In this corner, we’ve got Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 Playground (I’m too hot and tired right now to come up with a snappy acronym for it), a brand spanking new, 1.6-acre destination playground that opened in June amidst much fanfare. The playground features four separate play areas: 1) Water Lab, with water wheels, big rocks for climbing, sprinklers, geysers shooting water sky-high, a moat, and a dock from which kids can jump into an ice-cold wading pool; 2) the 6,000-square foot Sandbox Village; 3) Slide Mountain, boasting wicked fun slides and chutes, a giant silver climbing sphere, and bleacher seating for parents to sit and watch their kids without hovering constructed out of salvaged wood from a Brooklyn warehouse, and; 4) Swing Valley, with 21 swings of all ilks. The playground sits right on the water and offers up spectacular views of lower Manhattan and the New York Harbor. A final perk is that (on the weekday we were there anyway) there is free and plentiful street parking.
There is, however, some trouble in this playground paradise--most notably that there is no shade to speak of—at least during the morning and early lunchtime hours when we visited. If we go again, I may try for a late afternoon outing in the hopes that the park will be afforded some shade then. Whenever you choose to go, be sure to bring bathing suits, water shoes, towels, and plenty of water and sunscreen.
Like shade sources, food is also scarce. We were grateful for the lunch we had packed, because outside of Uncle Louie G’s Homemade Gourmet Italian Ices and Ice Cream truck, there was not a nearby concession cart in sight. It’s kind of novel that the playground has four clearly definite play spaces, but that also poses a potential quandary for a parent with multiple children in tow who want to try different things. I was immensely relieved that I had left 15-month old Jack home with our sitter as the water area, where Charlie and Vivi understandably wanted to spend most of their time, would have been posed a challenge for a young toddler.
In the other corner is Imagination Playground at South Street Seaport, which opened at the end of July and whose attractions include a stroller-accessible ramp, sandpit, tube slide, aquatheater with cascading water, rope climbing structure, masts and pulleys, and a listening forest. Taking its inspiration from the historic Burling Slip where it is located, the playground also has all sorts of random, loose parts like burlap bags, buckets, shovels, brooms, carts, and fabrics meant to be incorporated into the children’s play. Pirates still reign supreme in our household these days, so there could not have been a playground better-suited as a backdrop to Charlie and Vivi’s (oops, I mean Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Turner’s) elaborately reenacted “Pirates of the Caribbean” scenarios. They especially enjoyed scrambling up the ropes, swinging in the hammocks, and swabbing the decks of their imaginary ship with miniature push brooms.
We visited on an overcast day and it was quite pleasant temperature-wise, but had it been sunnier, I think we would have suffered from the dearth of shade. There were some canvas umbrellas and a walkway under which there was some shade to be had, but Upper Westsider that I am, I think I’m just spoiled by all of the old shade trees gracing the playgrounds of Central and Riverside Parks. South Street Seaport offers a myriad of dining options and we picked Red, a decent Mexican place with an expansive outdoor patio.
So which playground did I like better? Although both are certainly worth a look, I cast my vote for Imagination Playground and it has more return appeal for me because: A) it’s easy to get to; B) it’s conveniently located near South Street Seaport, so there are lots of places to eat and lots of other things to do if you tire of the playground (after lunch, we managed to squeeze in some back-to-school shopping at a nearby Gap and get temporary tattoos, although we ran out of time before we could board some of the historic ships docked at the Seaport); 3) there is something for everyone, from toddlers to older children, a big consideration for me with three of different ages, interests, and abilities.
Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 Playground, Atlantic Avenue and Furman Street, Cobble Hill, New York 07652-5349, (718) 222-9939, http://www.brooklynbridgeparknyc.org/the-park/pier-6-open; Free and open to the public.
Imagination Playground at South Street Seaport, John Street between Front and South Streets at Burling Slip, New York, New York; http://imaginationplayground.org/parks/; Hours: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily (summer); 2:30 PM to 7:00 PM daily (school year); Free and open to the public.
Where to Eat
Uncle Louie G’s Homemade Gourmet Italian Ices and Ice Cream truck, http://www.unclelouiegee.com/.
Red, 19 Fulton Street (@ Front Street), New York, New York; (212) 571-5900; www.redrestaurantnyc.com.