Most playgrounds usually annoy the shit out of me. They are too loud or too frenetic or too hot or too dangerous or too dull or too big or too small or too…something. Not so Downing Street Playground in the West Village. It provided the perfect therapy for all of my playground hang-ups.
From the moment we stepped into the half-acre, hydrangea-heavy garden and then through a small, iron gate into the playground, it was as if we had discovered our own secret garden. It’s not that the playground (standard issue playground equipment and some swings) in and of itself was all that special or that we had the space to ourselves even. Sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the city by a nine foot brick wall and covered by a leafy green canopy, the playground simply had good feng shui. It was cool and quiet and cloistered.
We didn’t really want to leave, but because this was our first time there, we decided to venture out into the surrounding West Village neighborhood. We browsed the shelves at Unoppressive Imperialist Bargain Books, a tiny, independent bookstore recommended by The Village Voice for “anyone with writer’s block or boredom and suffering from a complete lack of cash,” where we picked up two children’s books (Edna by Robert Burleigh and Joanne Yardly and A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino) for a song. We ate piping hot and greasy pepperoni pizza and washed it down with cream sodas at John’s Pizzeria, which deserves all the hype it gets for the coal-fired, brick-oven pizza it has been serving since 1929. We capped off our perfect summer afternoon with handmade ice cream next door from Cones Ice Cream Artisans which, if it's good enough for Heidi Klum (she's pictured in the front window balancing a cone and a stroller), is good enough for me.
- Downing Street Playground, Downing Street and Avenue of the Americas; Subway: 1 to Houston Street or A/B/C/D/E/F/V to West 4th Street, http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M027/highlights/8724; Open daily, dawn to dusk; **Please note that the 32 Carmine Street entrance is currently closed due to construction and there are no restrooms, so plan accordingly.
- Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, 34 Carmine Street, near Bleecker, New York, New York 10014, (212) 229-0079.
- John’s Pizzeria, 278 Bleecker Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), New York, New York 10014, (212) 243-1680, www.johnsbrickovenpizza.com; **Cash only and no slices.
- Cones, 272 Bleecker Street, New York, New York 10014, (212) 414-1795, **Cash only.