One day early this spring my two-year-old son Jackson woke up and asked me a question about how he was going to spend his day.
It was a Monday morning, so my wife and I were headed to work and him to daycare, but something else was on his mind.
“I go park?,” he asked, his voice quiet and optimistic.
“You have to go to school today,” I responded.
“NO,” he said loudly, and with concern. “I GO PARK.”
Playgrounds are the little man’s latest obsession, following in the footsteps of animated Disney films, binkies and Pirate’s Booty. When our boy is into something, he really goes all in. I once watched “The Incredibles” 10 times in a week.
With winter over and summer on the horizon, I recognize the television sets must be turned off. So we’ve started filling our time at the many great parks the North Fork has to offer. Jack can’t get enough.
Hoping to find even more great parks for Jack, I asked the rest of the northforker staff for suggestions for the best playgrounds on the North Fork. Some we’d been to, others we discovered in the process.
Here’s Jack and the northforker team’s favorite playgrounds.
Orient Beach State Park
40000 Main Road, Orient
With three playground sets and other equipment for kids of all ages to enjoy, this bayfront state park has it all. The playgrounds’ close proximity to the water is an added bonus. There’s also plenty of picnic space and a large pavilion nearby.
Unique feature: The playgrounds have a nautical theme, including a fish kids can crawl through.
The quote: “This is the North Fork’s best park and its sprawling playground is just another reason why.”
Veteran’s Beach Park
1280 Peconic Bay Boulevard, Mattituck
This Mattituck Parks District park features two adjacent playground sets, one specifically for children under 5. Its set for older children is one of the largest continuous playground pieces on the North Fork. Also located on a bay beach, though a good distance from the water, it features a small gazebo and plenty of picnic tables.
Unique feature: A climbing wall on the south side of the larger playground set.
The quote: “This is one of those playgrounds where 30 minutes into it your kid can still find something new to play with.”
Wading River Beach
131 Creek Road, Wading River
A small playground at Riverhead Town’s westernmost beach, it’s a parents’ favorite for its Soundfront sunset views. The playground itself is modest but features three slides for children of various ages and a long handicapped accessible ramp that connects with a nice-sized gazebo providing much-needed shade on a hot day.
Unique feature: Its location, tucked away north of downtown Wading River, where the sights don’t get much nicer (so long as you’re not facing the power plant.)
The quote: “It’s worth a trip for the views alone. There’s a reason so many cars are parked there at sundown.”
Miamogue Point Park
Front Street, South Jamesport
Designed for kids under 5, this Riverhead Town park is an underutilized hidden gem located near the bay in Jamesport. Because it’s often empty and doesn’t have any equipment for older kids, it’s a great place to test the waters for a younger child who has never visited a playground.
Unique feature: It’s the only park we’re aware of on the North Fork that caters specifically to younger children.
The quote: “I wish more people knew about this four-year-old park, which was mostly paid for through a state parks grant.”
Fifth Street Park
Foot of Fifth Street, Greenport
Another multi-playground park, your kids will probably find themselves gravitating to the larger modern plastic set and its double slide. The park also features basketball courts and picnic tables, and is located on a bayfront beach.
Unique Feature: The olden wooden ship playset, which screams Greenport.
The quote: “This is one of those great parks that, though not large, has a little something for everyone.”
Reichert Family Community Playground
Tasker Park, Peconic Lane, Peconic
The first Southold Town playground to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this park does a lot with a little. It has a swing set specifically for kids under 5 and its largest playground set features four different slides. The only park on this list not near a beach, it’s a great alternative on a cold day.
Unique Feature: A race car that will make your young ones feel like they’re at the Daytona 500.
The quote: “This is one of those playgrounds that feels small until your kid gets in there and never gets bored.”
This story was originally published in the summer 2016 edition of northforker Kids magazine