Riverside Park (South)
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Riverside Drive at 100th Street, Manhattan, NY
Hours:Dawn to 1 A.M. daily
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: All destination playgrounds (see below); tennis courts (Riverside Drive and 96th Street)
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at playgrounds and throughout park; Boat Basin Café at 79th Street; vendors throughout park

With big playgrounds, monuments, and gardens, this area of Riverside Park has something for everyone.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Riverside Park
Photo by: Wikimedia Commons/Jim Henderson

Where Riverside Park North has playgrounds dotting its street level, Riverside Park South has monuments, starting with the 1913 Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street and ending with the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument at 72nd Street. The high dome of the 1902 Soldiers and Sailors Monument, at 89th Street, is a skyline landmark when you’re topside in the Hudson. Other monuments are dedicated to Joan of Arc (93rd Street) and Robert Ray Hamilton (76th Street).

In the middle level, Riverside Park South is a series of gardens and lawns with paved paths that connect to big destination playgrounds. These are the Dinosaur (98th Street), the Hippo (91st Street), River Run (82nd Street), and the Elephant (86th Street). You can descend from street level to the middle level every few blocks, and you can cross the Henry Hudson Parkway to reach the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway at 100th, 92nd, 83rd, 79th, and 72nd streets.

And all throughout, beautifully landscaped paths take you wherever you want to go. As you explore this part of the park, it’s almost impossible to imagine the ashes from which it rose—but do try. In his masterpiece, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro describes a 1913-era Riverside Park thus: “…the ‘park’ was nothing but a vast low-lying mass of dirt and mud. Running through its length was the four-track bed of the NY Central.… At seventy-ninth and ninety-sixth streets, untreated garbage mounded toward the sky; the Sanitation Department used those areas as dumping grounds from which the garbage was transferred to scrows which towed it out to the open sea, but somehow the rate of transfer was never fast enough to clear the refuse away entirely.”

Eventually, city parks commissioner Robert Moses would change all that, and today, Riverside Park serves as inspiration for many parkland redevelopment efforts.

Remember: Dramatic escarpments are near the River Run Playground, and though you may see people sunning themselves up there, children shouldn’t climb the rocks. Broken glass is often in the crevices.

Plan B:

Head to the northern section of Riverside Park for playgrounds of a more manageable size—especially for young children—or to the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway for a wonderful promenade.


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