atop a hill in Central Park, this very open playground has a feeling of seclusion, but offers great space for kids to run around in. It is located at 91st Street off of Central Park West.
Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground – Spector Playground is one of the largest playgrounds in the Park. It features an expansive sand area and open space for running and playing. Several large oak trees are scattered throughout the site, providing greenery and shade. A variety of climbers, constructed out of both wood and metal, feature slides, poles, bridges and decks. The playground has both a large area of sand and a small enclosed sandbox ideal for younger children. It is located at 85th Street off of Central Park, opposite the Mariners’ Playground.
Arthur Ross Pinetum Playground – This playground is located within the Arthur Ross Pinetum, a small arboretum that is home to the largest collection of pine trees in the Park. With its open setting (there is no fence), the playground is often enjoyed by adults as well as children. The area also includes picnic tables and open lawns, making it a great spot for picnicking. It is the remnant of a much larger playground that was built in the 1930s. Play equipment includes strap swings, bucket swings and chin-up bars. It is located east of Central Parks entrance at 85th Street off oc Central Park West, and east of the west drive. One of two parks not located on the perimiter of Central Park.
Ancient Playground – Despite its name, Ancient Playground is one of the Park’s most recently reconstructed playgrounds. Just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the playground’s climbing pyramids, obelisk and sundial were inspired by the museum’s collection of Egyptian Art. It was named the 9th best playground in NYC, by Time Out Kids, May 2015. In the main play area, pyramid-shaped climbers with slides and tunnels are linked by concrete bridges. Additional wooden climbers are ideal for older children who love to climb and explore. For younger children, the playground has an obelisk-shaped structure set in a sandbox. Bucket, tire and strap swings accommodate children of all ages. It has an eloborate water feature during the summer months. The playground is located on 85th Street right off of Fifth Avenue.
Mariners’ Playground – This playground is currently closed and under reconstruction. This nautically themed playground is located just north of Summit Rock, near the Park’s Mariners’ Gate entrance. It provides a variety of play experiences for younger children. The playground features three play structures with steering wheels, decks, slides, and ladders. There are also sea horse spring rockers, a large enclosed sandbox and a wooden “boat” platform that sways. Has a sprinkler during the summer months. It is located off of Central Park West at 85th Street. It is opposite The Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground.
Diana Ross Playground – Funding for this playground was provided by the singer Diana Ross after her historic concert on the Great Lawn in 1983. Situated at the base of Summit Rock, the highest elevation in the Park, the playground has a verdant backdrop of mature canopy trees. The playground features a large, wooden play structure with a variety of interconnected play elements, including a climbing net, bridges, firepoles, slides and ladders. The entire structure is set in a large area of sand. The playground also includes bucket swings and has a sprinkler during the summer months. In July of 2012, DNAinfo, named this playground best playground for adventure seekers. The playground is located on West 81st Street off of Central Park West.
Pat Hoffman Friedman Playground – Usually called the Three Bears Playground. Pat Hoffman Friedman Playground’s central focus is the Group of Bears statue situated in the center of the playground. This work is by renowned American artist Paul Manship. It is also commonly referred to as “Three Bears.” The sculpture sits on a stepped platform, surrounded by a large circular seating area at the entrance to the playground. Manship’s other works in Central Park include the Osborn Gates at Ancient Playground and the Lehman Gates at the Children’s Zoo. This palyground recently underwent a $1.2 million makeover. Age-appropriate slides, swings, sandboxes and sprinklers were added during the renovation, to make the playground appropraite to younger children as well. The playground is located at 79th Street right off of Fifth Avenue.
James Michael Levin Playground – In the center of this playground at East 76th Street is a whimsical water spray fountain featuring characters from Alice in Wonderland. Originally the Sophie Loeb Drinking Fountain that stood between the Heckscher Playground and Heckscher Ballfields, it was moved to the present location to better serve children as a water play feature. The sculptor was Frederick George Richard Roth, the artist who also did the carving and scultures at the Zoo, Mother Goose, and Balto. Play features include colorful pipe frame equipment and bucket swings geared toward toddlers. This playground recently went through a major renovation. It is located inside the 76th Street entrance off of Fifth Avenue.
E. 72nd Street Playground – The East 72nd Street Playground underwent a recent eight month renovation. The facelift brought in a brand-new push-button water fountain, a new sandbox, a climber that connects to a pyramid climber, new slides and tire and strap swings. In the 1970s, the space was remodeled as an “adventure style” playground, which gave kids small walls to climb and tunnels to hide in. The idea is the same for the new facelift, but the upgrade follows current safety standards and handicap accessibility while better blending into the environment
Adventure Playground – Central Park Conservancy recently rehabilitated Adventure Playground to improve its infrastructure and accessibility. They re-created play features from the original playground that were lost over time, while adding fun new features for children to enjoy. In the surrounding landscape, paths were rebuilt and new plantings were added to improve your experience in the Park. It re-opened summer 2015.
Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground – Completely rebuilt as part of the Central Park Conservancy’s Central Play campaign, Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground features play equipment designed for the Park’s youngest visitors. The new playground includes a sprinkler for the very first time, two sandboxes and elevated sand tables, swings, and land forms. The land forms provide the youngest users with many opportunities for crawling, climbing, and exploration. Locted at West 68th Street off of Central Park West.
Billy Johnson Playground – Constructed in the mid-1980s to replace a Robert Moses-era playground, Billy Johnson Playground was the first one reconstructed under the administration of the Central Park Conservancy. Designed by M. Paul Friedberg, who created the first adventure-style playground in New York City at the Jacob Riis Houses in 1966, it was the result of a design competition to create a “rustic playground” inspired by the park’s picturesque heritage. The playground’s most popular feature is the granite slide, which is nestled into a rocky hill that echoes the nearby rock outcroppings. Additional features include bucket swings and a small amphitheater, ideal for picnics and other gatherings, as well as a sprinkler in the summer months. The playground is located inside the park at 67th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Heckscher Playground – Heckscher Playground is not only the oldest playground in Central Park, it is also the largest at nearly three acres. In addition to the typical park attractions, such as a variety of slides, swings, and seesaws, Heckscher Playground features both a water fixture and giant rocks for climbing. It is also famed for its kickball games, which are popular during the summertime. Located at 7th Avenue and Central Park South, Heckscher Playground runs from 61st to 63rd streets and is open from 7:30am until dusk. The Playground opened in 1926, when it was named for August Heckscher Sr., the grandfather of Parks Commissioner August Heckscher III. Complete with its own restrooms and snack carts, the Playground is best suited for children ages 6 to 12. Heckscher Playground is most populated during the spring and summer months. Time Out Kids Magazine, May 2015, named this playground #12 on their top 25 playground list.