Monday, November 4, 2013

Playground Review: Ramac Park (San Jose)

Yay! After my dismal visit to Maywood Park in Santa Clara on Wednesday, we found a winner on Friday in Ramac Park in south San Jose (off Cottle, near the Lowe's -- the Santa Teresa area). A big thanks to Toddler S and her mom for inviting us to this great spot!

Ramac is a little-known park for now, but a huge Target store is in the works just across the street, and once that is built, I have a feeling Ramac will become very popular. So if you like a pleasant, peaceful park experience, I highly recommend getting down there asap! Here's the scoop:

  • Separate toddler and "big kid" play structures (separated by space, not any formal divider) are both super modern and super cool, with two very nice toddler swings, two big swings, and a couple of fun features (those telephone-like devices where you can hear someone's whisper across the playground, a few platforms on springs and some neat bike-pedal things I'd never seen before -- see picture below on the left) rounding out the playground offerings.
  • The toddler structure (pictured above) just might break into my Top 10 list. It provided the perfect balance of safety/security and fun/challenge for our 20 month olds, as well as the three year old they were playing with. Its "U" shape makes it seem smaller than it really is -- if it were stretched out straight, it would almost (but not quite) rival structures like the long ones at Newhall or Alvarez Parks -- and its compact nature makes it easy to keep an eye on your toddler without running hither and thither. The height is medium -- maybe chest to shoulder at its highest -- and there are two openings where a toddler could take a spill (but one is only waist high). There are two slides (one a double) and a couple of fun features (including a cute toddler-sized picnic table and benches nestled in underneath the structure). Overall, a very nice, clean, new toddler structure.
  • The ground surface throughout the playground is the squishy stuff I love, in perfect condition. Yes!
  • Bathrooms are close by, plenty of picnic tables are available, parking is in a lot very near to the playground (from Great Oaks Parkway, turn onto Charlotte Drive across from Lowe's, then left onto Lexington Avenue to access the lot), and there are lots of green fields -- both designated sports fields, and just open lawn -- for running.
  • Not crowded at all when we were there late morning on a Friday.

  • Not fenced at all. The playground primarily opens into the greater park, with no busy streets remotely close by, but you will almost certainly find yourself chasing your toddler -- we certainly did. The big grassy hill right next to the playground is a toddler dream come true, and would be safe fun except for the rocky drainage area at the bottom of one section -- where, of course, Toddler X headed every single time. Also, the basketball court is very close to the playground -- if there were a game going on, you'd have to keep a tight leash on your toddlers to keep them safe. Finally, the parking lot isn't too far from the playground, and although it was very quiet when we were there, I imagine it is packed on weekends when soccer games are going on on the sports fields. Basically, if you're challenged in terms of mobility in any way, and have a toddler who likes to run off, then this may not be a great spot for you.
  • No shade at all. Not a huge deal in the winter, but be sure to pack sunscreen and a hat.
  • Though it was practically empty when we were there, I can imagine this park getting crowded on weekends with soccer or football games, and the compact toddler structure might not feel as comfortable and secure if there were 6 or more kids on it at one time.
My overall opinion: a great little playground that I would be delighted to visit again, and almost certainly will do so next time I'm in south San Jose (though I will avoid it on weekends when it is likely far more crowded).

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