Hmm...what to do today?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Playground Review: Newhall Park (San Jose)


Wow! I was just looking through my playground reviews, and realized that I've never formally reviewed our neighborhood playground, and one of our favorites: Newhall Park in San Jose (tucked in where Newhall Street dead-ends into the Caltrain tracks, a few blocks from Santa Clara University). Though there are a few improvements that could be made at Newhall (the lack of baby swings is inexcusable!), overall this is a fun park with a wonderful play structure. If you live nearby, definitely give it a try. Here are the details: 

Pros
  • The toddler-friendly modern play structure has a ton of fun features, including a low/medium height roller slide (one of the only roller slides I've found in the area -- Toddler X loves it), and a tall twisty slide. 
  • Structure is accessible via ramps as well as steps, so it's a good one for the youngest, truly toddling toddlers (provided there aren't rowdy big kids running around). 
  • The only two high gaps on the play structure that pose a fall concern are right next to each other, so if you position yourself wisely, the structure becomes relatively safe. (See photo above, top right.)
  • The whole play area features the squishy ground surface that I love -- no sand or tanbark to be found!
  • Big kid swings and a bucket swing, as well as a spring bumblebee toy, round out the playground offerings.
  • Well-maintained grassy fields, surrounded by a nice loop path for tricycles or scooters. 
  • Easy street parking on Newhall (since it's a dead end, it's never busy).
  • Usually it's very sparsely populated, which is nice. Though it occasionally gets crowded in the evenings or on weekends, the structure is large enough that there's generally plenty of room for everyone. 
  • Playground isn't fenced, but park as a whole is, with only three (not gated) entry points. 
  • With the Caltrain tracks just a hundred yards away and the airport nearby, there is no shortage of plane and train sightings -- a huge bonus for vehicle-loving toddlers.

Cons
  • As mentioned above, no baby swings. This really bums Toddler X out. The big plastic swing is just not intended for toddlers. (See picture above, bottom right.)
  • The big kid/bucket swings are located too close to the play structure for my comfort -- I've seen numerous near-collisions when younger kids run over to the swings. You do need to keep an eye on your toddler.
  • There are no separate structures/play areas for older and younger kids -- just the one main structure, rated for ages 5-12 (but, like I said, overall relatively toddler-friendly). As a result, the play environment on the structure differs greatly depending on how old the rest of the playground patrons are during your visit. We've never had a real problem, but I feel a lot more relaxed when the oldest kid on the structure is 5, rather than 10.
  • No bathrooms, and very little shade in the park as a whole (none on the playground itself).
We'll keep coming to Newhall Park for the convenience (it's walking distance for us) and the great play structure -- one with lots of features and enough sophistication to entertain Toddler X, but not a whole lot of high openings to scare me. If you live in the general vicinity, I definitely recommend it. Without a bathroom, though, it's probably not a good destination playground for anyone who lives too far away.

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