Monday, August 19, 2013

Playground Review: Portal Park (Cupertino)

On both Saturday and Sunday, Toddler X and I visited Portal Park in Cupertino (on Portal Ave, a few blocks off Stevens Creek, near the Chuck E Cheese). Portal was the neighborhood playground of my own toddlerhood, but since we moved when I was 6, I haven't been there in nearly 30 years.

But good news -- Toddler X had just as much fun as I remember having as a kid
! Though the play structures have been totally updated (thank goodness! I don't want my kid on 30 year old structures!), the huge sand play area is still there, as are the paths through the trees/bushes that provided a venue for many hours of hide and go seek (or just hiding from mom when it's time to leave). Here's the review:

  • Not one, not two, but THREE nice, modern play structures in separated areas help to spread out the crowds.
  • Separate toddler section with a simple, toddler-friendly structure. Not a whole lot of bells and whistles -- one steering wheel, one "window" area, one tunnel, one slide -- but it's got one of my favorite toddler structure features: all the higher openings are on one side of the structure, so the toddler watcher isn't constantly sprinting around/crawling underneath to prevent a disaster.
  • Two slides brilliantly built into the side of a hill -- easy for a toddler to go up and down on his/her own without fear of plummeting to the earth far below.
  • Two baby swings and a fun airplane spring toy.
  • A HUGE sand play area that I remember playing in as a kid.
  • Easy street parking on Portal right next to the playground.
  • Bathrooms, picnic tables, lots of wide open lawns.
  • And perhaps best of all -- thanks to some beautiful old trees, the toddler area is almost completely shaded all day long! There is a nice bench in the shade on the toddler side for a tired or hot toddler watcher.
  •  Playground is not fenced.
  • Ground surface is tan bark.
  • Sand area gets a lot of debris from surrounding trees
  • Lots of geese on the lawn areas are great for inquisitive toddlers to honk at and chase, but produce some unpleasant byproducts -- be sure to check shoes before you get in the car!
  • Toddler play structure isn't all that exciting, though Toddler X seemed happy enough.
So while I admit that I have some bias in favor of Portal Park because of fond memories from my own toddlerhood, I do think it's actually deserving of two thumbs up as a toddler playground. When it's a hot day, that shade is invaluable, and the separate toddler area, structure with limited openings, and slides built into the hill make for a relaxing experience for the toddler watcher.
Overall verdict: Give it a try!

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