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Central Park Conservancy Blog


Ready, Set, Safari: A Beloved Playground Reopens


Safari Playground gives children the feeling of escape and adventure while climbing atop and around its iconic giant hippo sculptures and admiring sweeping views of the nearby Reservoir! This playground is a kid-favorite thanks to its many opportunities for open play. Originally built in 1936, it received its safari theme during a renovation in the 1990s.

Our reconstruction of Safari Playground included scanning its beloved hippo sculptures to create molds and cast new ones.

Newly reconstructed, Safari Playground remains a source of unique fun with new features like:

Recast hippopotamus sculptures
The amazing hippo sculptures at Safari Playground were so well-loved that we scanned them to create molds and cast new ones. The brand-new buddies have a hand-finished exterior to make them super realistic, making an exciting play experience for a new generation!

More ways to play
There are plenty of new mountain-like climbing mounds, boulders, play canoes (wheelchair accessible!) and wooden climbing platforms built into the landscape like treehouses. There are also two new slides incorporated into the northern end of the playground.

Children of all ages can enjoy Safari Playground’s openness and opportunities for unstructured play.

New safety surfacing
Streams of blue and brown safety surfacing symbolize water and land, adding to the safari theme and the sense of adventure for kids.

User-operated water spray feature
The playground’s new water feature is user-activated with multiple spray jets. A button allows kids to interact with the spray feature while helping conserve water, too!

New, shorter fence
The 7-foot steel picket fence that ran around the perimeter of Safari Playground was originally installed in the 1940s. We’ve replaced it with a new 4-foot fence, improving the connection between the playground and the surrounding Park.

Safari Playground now features new mountain-like climbing mounds, boulders, play canoes (wheelchair accessible!) and wooden climbing platforms.

There is also a new wheelchair-accessible route from the Park perimeter to the playground, an ADA-compliant gate, and other features to improve accessibility.

Although the playground is geared toward children ages 2 to 5, its flexibility for free play makes it a destination for children of all ages to exercise their imaginations. For more details on our work on Safari Playground, visit our restoration page.