Twins Charlotte and Ellie Traina enjoy Firefighters Park in Great Neck...

Twins Charlotte and Ellie Traina enjoy Firefighters Park in Great Neck Plaza on March 12. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Long Island playgrounds with themes can transform everyday parks into imaginary lands.

In a pirate ship-themed playground in North Babylon, an ordinary slide can become a place to walk a plank and glide into the sea. A standard rope ladder in a castle-themed playground in Sands Point might become an escape route from a witch’s tower.

Playground equipment shaped like everything from firehouses to tree houses can inspire endless ideas for creative adventures. Many themed playgrounds on Long Island are surrounded by lakes, gazebos, fields and gardens as well. 

The playgrounds are often a short distance from a library where kids can read a book about what they’ve just pretended to be. If little ones imagined being firefighters, check out a book called, “A Day With Firefighters” by Jan Kottke. Find out what firefighters wear and the equipment they use. Nassau County residents can use their library cards to borrow a book from any Nassau County library. Suffolk County residents can do the same in Suffolk.

Here are four themed playgrounds with libraries nearby. Which one sparks your imagination?


At the entrance to the playground in Phelps Lane Park (North Babylon), you’ll notice a sign that says, “Pirates only. No trespassing. All others will walk the plank.” The playground is shaped like a huge pirate ship, with a deck made of a series of platforms connected by ramps.

While bopping from one side of the ship to the other, kids can manipulate plastic canons, steer the ship's helm, wave up at a pirate flag and crow’s nest, prepare to walk a plank and slide downward. There are numerous ways to get onto the ship — steps, ladders made of chains, and even a boulder kids can climb.

Marcella Repetto, recreation specialist at the Town of Babylon, says she often brings her niece and nephew to the pirate ship. “They love playing hide and seek there because it has so many alcoves and places to duck underneath,” Repetto says.

The pirate playground overlooks other parts of the park that can inspire imagination. There’s a lake filled with wildlife, a baseball field, swings and a contraption that looks like a combination of a giant spider and alien creature.

Take it to the next level and walk two blocks to the North Babylon Public Library for books about pirates. One favorite is called, “Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch" (by Emma J. Virjan). Will Captain Cat invite three birds for lunch, or will they become her lunch?

LIBRARY NEARBY: North Babylon Public Library; 815 Deer Park Ave., North Babylon; 631-669-4020;

INFO: Phelps Lane Park: 281 Phelps Lane, North Babylon; 631-893-2100;


The Woodland Playground in the Sands Point Preserve Conservancy looks like a castle. It’s modeled after a real one on the grounds. The playground castle has four towers, each with a turret, castle-style roof and flag. Explore the castle by climbing up wooden bridges, steps, ramps, ladders and walls and going through tunnels and down spiral slides. There’s a 75-foot zip line tucked under the trees, perhaps the perfect way for a princess to zoom over and save a prince.

Kids can also ride on rocker spinners, huddle in a reading nook or play tether ball. The price of admission includes use of miles of hiking trails, a beachfront and a freshwater pond in the preserve. In the spring, hop on a trackless train. A driver will take kids and adults on a 10-minute ride around the playground and other parts of the property. The train runs every 15 minutes on weekends in spring 1 to 5 p.m., $6 per person.

After playing in a castle and its surroundings, read more about it all at the Port Washington Library. “If You Were A Kid in a Medieval Castle,” by Josh Gregory, covers castle life long ago — what people ate and the instruments they played.

LIBRARY NEARBY: Port Washington Public Library; 1 Library Dr., Port Washington; 516-883-4400;

INFO: Woodland Playground in Sands Point Preserve; 127 Middle Neck Rd., Sands Point; 516-571-7901;; preserve entrance fee includes playground/all grounds. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday March 29 to May 21 and Sept. 6 to Nov. 5; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday and Labor Day, May 24 to Labor Day. $15 carload, $4 per walk-in. 


The playground area in Wyandanch's Geiger Park looks like an enormous tree house. There are three sections with brown siding to resemble bark, topped with green leaflike roofs. Climb into the house using steps, poles, a mini rocking climbing wall, a challenging metal ladder, or a ladder made of ropes woven together like a spider web.

The tree house overlooks a lake with wildlife, a row of swings, including one for children with disabilities, and an arts and crafts shed. The Carlls River Botanical Garden opens April 11 (free) is just steps away.

Afterward, take a four-minute drive to the Wyandanch Public Library. It’s filled with books about tree houses. In the Andy Griffiths "Treehouse" series, characters live in super-multi-story tree house with everything from a refrigerator to a trampoline.

The Eye Opener tree house at the Long Island Aquarium...

The Eye Opener tree house at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead on March 12. Credit: Morgan Campbell

An ultimate tree house is located inside the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. It's called the Eye Opener and lives up to its name: a huge, wooden structure with a 60-foot activity center inside. All levels of the tree house are connected by bridges, twisty slides, and a 62-step stairway leading to the top. Look out over the Peconic River. When you’ve had your fill of tree climbing, the aquarium is at your feet. After paying general aquarium admission ($29.99 ages 3 to 12, $42.99 13 and older), the playground is an add-on: $12 per child, free for adults. Eye Opener at the LI Aquarium: 431 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-208-9200;

LIBRARY NEARBY: Wyandanch Public Library; 14 S 20th St., Wyandanch; 631-643-4848

INFO: Geiger Lake Memorial Park; Grand Boulevard, Wyandanch; 631-893-2100;


Ethan Traina plays on a dalmation statue at The Firefighters...

Ethan Traina plays on a dalmation statue at The Firefighters Park on Grace Avenue in Great Neck featuring fire department themed equipment for kids to play on March 12. Credit: Jeff Bachner

In Great Neck Plaza, you’ll find Firefighters Park. It has two mini fire trucks and a fire station. Kids can climb into the fire trucks, turn the steering wheels and slide down; or climb to the top of the fire station on the steps, rock walls and ladders. To get from one side of the firehouse to the other, cross a bridge made of ropes.

Ellie Traina, 7, of Sea Cliff, loves to slide down a pole in the middle of the fire station. She says, “My dad is a firefighter, and the pole reminds me of the firehouse where he works.”

Kids can continue their adventures on a spacious lawn in the park, inside a gazebo, or on the swings.

Nearby in the Station Library, read a heartwarming firefighting book of fiction, “The Firefighters' Thanksgiving,” by Maribeth Boelts. Firefighters receive so many emergency phone calls, they don’t have time to eat their Thanksgiving dinner … or do they?

LIBRARY NEARBY: Great Neck Library Station Branch: 26 Great Neck Rd., Great Neck; 516-466-8055;

INFO: Firefighters Park: 30 Grace Ave., Great Neck; 516-487-7665;; A memorial and statue honoring Jonathan L. Ielpi, stands at the easternmost side of the park. Ielpi was a Great Neck resident, assistant fire chief for Vigilant Fire Company and a New York City firefighter, who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

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