Safari Playground

Project Progress

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Complete

Our reconstruction of Safari Playground will maintain its beloved theme while introducing new and enhanced play features and improving accessibility.

Safari Playground, between Central Park West and the West Drive at 91st Street, features sweeping views of the Reservoir. The original playground in this location was built in 1936, and was one of many playgrounds constructed inside the Park’s perimeter under the direction of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. It initially featured swings, slides, sand tables, and a water spray feature.

Rebuilt in 1997 as Safari Playground, it is now the only Park playground that does not contain any traditional play equipment such as slides, swings, and sandboxes. Instead, the playground features hippopotamus sculptures set within a “river” of safety surfacing in a pattern evocative of flowing water. Boulders and a lone canoe contribute to the safari theme. A spray feature is located in the south end of the playground and provides opportunity for water play during warm months. Other play elements include two treehouse structures consisting of elevated wooden platforms built around large trees.

While Safari Playground is geared toward children ages 2 to 5, children of all ages enjoy its openness and the opportunity it provides for unstructured play. The sculptures encourage exploration, climbing, and imaginative play.

This reconstruction will update and enhance the existing play experience, create a wheelchair-accessible route to the playground from the Park perimeter, and better integrate the playground with the Park.

Our work includes:

  • Enhancing the existing Safari theme by constructing a series of play mounds around the central play space
  • Incorporating wood climbing elements, platforms, and slides in the largest play mound at the northern end of the playground
  • Introducing new play canoes, and replicating the existing hippo sculptures, and reinstalling them on safety surfacing that transitions from blue tones representing the river to brow representing dry ground
  • Constructing a user-activated water spray feature in the river-themed area at the southern end of the playground.
  • Creating a wider border between the playground and path, which will enhance the connection between the playground and the Park landscape
  • Replacing the seven-foot steel picket fence, which was installed in the early 1940s, with a four-foot fence
  • Regrading the entrance path from West 90th Street and building a wheelchair-accessible ramp set into the restored landscape.

This project is part of the Conservancy’s effort to guide the continued stewardship of Central Park’s 21 playgrounds, as outlined in Plan for Play: A Framework for Rebuilding and Managing Central Park’s Playgrounds.

Left to right: Playground before reconstruction; hippo sculptures before reconstruction; water feature before reconstruction
  • Our Process

    Restoring Central Park is a collaborative effort. Our team of historians, planners, landscape architects, and architects work in partnership with the public to preserve the Park’s original ideals while enhancing the experience for today’s visitors.

    Learn More