Our Favorite New York City Playground and why you must visit

Lily pond at Battery Park City parks

Visiting Manhattan any time soon? If you have a New York City trip planned, you will definitely be visiting the World Trade Center. Just a few steps away, is our absolute favorite playground, part of Battery Park City parks. Head down to the waterfront and make this a must-stop destination on your next trip with kids to New York City.

Battery Park City Parks

I just finished an extensive guide on touring the Financial District with kids. However, what I left out, was that no matter what we do, we always try to incorporate a visit to the Battery Park City parks! The parks are just across the street and a couple blocks away from the World Trade Center, which makes it super convenient. I’ll go through the parks roughly from north to south.

grass at Rockefeller park, with NJ ferry in the background
grass at Rockefeller park, with NJ Ferry in the background

Rockefeller Park

This park is an amazingly large green space for downtown Manhattan. There are huge grassy areas all along the river, beside the esplanade (river boardwalk). On the east side are a basketball court, handball courts, swings, a park house, and most important of all: the best playground in Manhattan.

Granted we haven’t been to ALL of the playgrounds in Manhattan, but we have been to quite a few and this one wins out for several reasons:

  1. It is large, with play areas fit for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and big kids!
  2. There are sand pits, and a water feature in the summer.
  3. It has a carousel!
  4. There is a nice view looking out over the river.
  5. It is near: grass for running around, food options right around the corner, and very important for extended play time- bathrooms.
Rockefeller park in Battery Park City
Rockefeller Park
the carousel at rockefeller park
the carousel

The Lily Pond

At the southern edge of Rockefeller Park is the Lily Pond. This small pond always has a few ducks, and plenty of benches all around it. It is a mesmerizing feature for little kids, and another reason we love this area. Check out the picture at the beginning of this article!

Free Art Classes and Parkhouse

I mentioned the Park house (field house), but let me expand. During the warmer season, approximately May to October, the field house sets up little air hockey and ping pong tables. You can also borrow a ball, which is so great because it saves us having to bring one with us, and allows my soccer-obsessed dudes to kick the ball around the grass!

Another awesome activity that we have participated in many times, is the free outdoor art classes that take place by the Parkhouse. These classes are meant for preschoolers (ages 2-4 are the sweet spot), and take place on Thursday mornings when the weather cooperates.

battery park city parks art class

Advanced Tip: restrooms

I mentioned restrooms, and I have to say this is always an important consideration when you’re toting kids around. There are two public restrooms near Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City:

  1. In the New Jersey Ferry Terminal on the southern end of the park, just past the grass and Lily Pond.
  2. Directly across the street from the Parkhouse, in the corner of the Solaire Building, where you can enter Teardrop park.

Tear Drop Park

Teardrop Park is a really nice green area nestled in between four large residential buildings. There are two main areas and the trails wind around them. The southern section has a great slide that goes into a sand pit, as well as a smaller sand area. While the northern section has a hill that my little guys have loved going up and down. The “trails” are windy and when everything is blooming you can almost get lost in the green.

Teardrop Park

Irish Hunger Memorial

The Irish Hunger Memorial sits right to the east of the lily pond. It was designed to commemorate the Great Irish Famine of the 19th century. It is beautifully designed, and when you get to the top, provides a very nice view of the area. I highly suggest adding this as a quick stop to your walk!

Irish Hunger Memorial entrance
Irish Hunger Memorial trail
Irish Hunger Memorial landscaping

Wagner Park

If you walk along the waterfront on the Battery Park City Esplanade heading south, from Rockefeller Park, there is a stretch that is urban. The next green space you reach is South Cove and Wagner Park. These are nice as green spaces to lounge around or let the kids play.

The main reason you would come this way is either to continue to all the way to Battery Park, and Statue of Liberty cruises, or to visit one of two museums. One museum is the Skyscraper Museum, a small museum for urban architecture fans. The other is the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Museum of Jewish Heritage

The Museum of Jewish Heritage is New York City’s Holocaust memorial museum. The museum has very thorough permanent exhibitions and varying temporary exhibits. I found it extremely well done and touching, however it’s not for your little little ones.

Wagner park, as seen from the Museum of Jewish Heritage
Wagner Park, seen from Museum of Jewish Heritage

Brookfield Place

I mentioned Brookfield Place in my guide to the Financial District, but technically this shopping mall lies in Battery Park City. The shops inside are high-end (read: not for kids). However, there is a French “market” on the first floor, Le District, and a really great food court on the second floor, with many healthy options and lots of seating. Also, again, bathrooms #forthewin.

From Brookfield Place you can take the elevators underground, to cross West St, and connect directly into the World Trade Center, the Oculus and a plethora of subway stations inside the Fulton Center. (I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s just one really long passageway and there are signs inside and helpful guards to help you get where you want to go).

inside the oculus at world trade center
the Oculus at World Trade Center

Tribeca

I can’t mention Battery Park City parks, without mentioning the adjacent neighborhood Tribeca. This is where we usually go for food when we are at the parks. Here are some of our favorite options:

Tribeca has its own park that we like a lot: Washington Market Park. So if you leave Battery Park City and don’t feel like walking back with your picnic lunch, you have an option right in the middle of the neighborhood with a great little playground and plenty of benches.

Have you been to any of the Battery Park City parks? Would you agree with me that it has the best playground in Manhattan? Or perhaps you are partial to one in Central Park? Somewhere else?

P.S. For more must-see attractions in New York City, head over here.

battery park city with kids graphic

3 thoughts on “Our Favorite New York City Playground and why you must visit”

  1. This is a side of NYC I haven’t seen before and I LOVE it! What great places to let kids enjoy the city, and they are beautiful parks!

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