You’ve spent an hour (or two) at the playground. The weather is not ideal. You toed the fine line between helicopter-parenting and preventing your kid from being a total jerk to somebody else’s kid. You made small talk with some nannies. You politely listened to a rather intense mom’s rant on how much her life has changed since she eliminated red dye from her children’s diets. You whipped out water bottles/band-aids/tissues/hand-sanitizer/cheddar bunnies like a champ. And all the while, you avoided eye contact with the crazy old guy who lives down the street. I see you, Mama/Papa. And I think you deserve a drink.
We put together a list of destination-worthy playgrounds and the nearby restaurants where you can reward yourself after conquering them. And if you want to skip the playground and just head to the kid-friendly restaurants, we’ve got you covered there, too.
Domino Park (15 River Street, Williamsburg)
Head to the northern end of this 5-acre recreation area on the site of the old Domino Sugar factory, and be on the lookout for a 26-foot-tall aqua-green silo marking the center of the playground. Inside the silo and its adjacent structures, kids will find an obstacle course that’s loosely based on the mechanics of a sugar refinery. Let the kids tire themselves out on the ramps, tunnels, slides, climbing webs, ladders, and catwalks before you make your way to Mekelburg’s Domino (319 Kent Avenue at South Third Street) for a hot chicken sandwich, a baked potato topped with slab bacon (pictured) or a Peking duck bahn mi and a pint (or two) from their incredibly well-curated 20-beer tap list. As for kid-friendly fare, they’ve got a straight-ahead “Mek & Cheese” made with shells, Gruyère, Raclette, and Parmigiano.
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Brooklyn Bridge Park (334 Furman St, Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO)
Everybody loves this place, and if it’s a sunny weekend afternoon, everybody’s gonna be there. Keep an eye open for celebrities frolicking with their children, but also steel yourself for chaos and crowds as you navigate the maze of hidden play spaces, each encircled by greenery. You’ll find a handful of swings, a couple of gigantic slides, an enormous sandbox equipped with miniature log cabins, and the amazing Water Lab, which is the closest thing you’ll find to a mountain stream in Brooklyn during the sticky summer heat. Anyone feeling a little over-stimulated might want to duck into a tiny nature trail with an entrance next to the Water Lab’s gate, and if your little ones are getting trampled, head to the toddler playground at Pier 1. The easiest food option here is Fornino, serving tasty pizzas, serviceable salads, and basic beers (Brooklyn Brewery and Peroni in plastic cups). They’ve also got a solid mac and cheese plate, and their crispy eggplant sandwich is one of our favorites around.
Extra credit: If you end up spending enough time here to span several meals, make your way to Popina (127 Court Street) for dinner. This homey Italian restaurant promises a mostly-pasta menu, upon which everything is absolutely delicious, a handful of classic cocktails, and a serious wine list. Plus, they’ve got a big backyard for kids who need to get any remaining sillies out.
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J.J. Byrne Playground (3rd Street between 4th Avenue and 5th Avenue, Park Slope)
This sizable park on the Park Slope-Gowanus border has a sculptural spider-shaped climbing gym for big kids, a gated toddler playground, playing fields for sports, some pretty gardens, and a fun sprinkler section in the summertime, but let’s be real: J.J. can get a little cray. We can’t count how many times we’ve seen a parent (or have BEEN the parent) who has lost sight of a curious toddler while pushing a younger sibling on the baby swings. Don’t worry — you will locate Eli/Penelope, but then you will need a margarita. You can get one, along with some Tex-Mex fare at El Habenero (315 5th Avenue). In addition to chips and quesadillas, they also serve burgers and fries, which should cover even the pickiest kid’s needs. Go for the gated outdoor seating if your kiddos are still wilding out.
Extra Credit: Enjoy the best frozen yogurt in Brooklyn at Culture, right across from the park. You can check their twitter feed for their daily flavors, but we always go for the tart-enough-for-an-adult key lime pie sundae with the tangy original flavored yogurt.
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St. Mary’s Park (422 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens)
Is it fair to call a playground under a subway overpass “destination-worthy”? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder here, but we say yes. St. Mary’s Playground opened in spring 2018 so its net-climbers, ladders, and slides still feel fresh and new. Plus, it’s not going to be nearly as crowded as the other spots we listed. But the real draw is its proximity to the Carroll Gardens location of Court Street Grocers. If you’ve got multiple adults on hand, somebody can easily make a breakfast or lunch run. The Ultimate Warrior sandwich, piled with pork shoulder, broccoli rabe, provolone, and pickled red peppers, seems like an appropriate reward for a weekend of parenting. There are also options for meat-adverse moms and dads, like the VegItalian Combo, a seeded roll filled with roasted cauliflower dressed up in pumpkin seed romesco, pickled fennel, and fresh arugula, all doused in a sumac vinaigrette. You can even treat the kids to some baked goods off the front counter. This joint doesn’t serve alcohol, though. Good thing your diaper bag is equipped with a flask.
Extra Credit: If you prefer a sit-down meal, you can bring civilized children to the backyard seating at Frankies 457 Spuntino, and on your way there, take a peek down Dennet Place, a slim alley of a block that runs parallel to Smith and Court between Luquer in Nelson. It’s famous among neighborhood kids for its Hobbit-sized doors.