Mommy Poppins on Outdoor Fun for Kids

NYC playgrounds (with water features!) provide one the best summer activities for kids.

Mommy Poppins is the go-to curator of fun for parents in New York City, the Tri-State Area, Boston and Los Angeles. We asked founder and native New Yorker, Anna Fader, to share the skinny on the best places for kids to splash around and stay cool in New York this summer, and her list of the city’s top ten sprinkler parks proved just the thing.

Click on the neighborhood link next to each entry for guides with more ideas of things to do nearby. Mommy Poppins is launching an app next month, though, that will make finding outdoor fun for kids even easier.—Elizabeth Street

Before you had kids you probably never realized how important a playground with a sprinkler would be to you. Sprinklers are the salvation of parents in New York, and one of the best summer activities for kids in the city. Add water to a playground and the free outdoor fun for kids never seems to wear out. Plus the spray keeps grown ups on the sidelines cooler too.

But calling them sprinklers can be an understatement—now NYC playgrounds have “water features.” You know: Fountains, geysers, rivers, pumps, sprayers, shooters…any way water can spray it seems, there is a feature for that. The kids just love them, and we parents prefer to go to these newfangled playgrounds because they’re pretty and cool, and make us feel like our exorbitant city housing costs are justified.

If your neighborhood play spot gets a little old, consider making a day trip to one of these awesome water feature playgrounds:

Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 Playground – Brooklyn Bridge Park
Furman Street and Atlantic Avenue
One of the newest NYC playgrounds features the Water Lab—one of four distinct sections, which is phenomenal. Sprinklers shoot water all over an enclave enclosed by man-made cliffs. It’s gorgeous and fun, but also slippery—be very mindful of younger children!
Read the full review of this playground.

Chelsea Waterside Park – Chelsea
23rd Street and Eleventh Avenue
The name of this park says it all: Water is everywhere! There’s a small wading spot, and water rushes all over the play area thanks to three, fantastic-looking blue fountains that spray H20 straight up into the air, down onto the ground, and horizontally at the kids.
Read the full review of this playground.

East River Park Playground – Lower East Side
Montgomery Street to East 12th Street, FDR Drive
We stumbled upon the playground in this massive park underneath the Williamsburg Bridge one summer while biking along the East River, and we were instantly taken with it. The park has slate pavers and tall grasses that wave in the breeze, giving it a very pretty and natural atmosphere. Plus, the bronze harbor seals are really cute and fun to climb on. As for the water, it shoots up randomly from different geysers. It’s like a giant whack-a-mole game as kids run from spot to spot, trying to guess where the water will emerge next. To get to the playground, head to the end of Delancey Street and cross FDR Drive, then head south. It’s also easily accessible via bike.

Gantry Plaza State Park – Long Island City
47th Road and the East River
We’re longtime fans of this 12-acre riverside green space in Queens, which boasts playgrounds, picnic lawns and the iconic Pepsi sign. In summer 2012, the spot debuted a fabulous water play area with several state-of-the-art sprinklers and amazing views of Manhattan.
Read the full review of this playground.

Harmony Playground – Park Slope
Prospect Park West between 9th and 11th Streets in Prospect Park
Taking its inspiration from the nearby band shell, this playground has an interactive music motif, including xylophones that kids can play. But the real draw is the plethora of water features. The designers really covered all the bases here: geysers, spraying animal sculptures, misters and a shower. It’s got it all.

Heckscher Playground – Upper West Side
62nd Street near Seventh Avenue in Central Park
The biggest playground in Central Park offers two ways to get wet. The first is up on the giant climbing structures, which connect via small pathways with water flowing through them. The second is at the awesome sprinkler section, where water rains down from tall tubes and shoots up from jets in the ground.
Read the full review of this playground.

Hudson River Park Pier 51 Water Park – Greenwich Village
Hudson River at Horatio Street and West 12th Street
Many families consider this to be one of the best parks in town with great water play. It’s got a fun little replica of Minetta Brook, perfect for clogging with sand, and wonderful sprinklers. But take note: It gets ridiculously crowded and there’s no shade to be found.

Imagination Playground – South Street Seaport
Burling Slip, South, John & Front Streets
This innovative play spot—which was designed by celebrated architect David Rockwell—opened to great fanfare in summer 2010. While it doesn’t have a sprinkler, it does have an amazing water play area with pools and fountains surrounded by wooden steps that parents can lounge on. Kids manipulate the water with piping and other tools while getting drenched—it’s truly a one-of-a-kind play experience.
Read the full review of this playground.

Imagination Playground – Crown Heights
Ocean Avenue between Parkside Avenue and Lincoln Road in Prospect Park
No relation to the South Street Seaport spot, this charming, kid-lit-themed playground boasts a black-and-white play structure, and a statue of Peter and Willie (of Ezra Jack Keats fame). But the hot weather draw is the gorgeous bronze dragon fountain that gets the kids good and soaked.

Teardrop Park – Battery Park City
Warren Street and Murray Street, East of River Terrace
This park, designed to look like the Adirondacks, sets the water jets into rock formations that kids love to climb. Little kids enjoy collecting water in buckets, while older children pour it down the super-long slide, turning it into a speedy water slide that is addictively fun.