What I remember most from playing in Riverside Park when I was a little kid, way back in the 80s, was how smooth the wood was in the playgrounds. Yes, wood. Everything was made of wood and metal, everything was simple and—not to get too nostalgic and romanticize things all out of proportion—basically the Platonic ideal of a playground. The wood beams that I needed to clamber up to get to the top of the slide had been worn smooth by thousands of other kids whose chubby hands had gripped the same places, whose toes had gotten locked in the same gaps between the rungs of the ladders. The slide was always burning hot from baking in the sun all day, but it didn’t matter. We’d all fly down it so fast that we never had time to feel the burn. There were see-saws and sand boxes and swings that took you so high you thought if you only pumped a little harder, you might swing all the way around. But you never quite made it.
New York playgrounds are different today. A lot of sand boxes have been dug up. They were too often home to rats. I mean, that had probably always been the case, but nobody cared about that in the 80s. See-saws are long gone. They were kind of dangerous, after all. Who hadn’t been the victim of someone who jumped off when you were up high, causing you to slam down and suffer through the pain of a bruised tailbone for days. And those swings? Many playgrounds have gotten rid of the “big kid” swings and only have the kind meant for babies. Despite this little nostalgic trip down memory lane, I actually think all this change is a good thing. The renaissance in New York City parks in the last couple of decades has extended to the playgrounds, and now kids can benefit from brand-new equipment to play on which can give them thrills that we never got to experience. Here are the 10 best playgrounds Brooklyn has to offer.