Heckscher Playground is Central Park’s largest and oldest playground.
It features a variety of play equipment, including swings, slides, climbers, and an extensive water feature, as well as ample open space for games—all set against Umpire Rock, one of the Park’s most dramatic rock outcrops, and the Midtown skyline.
Heckscher Playground was built in 1926. As New York City began to create playgrounds in parks and other spaces throughout the five boroughs, a debate raged over whether to include one in Central Park, which had been designed primarily for relaxation and enjoying landscapes. But growing use of the Park, particularly by children, led to the decision to create a dedicated space for children’s play, with equipment, a public restroom, and a large wading pool—one of the first in the City. The new facility was prominently located in the south end of the Park, in the Children’s District, an area that historically had been designed with attractions and amenities for children.
Like all playgrounds in the Park, Heckscher has been rebuilt several times—including in the 1970s by Richard Dattner, who worked on several other playgrounds in Central Park. He re-imagined Heckscher Playground as an adventure-style playground. These types of playgrounds, which emerged in the 1960s, include interconnected play features that encourage exploration and imaginative play. The Park’s other adventure-style playgrounds are Ancient Playground, the East 72nd Street Playground, Tarr Family Playground, Adventure Playground, and Billy Johnson Playground.
One of the most prominent features of the playground is the elaborate water-play area, built on the site of the existing wading pool, which is made up of a series of elevated walkways that are animated by sprinklers and connected to the ground with ladders and slides.
The Central Park Conservancy rebuilt the playground in 2016 as part of a larger initiative to restore the landscapes in the south end of the Park.
Central Park has 21 playgrounds that are unique in design and character. Most of them were built in the 1930s as part of a system of playgrounds located along the Park perimeter. The Conservancy regularly updates these spaces to include new equipment and infrastructure that reflect changing ideas about children’s play and safety and accessibility standards. Since 2011, the Conservancy has been working to rebuild or renovate all the Park’s playgrounds, with the goal of bringing each of them up to the same standard of excellence at the same time and focusing on making them feel more connected to the Park’s landscapes and experiences.
Weekly Walk: Children's DistrictGet to know the Children’s District and discover how the Park has offered fun destinations and activities for families for more than 100 years.
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