Grading the Playgrounds

Sun. Temperatures above freezing. Green on the ground.

Spring has arrived.

Now that Old Man Winter has been defeated and has fled, your kids are no doubt aching to get outdoors.

Well you’re in luck, because there are a number of toddlerific playgrounds up and down Route 9, just perfect for little proto-people to climb, swing, slide, and play.

But which playground best suits your needs? Where are the swings, the tunnel slides, the sand pits? Picking the right playground is impossible without all the pertinent information at your fingertips. I recently took my 2-year old out of storage and visited a bunch of public playgrounds in Irvington, Tarrytown, and Sleepy Hollow to bring this vital information to you.

Taxter Road Park (Irvington):

This playgrounds features a single play structure with a faux-rock climbing wall and both a double-straight slide and a twisty slide, a swing set equipped with one big-kid swing and one baby swing, and a big green dinosaur. All lovingly situated over a bed of wood chips.

It’s not the worst play area in the Tri-State area, but it lacks anything special to make it a real destination. Basically, it’s not too hot and not too cold; the Goldilocks of Playgrounds, if you will. Plus, stashed out on Taxter Road, it’s not exactly smack dab in the middle of town. Basically, if you live nearby, it’s a fine way to spend half-an-hour, but if you don’t live nearby, there are others that are more worthy of the drive.

Station Road Park (Irvington):

Brand-spanking new to the playground arena is this cheerful, well-designed destination on the corner of Station Road and Broadway. It’s got a separate sand pit for the diggers, and a wood-chip lot with swings (two baby, two big-kid), an elder-tot play structure (with a big twisty slide, poles, an alligator slide, and a wizard’s chamber), an even older kid structure (with a mammoth slide, a big twisty slide, secret trap doors, and lots of places to climb and heights from which to fall), some bell chimes, an alphabet board, and Mt. Lump, an awesome, three-foot high construction that every kid will want to scale.

Basically, though it seems small and ungainly, this place rocks, and kids love it. Plus, it’s new, so it’s undiscovered. Until now. Now, I’ve gone and discovered it. Ruining it for everyone. Sorry.

Scenic Hudson Park at Irvington (Irvington):

Just past the Bridge Street Complex on the other side of the train tracks you’ll find Scenic Hudson Park at Irvington. This is actually two playgrounds, separated by two adult-sized softball fields. The first playground is for tiny people. One structure (about two feet off the ground), with straight slides, standing alone in a wood-chip pit next to a small sandbox.

Walk past the softball fields and you reach the big-kid play area. Again, one structure on a bed of wood-chips, but this structure is about six feet off the ground. Once you climb up there (there are no easy stairs, you have to climb) there are two large, wavy slides, plus numerous poles, ladders and whatnot. The only thing at ground level is a big, open lion’s mouth so kids can imagine they’re being eaten alive by the King of the Jungle. Always a plus.

There are no swings at either play area. The kiddie play area is boring for tots above two or three, the big-kid play area is inaccessible for kids under four or five. The overall ambience is awesome, with the Hudson on one side and the Metro-North tracks on the other. It’s a wonder some kids don’t just spontaneously combust from joy.

Matthiessen Park (Irvington):

This is the King of Playgrounds. If you go to one playground this year, go to Matthiessen Park. But be ready to flash your Irvington ID on the weekends, or claim to know someone from Irvington, or see if you and the kids can outrun the guard and lose him among the picnic tables.

Why is Matthiessen Park fantastic? Because it sits on the water? Because the awesome play structure pit is lovingly shaded by trees that for some reason never seem to drop any leaves into the pit? Because the flooring is sand, glorious sand? Yes. Yes. Yes. Basically, somebody did this right.

The main structure includes 2 baby swings, and two mid-size play structures. Between them, there is a twisty slide, a double-straight slide, a tunnel slide, steering wheels, and lots of climbing bars in various configurations. While there is no specific little-kid structure, my two-year old happily scampers all over both structures while my four-year old thoroughly enjoys them as well. They’re simply…

awesome.

A few yards away is a wood-chip-covered, big-kid swing pit, with four swings. There’s also an obvious horseshoe pit, but it’s BYOH (Bring Your Own Horseshoes) and in need of some tender care.

The only drawbacks to this childhood Eden are the geese. They stay out of the sand, but reaching the play area requires navigating a minefield. But what’s life without a little risk? Bring extra wipes.

Glenville Woods Park (Tarrytown):

Off 119 just east of 87 is this little playground, perfect for the under-2 set. It contains one play structure with some bars and a couple of small slides. While not enough to keep a 3 or 4-year old occupied for more than ten minutes, this can be the perfect place for your toddler to unwind in relative safety.

This is a largely underutilized playground which is nearly always empty, so parents looking for a place to escape the madness that can infiltrate a bigger public playground should think about giving this place a shot.

