Saturday, October 19, 2013

Toddler Favorites: San Jose's Municipal Rose Garden


Silicon Valley enjoys over 300 sunny days per year, and this is definitely one of them. What a great opportunity to check out one of our favorite toddler-friendly outdoor attractions -- the Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose (located on Naglee Avenue between Bascom and the Alameda -- cross street is Dana).

Winner of the America's Best Rose Garden award (how cool is that?), this local gem features hundreds of roses of various types and colors (most are still blooming in October!), set among rows and paths just made for exuberant toddler chasing and giggling games of hide and seek.

The central fountain is a huge favorite of the toddling set -- we visit almost daily, and Toddler X has made dozens of toddler buddies over the months. The circle around the fountain is perfect for chasing new toddler friends or watching the bigger kids test out their tricycles and scooters. There are concrete benches around the perimeter for mom, dad, grandma or grandpa (this is a very popular spot for extended families).


The huge open lawn that occupies half the park is one of the best spots I know of for picnics, tossing a frisbee, or just letting your toddler run free in a safe setting. The lawn is well-manicured and big enough that you can always find an open spot, and the huge redwood trees offer some shade around the perimeter. Organized sports are prohibited, so there's little concern of being nailed by an errant soccer ball or home run. Best of all, dogs are prohibited in the Rose Garden, so you can run, sit and roll about without fear of an unpleasant squish. (And please don't think I'm anti-dog -- we have two ourselves -- but I'm just fine with them being kept on the path around the garden's perimeter wall; sometimes humans need a space for themselves.)

An added bonus: the Rose Garden is just beautiful, with photo ops galore. You'll find people taking engagement, wedding, baby and quinceañera pictures against the background of the greenery and roses, so bring a camera and do your best to get your toddler to stand still (or be prepared for some great action shots).

The location is great, just a few blocks from Valley Fair (Forest turns into Naglee), and conveniently accessible from Highway 880 at either the Bascom or Alameda exits. For a fun picnic, swing by Zanotto's Market at the corner of Naglee and Bascom, where the salad bar is excellent, the tri tip panini is fantastic, the homemade chips and guacamole are to die for, and the chocolate chip cookies are the best I've ever had. If you need a coffee fix, there is a Starbucks at the corner of Park and Naglee, just a block or two from the garden.

Finally, if some swings or a play structure are needed to round out your toddler's day, Hester Park is across the street, right next to the Rose Garden Library (which sadly is closed on weekends).

Street parking is plentiful all around the perimeter of the Rose Garden (though I'd advise avoiding the busy Naglee side for your toddler's safety), and bathrooms and water fountains are available. The park is fenced with limited entry points. Though the gates are open, you can situate yourself far enough from one that you can almost certainly prevent toddler escapes.

For a picnic, some great photo backgrounds or just some old-fashioned running, ball tossing or bubble blowing in a huge field, the Rose Garden makes for a great and FREE family adventure this weekend or any time at all.

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