Scootering to Parks Around the City
September 5, 2012

Scootering to Parks Around the City

Every summer goes faster. It used to be that we ferried both our children double-wide or limo-style in one of two two-seater strollers we owned to whatever playground we desired so they could run around. Then there was only one in a stroller—our younger child, Halina—while Riley scooted along on a tiny Razor. Then they both had scooters and then they walked. How did we get here?

We grew up in small towns in Virginia and New Jersey where playing outside in the summer meant knocking on a neighbor’s door and then heading out to their back yard. The “small town” of Reston, Virginia, has since become a small city and Newton, N.J., has filled out into a robust commuter community. In the meanwhile, we find ourselves confronting a totally different landscape than what we grew up with.

Fortunately, as Reston and Newton have gotten more urban, New York City has gotten more pedestrian friendly. Not only have the number and variety of playgrounds grown exponentially, but getting to them has also become easier. As our kids have gotten more mobile, many miles of pavement previously reserved for automobiles has been given over to bikers or walkers. The most noticeable example of this so far is the route down Broadway from Columbus Circle to Herald Square. It is a trend that, we hope, will continue.

In our daily summer routine, we hit playgrounds that are about thirty and forty blocks south of us. Since we live in Morningside Heights, the route to the playground is typically through Riverside Park, and on the way home (so that we can cut up to Broadway at some point to pick up groceries) we take the northeast fork of Riverside Drive where it begins on 97th Street. More on that below.

River Run, Hippo, and Dinosaur

Last summer and at the beginning of this one, scooters were the primary form of transportation for our kids (now ages 6 and 9). After all, forty Manhattan blocks north of 14th Street is four miles roundtrip. However, around the middle of the summer they both began choosing—depending upon their ambition, tiredness, or desire to bring something (such as a Frisbee, soccer ball, or a doll carriage) that they could not hold while riding a scooter—to sometimes walk instead. Both modes of transportation are great.

Our three favorite destinations are the River Run playground just north of 79th Street, the Hippo Playground just down the hill from Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Riverside at 89th street, and the Dinosaur Playground at 97th and Riverside. The River Run takes its name from the model of the Hudson River that springs from a fountain at the north end and heads south through the center of the playground. The playground has a gigantic sandbox, extensive jungle gym suitable for all ages, as well as a large swing set with both basket and strap swings. The only disadvantage of the wide variety of ages the playground can accommodate is that Riley cannot throw a Frisbee or kick a ball as he’d like to without possibly knocking over a toddler. Luckily, the enormous rock just outside the playground to the east tends to absorb his energies.

The problem is similar at the Hippo playground, however the fountains and shade seems to calm him down. Halina, meanwhile—since there’s water—rediscovers her inner mermaid. Riley’s new trick of climbing to the top of the swing-set is a bit too much for the younger kids, so next summer he’ll be too big for it. But it’s great to see him enjoy it now.

The Dinosaur Playground, which also has a terrific sprinkler area, will still be perfect next year. It is large enough that Riley will still be able to kick his soccer ball high and throw his Frisbee. There is a fountain more enormous than what you get at the River Run or the Hippo. The shady benches are also great for reading a book or working on a laptop, so long as you don’t need the Internet. We find the lack of Internet access makes it a particularly delightful spot. 

Home Again

Returning home, we have the choice of heading south on the path that winds around the back of the Dinosaur Playground and hooks north, then travel level till we have an enormous climb up to 116th Street. Or we can head up the cobbled path along Riverside Drive, which is a steady uphill but nowhere so steep as the former route. And then there’s the grocery shopping. As mentioned above, at 97th Street you will find what will seem like a secret path as Riverside Drive splits. As you head up towards Broadway, you will notice this is among the quietest streets you have ever walked on in densely packed Manhattan. It is very sunny, aside from the scaffolding that stretched a block this summer at its southward terminus. We generally cut over at 110th Street to hit the Westside Market. Grocery shopping is fun—Halina always likes to try the cheese samples. At this point they’re tired and hungry, but the scoot home is just one plus a dozen blocks.

What is the geography from apartment to playground in your neighborhoods?





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