UPPER WEST SIDE — With dozens of sprinklers in Central and Riverside Parks, West Side parents have the enviable problem of deciding where to take their children to splash around, cool off and entertain themselves for hours.
And there's something about playing in water that always satisfies, said au pair Isabella Gierten, 18, who is always on the lookout for activities for the two girls in her care. When "there's nothing else to do," a playground with water is usually the answer, she said.
So, whether your hot and sticky kids are looking to get soaked or are taking their first tip-toe into water, DNAinfo New York has found the best sprinklers in the neighborhood for everyone.
Arthur Ross Terrace
The terrace is an open secret among neighborhood parents and a pleasant surprise for American Museum of Natural History visitors. Set up a flight of stairs on the north side of the museum — directly behind the planetarium, which provides a marvelous backdrop, is a wide open space for kids to frolic among dozens of water jets — spraying up into the sky.
Parents dot a grassy bank running along the terrace, as though they were in a Seurat painting, or sit at tables with umbrellas while children run along the water area or play more quietly at a water trough at the end.
"It's beautiful. There's lots of space and the scenery is awesome," said Joy Svennevik, who brought her children, ages 2 and 4, to the sprinklers and said that children of all ages would enjoy the experience.
Sunscreen and hats are important, though, because as Svennevik remarked, "it doesn't have any shade cover" for kids darting from sprinkler to sprinkler.
Other parents, like Lara Salemi, praised the ease of visibility.
"I love that it's flat and large," she said.
Elephant Playground, Located at Inside Riverside Playground, West 76th Street at Riverside Drive
After nearly a $1 million in renovations, which concluded last summer and made the space both more challenging to big children and more accessible, Elephant Playground is as popular as ever with West Side parents — and its iconic elephant sprinklers is no exception.
So even though parts of the playground were redesigned to become more aerobic for kids, the sprinkler area remained the same. It is also cooling for bigger kids yet manageable for smaller ones.
Five elephant sculptures, which also make for good climbing, spray water out of their trunks into a central area. It's possible to stand right in their stream and get fully doused or, for those who are a little more water-shy, to dance around them.
For Daniel Vos, who came with his toddler daughter on a hot day, the small size of the elephant sprinklers was appealing.
"This is a little nicer for toddlers," he explained. "This gets you wet a little slower."
His daughter ventured around the sides and felt the spray but didn't stand right in front of it, he explained, and he liked her having those options.
Mariner's Playground, Inside Central Park at West 85th Street and Central Park West
The sprinklers in this small playground, built for toddlers and children up to 5 years old, are enhanced by its nautical theme, with play structures made to resemble boats complete with steering wheels and port holes.
Parents can relax on the fully shaded benches knowing their kids are in full view in a contained sprinkler area with gentle water streams.
Heckscher Playground, Inside Central Park at 62nd Street, mid-park
This sprawling, 1.8-acre playground, Central Park's largest and oldest, has the potential to overwhelm — but its capaciousness also makes it a must-visit, parents say.
Water rains down from on top of a wall and flows into troughs cut into the top of low-sloped walls that toddlers like to walk and splash through. Jets of water also stream upward from in-ground fountains, making for a dynamic experience in an area that gets easily crowded.
"It's very easy to lose your child. I just watch [them] very closely," said au pair Gierten.
But she said, "they love it. It's refreshing."
For smaller kids who don't want to get soaked or parents who don't like the mob scene, there is a separate sprinkler system a little eastward inside the playground with gentle streams in a sandbox area.