Pilla Landing (Tarrytown):

Down by the water past the train station sits this awesome little playground. It’s not the most diverse play area around, only one structure, but what a structure. Crafted in the shape of a boat, it features two tunnel slides as well as a stash of wheels, bars, and ladders ‚Äî all over a wood-chip flooring.

Eventually, Pilla’s claim to fame will be location, location, location. Right on the water, with the Tappan Zee Bridge as a backdrop, and surrounded by beautiful grounds and trees and so forth. At the moment, however, Pilla’s main drawback is… location, location, location, as the ever-present sounds of massive construction dominate the area. Still, if your youngster likes to watch huge construction trucks do their thing, this can be a big plus.

Patriot’s Park (Tarrytown & Sleepy Hollow):

The two villages share this park, with the boundary between them bisecting it right down the middle. Over on the Tarrytown side is a playground consisting of a swing pit with four swings (two baby, two big-kid) and a play structure pit with two play structures. The smaller structure has two slides (one of which dumps kids out about three feet above the ground as if designed by an ambulance-chasing pediatrician) and a steering wheel. The larger structure has a big twisty slide, a big straight slide, a huge corkscrew, and various other bars and steps. Both pits are covered in wood-chips.

There are many stone and wood benches surrounding the play structure pit, as well as a couple of chess boards etched into stone pedestals. Because when you bring your pre-K to the playground, you’re usually comfortable enough to let him or her run loose unsupervised long enough to get in a good game of chess. Right?

Reverend Sykes Park (Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow):

Straddling the border of Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, and McDonald’s is the area’s one truly urban playground. Surrounded by a cast-iron fence with a parking lot on one side and a busy street on the other, Sykes Park is also the only public park in the area with that funky, sponge-like flooring that lets kids fall from great heights only to bounce back up to their starting positions.

The main section features two play structures connected by a jiggly-bridge. There’s a twisty slide, a fireman’s pole, a small corkscrew, and so forth. There’s a separate area with four swings (two baby and two big-kid) as well as a little baby dinosaur jungle gym.

Kingsland Point Park (Sleepy Hollow):

This place rocks but can be pretty exclusive. If you’re a Sleepy Hollow resident, or can bluff your way past the guard shack on busy weekends, treat yourself to the most benches-per-playground in the area.

9 benches surround this wood-chip utopia with picturesque views of the Hudson. No swings, but there are 3 play structures: two of your standard slides/steps/ladder types (one for big kids and one for little kids) and one oddly-shaped, old-style jungle gym with unpadded bars and plenty of places for climbing kids to smack their faces and bring on a visit from the tooth fairy.

Speaking of teeth, the playground also has, well, teeth. Big, white, plaster teeth. Seven of them, of various sizes (I think the bigger ones are supposed to be molars), sticking out of the ground. In fact, the little path from the parking lot leads you directly into the back of this mouth of teeth, as if the parking lot has to regurgitate you onto the playground.

As an extra-special bonus, the Tarrytown Lighthouse, which is here in Sleepy Hollow, is accessed from the park. So if the kids get bored with the teeth, you can visit the lighthouse, open about two hours every other Sunday in months that contain the letter “U.” Or something like that.

Devries Park (Sleepy Hollow):

This playground, located on the southern end of Philipsburg Manor, is covered in sand, which makes it kind of retro. It has a kiddie structure that my two-year old already ignores, and a big-kid structure complete with a twisty slide, corkscrew, fireman’s pole, and jiggly bridge. There are two baby swings next to the structures, and a second sand pit a few feet away contains four big-kid swings. The main area also contains a spinning wheel of death and a stegosaurus-shaped jungle gym, which is really cool to climb except that the rungs start on the ground at the tail and then end at the head, leaving your child hanging two feet above the ground.

As an added bonus, the Metro-North runs right by the park, so every train-obsessed boy and girl will be totally enthralled every couple of minutes.

Teenagers looking for a creepy place to make-out, hook-up, or whatever they do these days, will love the old, rusted, closed-down train trestle that overlooks the park. Because nothin’ says lovin’ like rusty metal that’ll give way any second.

Douglas Park (Sleepy Hollow):

This quaint little playground is hidden at the end of New Broadway. It features a massive swing pit (sand flooring) with eight swings (four baby and four big-kid). A miniature play structure rests just above, manly enough not to need any flooring aside from nature’s own dirt. The structure has three small slides, including a tiny little tunnel slide. It’s just so cute. Like it thinks it’s a real, live play structure, and nobody wants to hurt its feelings. The whole thing is maybe a foot and a half off the ground. So adorable.

Lastly, the playground features a tire swing, one of those plastic things that spins all around and in any direction. Basically, you shove three or four kids onto this thing, give it a spin, and whoever stays on the longest wins.

The best time to visit this park is whenever the trees have enough leaves on them to mask the fact that your kids are playing a stone’s-throw away from the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. ‘Cause for my money, the idea of all those dead people watching your kids play day after day… that’s just creepy.

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About the Author: David Neilsen