Ithaca likes to play. Though Ithaca is best known as a hub of higher education, you will find Ithacans and their families like to play, dance, perform and explore outdoors. With this spirit, visitors can explore some of the best playgrounds in the Finger Lakes area. In addition to the playgrounds in the ares's beautiful state parks, outdoor play spaces are tucked in all over the great Ithaca community. Here’s a roundup for those traveling with kids.
Stewart ParkBack to Top of List
At the southern end of Cayuga Lake, Stewart Park is a beautiful outdoor space for anyone to enjoy. In addition to no fees at this city park, it is also a stop on the paved Cayuga Waterfront Trail – with access to the Cayuga Lake Blueway Trail – that connects to the Ithaca Farmers Market, the Ithaca Children’s Garden and Cass Park. The best part is the large playground, much of which is accessible to people of all abilities, with places to picnic.
Science Park and Curiosity Playground at SciencenterBack to Top of List
A fully interactive outdoor experience where children will engage in everything from music to physics challenges. This wooden playground is counted among the exhibits. A very reasonably priced children’s museum, you will find lots to do here -- especially for children 2 to 12. Closed on Mondays. Child-friendly bathrooms are available inside the Sciencenter building. Wheelchair and stroller accessible in most areas.
Ithaca Commons PlaygroundBack to Top of List
The Commons has more than shops and restaurants, it has an accessible playground sure to keep the kids entertained in between stores. The playhouse and nature-inspired elements are a unique touch in this center-of-the-city playground, and the soft, rubberized surfaces ensures that any possible bumps have a cushion.
Taughannock Falls State Park PlaygroundBack to Top of List
This newly expanded playground overlooks the shore of Cayuga Lake, with right-size spaces for kids of all ages. The playground has added more amenities, with updated features for little and big kids, all among a wood-chipped surface. There are some nice shady spots with benches for caregivers, and more spaces for grilling and picnicking than had been available in the past.
Buttermilk Falls State Park PlaygroundBack to Top of List
Kids will enjoy crossing the bridge with a view of the lower falls to find this playground in a flat and shady area. Buttermilk Falls has a wonderful picnic area, with a natural swimming hole when a lifeguard is on duty. Parents should take note that bathrooms are not near the playground, so plan accordingly.
Cass ParkBack to Top of List
There are several small playgrounds – one next to the Ithaca Children’s Garden and another across the road by the playing fields – at Cass Park. There are wonderful places for a picnic in between, and you’ll be able to see plenty of boaters along the inlet. During the summer, check out the municipal pool, too; in the winter, there are public ice skating hours daily at the rink.
Ithaca Children's GardenBack to Top of List
Give your child a chance to immerse themselves in nature in this anything-goes playground. This fenced-in space offers a place for kids to see gardens growing, imagine themselves as a bird, climb on a giant turtle, see diverse ecosystems, make music, and let their creativity run wild in the loose parts play area. Located at Cass Park at the Ithaca end of the Black Diamond Trail and across the road from the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, there are plenty of non-motorized ways to access the garden, which also has ample parking. There are bathrooms located just outside the garden space.
Robert H. Treman State Park PlaygroundBack to Top of List
When you go through the main entrance at Robert Treman, on your way to the lower falls, stop by the wonderful playground on the left side of the road. There are great play structures here, and the kiddos can go cool off in the swimming area during warm weather months.
Myers ParkBack to Top of List
On the east side of Cayuga Lake, Lansing’s Myers Park has lake access, picnic space, and a place to rent boats for paddling. A big highlight is its expansive playground, with equipment for children of all ages, allowing for hours of fun play. There is a small fee to pay for parking.
Varna Community CenterBack to Top of List
With a fenced-in play area, the playground at the Varna Community Center is a great option for parents with younger and multiple children. The toddler area has right-sized options with swings, log steps and a slide, all at ground level. Big kids have plenty of options, too, including swings, slide and rock wall. There are lots of trees in this shady spot, and outside the fenced-in area is a trail, a small basketball court and a picnic table. One note, the playground isn’t visible from the road and there is no sign, so it can be easy to miss; look for the sign for the Varna Community Center and drive behind the building.
Groton Memorial ParkBack to Top of List
In addition to a community pool, picnic benches, story walk, and kitchen (during the summer months), Groton Memorial Park features a nice children’s playground. There are also large awnings here, for shady respite from the sun.