Thursday, September 26, 2013

Playground Review: Fremont Park (Santa Clara)

Of all the parks I've visited with Toddler X in the last 6 months, the City of Santa Clara's have consistently ranked among the best -- clean, well maintained, and equipped with the most enjoyable and modern playground equipment (the notable exceptions being Agnew and Lick Mill -- yuck!). Today's playground -- Fremont Park, on Fremont Street at Madison Street -- may not be as pristine as War Memorial or Alvarez, but its toddler structure is a winner, and Toddler X's fun quotient was high. Here are the details:

  • A GREAT toddler structure (top and bottom two pictures above). About shoulder-height at its highest point, with three slides, two bridges, a tunnel, and a bunch of fun features (including gears, Toddler X's current obsession, and a cute toddler-only nook with benches -- nice for some calm time or a snack after an aggressive sliding session). 
  • A sand table for sifting, shoveling and dumping. 
  • A dinosaur fossil feature partially buried in the sand -- a cute idea I'd never seen before. (Pictured below.)
  • Cute statues of dragons and unicorns bordering the playground. 
  • A really nice big kids structure (pictured below) if you have an older child as well, with the lowest level (steps, a fun bridge and a slide) being relatively toddler-friendly (but beware the upper levels -- see "cons" section). 
  • Squishy stuff and sand are the ground surfaces. 
  • Two baby swings (no big kid swings). 
  • Large grassy area with a few trees for shade and a shaded concrete bench near the playground. 
  • A parking lot immediately next to the playground (enter on Fremont -- the parking lot is associated with the senior center next door) and ample street parking. 
  • Not crowded AT ALL, a good or bad thing depending on your comfort level with being the only people at a park (we were admittedly there right in the middle of typical toddler nap time -- don't even get me started on why we weren't napping ourselves -- but it was practically deserted). 
  • Playground and park as a whole are not fenced, and edges of playground are totally permeable. 
  • Almost no shade on playground (a tiny bit on a portion of the sand area from a nearby tree, but none on the structures themselves).
  • No restrooms at playground, though there are presumably public restrooms in senior center next door. 
  • Big kids structure is right next to the toddler structure, so it's tough to keep your toddler from wandering over. Though the lower level is relatively toddler-friendly -- and, in fact, Toddler X loved it -- the upper levels are pretty high and have some openings with significant drops. In after-school or weekend hours, when the older kids are out in full force, it may be tough to avoid run-ins with rambunctious 8 year olds.
  • Though the toddler structure is great and pretty safe, it's very dense (not spread out) and exactly at eye level. If you're sitting/standing on one side, you can't see the other or get there immediately -- an uncomfortable feeling if you have a particularly adventurous toddler. 
  • Playground's squishy ground surface is a bit beat up -- purely an aesthetic issue, as it functions just fine. (Pictured below.)
  • Park is only a few blocks from El Camino, not the most peaceful setting. 
Now comes the interesting question: with this park being only about 3/4 mile down Monroe from War Memorial Park -- one of our favorites -- would I bother coming here again? The answer is yes, I would -- the play structure is so superior to War Memorial's, and I imagine it's less crowded than War Memorial on a weekend. So Fremont Park, Toddler X and I will be seeing you again soon!

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