Originally written by David Lewis (2005) and updated by kidHaven (2013) Click on street address to see a map of playground location.
The Biggest and the Best Playgrounds
- East Rock Park (41 Cold Spring Street) actually offers two playgrounds. The better-known one is in the large field bounded by Orange, Livingston, and Cold Spring Street, near the M bus line. It has separate swing-sets and a fully-fenced playground. There is a bathroom building. This playground was renovated in the Fall of 2002 to the new, happy-plastic standards. The lesser-known and smaller playground is next to the softball fields along English Drive and near the access trail to the top of East Park.
- Edgewood Park (720 Edgewood Avenue) is an extensive park with all sorts of features, including walking trails and a skate park. The playground is just north of Chapel Street along Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, on the F bus line. There are several play structures and swing installations. Most of the structures are geared toward older kids, but there is a separate toddler “room”. There is a also a separate water park that kids can splash in during warm weather.
- Hannah’s Dream (350 Woodward Avenue) is a huge playground in the huge East Shore Park, not to be confused with East Rock Park. Both are in New Haven, but Hannahs’ Dream is in the eastern part of New Haven, across a bit of water. It feels like a different city and far away, but the access is by the highway so it takes no time to get there on I95-North to exit 50 (the second exit across the Q bridge). Turn immediately onto Woodward Avenue for 1 mile south. The entrance is at the corner of Hervey Street. The park can also be reached by the G bus line that goes down Townsend Avenue to Lighthouse Park. East Shore Park has an ice rink, tennis courts, access to the water, and several playing fields. Hannah’s Dream includes a sandbox (bring your own toys), several swing stations, and several play structures, including half a dozen slides. One section is for younger kids. There is a portable toilet in warmer months. Note that the park is not fully fenced and that Woodward Avenue is busy.
- Lighthouse Park (2 Lighthouse Point Road) is famous for its beach and its old-style carousel. There’s an extensive newer playground. With the new structures and a fabulous new water park, Lighthouse Park becomes a real destination (there’s a $10/car entry sometimes for non-residents). There are bathrooms, with the level of cleanliness one usually associates with beach facilities.
- Larry’s Playground at Bassett Park (398 Waite Street) is at the corner of Waite and Ridge Road in Hamden, on the M bus line (J is good, too). The park is extensive, featuring several softball fields, basketball hoops, and bathrooms. The playground itself has several areas, including a sandbox (with donated toys already there), a gazebo used for evening concerts over the summer, and a few different play structures, including one for younger kids. Note that the playground is not fully fenced.
- DeNicola Park (130 Treadwell Street) is on Treadwell Street in southern Hamden, just over the city line north of New Haven. It is right on the O bus line and near the J bus line up Whitney Avenue. The playground was renovated in 2001 and is in great shape. It features several different play structures, including one for younger kids. The centerpiece of the playground is a small, wooden train engine. The playground area is fully fenced, but the several gates tend to be open, particularly when the Good Humor truck rolls around. The park also has basketball hoops and a cinder walking track. There is a portable toilet in warmer months. Some people prefer DeNicola Park to Larry’s Playground, especially on hot days because DeNicola is nestled in pine trees and thus, shady and cooler.
- Millrock Park (Millrock Road) features a playground. It’s near the Middle School, at the intersection of Mill Rock Road and Winchester and on the O bus line. The playground is fairly large, with several separate installations and structures that are in good shape.
Several local schools in New Haven and Hamden have good playgrounds which can be used when school is not in session — which means most of the time, when weekends, evenings, holidays, and summers are added up. Note that most lack the toddler swings with bucket seats.
- The Hooker School playground (180 Canner Street) is tucked behind the school, a small brick building at the corner of Canner and Livingston, near the J bus line. It is one of the few playgrounds in the East Rock area and attracts a cluster of families in the late afternoon.
- Spring Glen School (1908 Whitney Avenue) has a large playground, off Whitney, near the J bus line. It has a several story spider web climber, and several unusual climbing and spinning structures.
- St. Rita’s (1601 Whitney Avenue) is in the Spring Glen part of Hamden and has a large playground. It’s behind the school, off Whitney on Gilles, near the J bus line. There is a separate “tot lot” on the Whitney side of the building, not visible from the parking lot. There are no swings here.
Some Hidden Playgrounds
- Wooster Square Park (Wooster Square) has a great expanse of green space and lots of squirrels, but no playground. There is one on the next street, though, on Wooster Street near Olive (use the Chapel Street bus lines). It’s small but well-designed, and it was completed in 2001, and is perfect for waiting in line at Pepe’s, or after a visit to the Wooster Square Farmer’s Market.
- closest to Yale’s campus (Ivy Street) this playground and splash pad opened in 2008. It is located right next to Yale Health.
- A playground at the corner of Humphrey and East was updated in June 2002. This playground is very close to the dense East Rock neighborhood, but it is hidden by the I-91 overpass. It offers a small toddler structure and a separate, general structure. The two together have six slides, including two of the steepest ones anywhere. There are no swings.
- St. Ann’s playground (Pine Rock Avenue) is not hidden at all. It is in plain view, but in that far-off, western, nebulous area forming the border between Hamden and New Haven. Despite its name, it’s not a private playground for a religious school but one of the sites of the Hamden Parks and Recreation department. The playground is on Pine Rock Avenue, near Arch. It is small, but clean and well-organized. The area also offers baseball fields. There are warm-weather portable toilets.
- The Brooksvale Park (524 Brookvale Avenue) is in the northernmost part of Hamden, near the Cheshire border. The park offers its own paved and unpaved trails — and they nearly connect to the Farmington Canal multi-use paths. There’s a lot of running-around space. And there’s a very small playground. But the big feature for toddlers are the animals — chickens, peacocks, sheep, rabbits, and goats, all in easily-visitable outdoor pens.
Other playgrounds recommended by kidHaven readers:
Cheshire: Kids in Motion at Bartlem Park (Main Street)
Milford: Bodie’s Place at Eisenhower Park a new (2011) Boundless Playground, Bodie’s Place is a really great playground for all ages with a small kid playscape and a big kid playscape equipped with web climber. This playground is an all accessible playground. Swings, sandbox, pavillion, clean bathrooms (not Port-a-Potties!) & decent morning shade make this a playground worth a visit. (North Street)
West Haven: Painter Park Playground - seasonal, call #203-937-3651 for Spring open date/Winter close date (190 Kelsey Avenue)
Know a great playground that’s not listed here? Send name of playground and a short description in a comment or email, firstname.lastname@example.org