Saturday, September 28, 2013

Playground Review: Rainbow Park (West SJ)

Rainbow Park (at the corner of Johnson Avenue and Rainbow Drive in West San Jose, just off Prospect) is another nostalgia-inducer for me, as I used to play here as a child when my mom was dropping off or picking up my sister at Lynbrook High School, right across the street. The playground has -- fortunately -- undergone some big changes in the past 30 years, and is now one of my favorite places to take Toddler X when I'm in this part of town. Here's the scoop:

  • Separate toddler area of the playground features one of the best low (waist high at its highest) toddler structures I've found. While not as exciting or feature-rich as some of the bigger and taller toddler structures, Toddler X thoroughly enjoys the slide, tunnels and bench/table areas, and I have little to no concern about him falling and hurting himself. The steps are very low and there is a ground-level tunnel, so even crawlers can enjoy the structure's features. A high parental relaxation factor here.
  • A water spigot spouts water into the sand with the push of a button, creating a delightful sandy bog that toddlers love. Not the most complex water feature around, but it gets the job done. Definitely bring buckets or shovels to this park.
  • Two baby swings (in the shade -- ahhh!), a spring teeter-totter and a little play house round out the toddler offerings.
  • A half circle of benches and a couple of picnic tables ring the toddler area, giving parents and caregivers a nice spot to relax while their little ones frolic on the safe, easy structure. Bathrooms are available nearby.
  • A good amount of midday shade covers most of the toddler structure, the swings, and the benches and picnic tables surrounding the toddler area. I can't tell if the trees bordering the playground are deciduous or evergreen, though -- if the former, winter may leave you with a lot less coverage.
  • Ground surface is partially the squishy stuff and partially sand.
  • Parking is available along the street on Rainbow Drive close to the playground. The first 100 feet or so from the corner of Johnson is drop-off/pick-up only at certain times of day, but beyond that you're fine.
  • Even though the park is between a middle school and a high school, the setting is pleasant and peaceful. We have been there at the end of the school day for Lynbrook, and while many students do pass through the park on foot or bikes, it's not at all disturbing. (Lynbrook isn't exactly known for its rough student body -- your toddler is more likely to get an IQ bump than exposure to cigarette smoke or foul language from close proximity to these teens.)
  • The toddler area is not fenced in. Though there is a fence ringing the side of the toddler playground closest to the street, 3/4 of the playground is open to the surrounding park. Toddler X was completely content to stay in the toddler area during our last few visits, but if you have a little explorer, you could spend a lot of time chasing him or her down.
  • The big kids area is in a neat sunken space, but it's just a few feet from the toddler area and a very attractive nuisance. A ramp from the upper level onto the play structure is accessible to toddlers, and though the structure that it leads to isn't terribly dangerous, it is also not designed for toddler safety. If your toddler will only want to play on the biggest structure around, this may not be the best park for you.
Overall, I've had nothing but good experiences at this park. It's usually lightly-populated, and everyone we've met there has been friendly. Toddler X loves the water spigot and the sandy bog, and I love that I can genuinely relax on a nearby bench while he plays on the low, safe structure. This is a great "starter playground" for those with young toddlers who haven't yet hit their playground stride, but still a fun outing for older toddlers as well.

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