Hempstead Lake State Park
|Hempstead Lake State Park in West Hempstead is built around Hempstead Lake, the largest lake in Nassau County. There is a mid-sized playground undergoing some renovation, and a vintage wood carousel that's a delight to ride.|
The playground at Hempstead Lake State park features three different play areas, each with their own attraction. Generally speaking, the areas are divided into age-appropriate zones, although most kids will find something of interest at each play area. Access to the playground is a short walk from a large and paved parking lot, although the entrance itself is over grass so bringing a stroller can be a workout.
The first set is the most modern, with brightly colored plastic and steel construction. There is a padded composite play surface that's in very good shape. This playset is intended mostly for younger children, with one standard slide and one double slide and an easy climbing wall. The tunnel that connects the slide platform to the stairs is built on an incline, and can actually be used as another slide back towards the stairs. This was a big hit during our visit.
The middle playset is mostly a slide platform, with four steep slides: a standard, a corkscrew, a covered slide and a steep banking slide. The play surface here is little more than hard dirt, and the slide exits are very high off the ground. Combined with the speed that these slides can generate, the height of the slide end can result in a pretty rough fall for younger kids.
Access to the slide platform is via some large steps, a standard ladder or a curved wire ladder. The semi-difficult approach should deter most little ones for whom the slides themselves would be a danger. There was construction going on during our visit, and this is clearly the oldest set at the playground, so some improvements may be on the way.
The third set is also fairly new, and is mostly a climbing set made for older kids. There are climbing walls, a hang glider, spinning monkey bars, and this tall firepole. The climb up to the pole is a challenging one, with wire stairs and a hold bar ascending nearly ten feet in the air. Each stair set connects to another element on the playset, a very nice design that encourages making a loop through the entire area. For a playset that mostly involves kids being airborne, however, the surface leaves a little something to be desired. The wood mulch here is new and in good shape, but not the best choice to cushion a fall from above.
A new set of swings was under construction during our visit. It looks as though there will be two banks of swings: four toddlers and four standard. The chains are bare, but a new set will obviously be in very good condition for the near future.
After your kids have worn themselves out on the playground, you can take a walk over to the real attraction at Hempstead Lake: the wooden carousel. This vintage amusement ride, built in 1916, is in great shape and is a real joy to ride. The pavilion that houses the carousel features a party room and public restrooms, and there are plenty of picnic areas nearby. Rides on the carousel are only a dollar, and it's a long and satisfying ride with loud traditional music and a choice of stationary or galloping horses. A ride on the carousel here is worth the trip alone.
Hempstead Lake State Park is open every day from sunrise to sunset. New York State seasonal parking rates apply, and Empire Passes are honored. The carousel is open from Tuesday to Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the weekends. There is also some great fishing at Hempstead Lake, in any one of the three lakes on the property.
Hempstead Lake State Park
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