Sweet Re-Leaf: NYC Shady Playgrounds for Cool Summer Fun

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Feeling the heat and looking for a playground with shade? We’ve rounded up some of the shadiest playgrounds in NYC—as in places with lots of shade, the kind that involves sunlight. Here’s where you and the kids can have fun, and keep cool under cover.

Mimi O'Connor

Shade for Tots in DUMBO: Pier One, Brooklyn Bridge Park

An unsung hero in Brooklyn Bridge Park (often overshadowed, so to speak, by Slide Mountain and Swing Valley over on Pier 6) the Pier 1 play space is notable for a couple of reasons. While we love the playgrounds at BBP, shade can be sparse in the park, where the vegetation is still growing in. This playground, however, is an exception, and is mercifully surrounded by greenery. (It's sort of tucked away and feels like a hidden sanctuary.) The playground is also a fantastic space for the beginner (at life) set; babies and toddlers can explore low-lying turtles, a colorful mini house and climbing structure, and enjoy some swing time.

Pier 1
Brooklyn Bridge Park (near ferry and water taxi docks)
Online: brooklynbridgepark.org

For a Pioneer in Queens: The Playground for All Children

The Playground for All Children is the first playground constructed in the United States for disabled and able-bodied children. It served as a prototype for similar sites across New York City, the United States, and the world. Designed for kids ages three to 12, the playground offers opportunities for social, cognitive, sensory and motor stimulation, with accessible slides, swings, a bridge, water wheel area, Nature Interpretive Trail and more. Plaques are in English and braille, and the playground is home to several Parks Department learning programs dedicated to nature, arts, and cultural understanding. 

Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Near 111th Street and Corona Ave. 
Online: nycgovparks.org

For Upper East Side Shade: Catbird Playground

Located on the south end of Yorkville's lovely Carl Schurz Park (also home to the mayoral residence, Gracie Mansion) Catbird Playground takes its name from a James Thurber short story. You'll find climbing structures, swings, monkey bars, rings, a sandbox and spray showers—all under the cover of shade mature trees. The park, home to two dog runs, is also known for being very dog-friendly. 

East End Avenue and 84th Street 
Online: nycgovparks.org

Mimi O'Connor

Shade Gowanus-style: St. Mary's Playground

It's so limiting to think of shade coming just from trees. In the city—and in proud industrial Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus—the shade comes from train tracks overhead. It sounds counter-intuitive, but this playground, located beneath the F/G train overpass, is a pleasant place to spend some time. It's a fresh addition to the area (it opened in the spring of 2018 after an investment of $1.35 million) and features ADA accessible playground equipment for kids of all ages, lots of room to roam, a safety surface underfoot, and gentle spray showers that are activated at the touch of a button. 

422 Smith St. (between Nelson and Huntington)
Carroll Gardens/Gowanus
Online: nycgovparks.org

Hippo Playground Project

For an Upper West Side Institution: Hippo Playground

If hippos don't know how to keep cool, who does? Much-beloved by the community (and taken extra special care of, thanks to The Playground Project), Hippo Playground takes its name from the impossible-to-miss Bob Cassily hippopotamus statues found "frolicking" in the park. A particularly good spot for young ones, the playground including swings, a wood play structure, jungle gym, a slide, a soft play surface, sand pit, and spray fountain. Bonus: picnic tables and restrooms. In the summer, there's free art in the park, as well as a free July concert series. Plus: a cool Joan of Arc statue at 93rd Street! (Check  The Project's Facebook page for the day's happenings.) Come fall, head to the park for pumpkin carving and a Halloween parade. The Playground Project also holds a boffo fundraiser every year (typically in the spring) with pony rides, a bounce house, petting zoo, face-painting, glitter tattoos, and much, much more. 

Note: Thanks to a renovation, the playground's Park House can now be booked as an affordable party space. Click here for booking inquiries.

Riverside Park at 91st Street
Online: nycgovparks.org

NYC Parks Department

For a New Playground Under Old Shade: Black Rock Playground

The Bronx's Black Rock Playground in Soundview reopened after a $1.9 million renovation. Designed with input from local students at the nearby P.S. 119, the new playground, surrounded by tall, leafy trees, includes fresh colorful play equipment, swings, a water play area, and drinking fountains. Plus, new plantings, seating, and an improved drainage system.

Watson Ave., Blackrock Ave. between Virginia Ave. and Pugsley Ave.
Online: nycgovparks.org

For Shade Near a Big Pool in Astoria: Charybdis Playground

Taking its name from Greek mythology (Charybdis was the daughter of Poseidon, and responsible for some rough waters near Sicily) this playground is found on the western edge of Astoria Park. (Which is also home to one of our favorite free public pools in the city.) In addition to shade, this park offers lovely views of the East River, and the Triborough and Hells Gate Bridges, as well as photo-worthy sunsets. The playground is slated for a major renovation in the next year, making it even more pleasurable to visit. 

Shore Boulevard and 19th Street at 23rd Road
Online: nycgovparks.org

For a Murray Hill Favorite: St. Vartan Park

This east side park provides relief on hot days thanks to mature trees, sprinklers, and restrooms. You'll find fun climbing structures, swings, various ball courts, gardens, and lots of open space to play. 

35th Street and Second Avenue
Online: nycgovparks.org

For Shade in an Arboretum: Pinetum Playground

While there's not a whole lot of playground equipment here, this spot is where you'll find the largest collection of pine trees in Central Park, known as the Arthur Ross Pinetum. The main attraction is the swings—strap swings and bucket swings, so both the kids and you can have some fun—but there's also a chin-up bar if someone's looking to work out. Find this playground just north of the Great Lawn and south of the reservoir. 

Mid-Park, west side at 85th Street
Online: centralparknyc.org

NYC Parks

For an LIC Spot Dubbed "Shady Playground": Andrews Playground

You know there's some relief from the sun when locals call it "Shady Playground." This two-and-a-half-acre Long Island City spot has climbing structures, swings, sprinklers, game tables, benches and more. 

Fifth Street, 49th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard
Online: nycgovparks.org

Mimi O'Connor

For Shade with a Side of Creative Inspiration: Imagination Playground

This playground has minimal equipment, but that’s exactly what makes it so cool. As the name implies, the playground is designed to encourage kids to use their imaginations from the moment they are greeted by the giant, bronze dragon-shaped sprinkler. Peek inside one of the animal-shaped cutouts, or use the circular stage to put on a show. If all of that imagining leaves them tuckered out,  the “Peter and Willie” sculpture, which was inspired by characters in Ezra Jack Keats’ beloved children’s books, is a great place to relax. PS: This is also close to one of our favorite splash pads, LeFrak Center at Lakeside.

Prospect Park
Ocean Avenue and Parkside Avenue
Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Online: prospectpark.org

—Mimi O’Connor


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