Thursday, August 18, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #13: Vanderbilt Playground

For the thirteenth stop on our tour we headed down to the newest playground in Prospect Park - Vanderbilt playground at Prospect Park SW and Vanderbilt St. The playground opened last fall to much anticipation and, as far as I can tell at least, it has not disappointed.

Nestled under chestnut trees near the lake, this playground really has a relaxing neighborhood feel. Even with a giant modern dome structure and spinning contraptions, the location/design coupled with the families here really give the place a nice vibe.

The main play structure, partially shaded by the surrounding trees, offers an array of tunnels, bridges, ladders and steering wheels, a spiral slide, a single slide, seating on the ground level under the structure, monkey bars, parallel bars and a rope bridge that consists of two thick ropes strung below two parallel bars. Also in this area is a spinning ball contraption (not much bigger than a basketball) that the kiddos can attempt (usually without success) to climb atop and balance on as it spins.

There is a large/open area in the center of the playground which houses the real highlights of this playground: a large geodesic climbing dome, a spinning basket-like seat, a spinning saucer/dish-like thing, sprinklers and a the little stream that's created from the winding, dug-out cement path that fills from the sprinkler runoff. Also in this area is a large wooden platform that is almost entirely shaded and makes for a great grown-up hang out and snack/lunch spot.

On the other side of the water/spinning/climbing attractions is a smaller play structure and a set of fenced in baby swings. The smaller structure is completely gated off and includes ladders, a slide, a bridge, steering wheels and a stage-like area.

The biggest disappointment at this playground is the lack of bathrooms... not only are there not any actually on the playground, but the only ones around are port-a-potties (that sometimes are not even open) off to the right when you're entering the park from Vanderbilt St. There are some restaurants/cafes along Prospect Park Southwest, but I am not what the public restroom availability is. So my advice is to either be sure to go right before you get there and/or bring one of those great little fold-up travel potties!

Otherwise, I really can't find much to criticize at this playground. There aren't any big kid swings, but the big kids really don't seem to care with all of the other attractions keeping their attention. We've been to this playground a couple of times before, but this last trip the kids never left this middle area for the actual jungle gym structures. Actually, this is one of the only times I can recall where we were at any playground and the kids didn't once complain about something, whine for lunch/a snack or ask to go home/somewhere else... In fact, we had been planning to go on a boat ride that day (which the kids were really looking forward to) but they opted to stay at the playground till the last possible minute. So that said, even with the bathroom issues, I think I'm going to give Vanderbilt Playground an A+.

What do you think?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #12: William Sheridan Playground

For the twelfth stop on our tour we visited the William Sheridan playground on Grand St at Wythe Ave in Williamsburg.We stumbled on this playground when we were walking dogs from the BARC shelter and finally decided to check it out this week.

Typically separated into the two sections for the older/younger crowds, this playground offers a nice variety of attractions for the kiddos. On the west side the larger structure has a spiral slide, curved ladder, bridges, music "switches", a chain ladder, a straight slide and monkey bars. Behind the larger structure are sprinklers with a nice amount of space for running around in.

The east side houses the smaller structure which is mostly just a mini version of the larger one: various ladders, a straight single slide, a bridge and music switches. Additionally, this side has double bar rails for sliding down on your arms, as well as a few steering wheels.

Behind the smaller structure are a few picnic tables and a set of baby swings which are partially shaded by the surrounding trees. The majority of the playground, however, is quite sunny.

Between the two areas there is a restroom house and large open courtyard area.

In addition to the typical playground equipment, William Sheridan playground also has a separate basketball court on the west side.

There is not really anything "bad" about this playground but nothing really sticks out as particularly special or unique either (except for the basketball court). It's definitely convenient to BARC and also to a nice little waterfront park at the end of Grand St... but if we weren't over there to hang with the dogs at the park I don't think we would seek this particular playground out, so, I'm giving it a solid B.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #11: Main Street Playground

For our 11th tour stop, we went to DUMBO to the nautically themed Main Street playground in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

This cute little playground is tucked just inside the park at the end of Main Street, almost right under the Manhattan bridge. It's actually quite easy to miss if you aren't looking for it, as trees have grown up quite nicely around the fenced in perimeter (however, like many of the other playgrounds we have visited, the actual playground equipment is still in direct sun for the most part).

The main structure at Main Street playground has been fashioned to resemble a large boat - complete with masts and sails. A long ramp runs up the west side of the structure, leading children to the upper level where they will find bridges, a fireman's pole, steering wheels (including one that is actually more like a helm), a spiral slide, chain ladders and a revolving tic-tac-toe game. The lower level is set up to resemble the lower "deck" of of a ship, complete with porthole windows. There are also steering wheels, *shaded* benches and a tunnel. My little guys called this part of the playground "the house".

On the north side of the playground is a smaller structure for the little ones, a sprinkler and a sandbox (shaped like a boat, of course). The smaller structure is also ship-shaped (this one a bit more like a tugboat) and includes a slide, two types of ladders and music "switches".

On there south end of the playground there is also one tire swing, but there are no regular swings at this playground.

Aside from the nautical theme, one thing that makes this playground really special is that a lot of it as actually wheelchair accessible. The wide ramp makes it possible to wheel up to the upper level of the main structure and the lower level has side entrances that do not have any steps and are reasonably wide.

One thing that Main Street playground is lacking is accessible restrooms. At the moment the closest thing is only a port-a-potty at the end of Main Street. To get somewhere where you might actually consider letting your child sit down, you'll have to either venture up Main St. to the Starbucks or otherwise walk south on Water St., past the River Cafe and Ice Cream Factory to a trailer with public restrooms that are surprisingly clean and spacious.

Potties aside, Main Street playground is a great way to compliment a trip to beautiful* Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO. This one gets a solid A.

*Just to note - the north side of the park is currently under construction so THAT part of the park is not quite so beautiful at the moment, however, the part closest to be playground is still open and as lovely as ever.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Playground Tour Stop #10: Harmony Playground

The tenth stop on our playground tour is the largest and likely the most popular playground in Prospect Park. Harmony Playground is located just inside the park on Prospect Park West between 9th and 11th streets in Park Slope. The spaciousness of the playground gives it a very open feel and being tucked into the park (albeit just barely) adds to the sense of being a bit removed from the bustle of city life... although the playground can get quite crowded at times.

Entering from the 9th St side, you'll find the smaller of the two play structures straight ahead. A double slide, curved climbing ladder, tunnel, small bridge, steering wheels and a shorter single side are all attractions here. There is also an even smaller structure behind this for the playground newbies to try out their first climbing and sliding experiences on these mini versions.

To the right of the smaller structure is a set of baby swings, tucked behind a fence on the north perimeter of the playground.

Between the smaller and larger structures lies a good-size sand pit, a large "big kid" swing area, sprinklers and music "tubes" which children can lift up and let go of to create various tones.

The larger structure spans quite a big area and includes long ramps, bridges, a fireman's pole, tunnels, double, single and spiral slides. curved climbing ladders, chain climbing structures, two different types of monkey bars, a swinging balance beam and steering wheels.

Despite being in a park with lots of trees, Harmony Playground tends to be quite sunny, excepting a few benches along the parks building which is the eastern perimeter of the playground.

I have to say Harmony is actually one of my favorite playgrounds... it has great equipment, it's in the park, it's convenient to Park Slope... and I just like the feel of it for whatever reason. I often prefer quieter, less busy locations but this is one exception. If I'm willing to brave the nearly always present school groups hogging up the place it must be something slightly great. A+