Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Playground Review: Mitchell Park, Palo Alto

Up in Palo Alto for some errands on a recent Wednesday afternoon, I decided it was time for some Peninsula playground exploration. Toddler X and I settled on Mitchell Park and discovered a fun, almost fully-fenced playground with a focus on a fantastic sand area and a very nice water feature. Here's our review:
  • Mitchell includes two distinct play areas: one fenced section with a cute but small (in footprint -- it's actually quite tall in height) play structure and baby swings (so presumably the toddler area), and one unfenced section with a large play structure and one of those spiderweb-esque rope climbing structures (so presumably a "big kids" area). However, both the massive sand feature and the water feature are set within the fenced area, so there's a lot more big kid crossover than you'd find at most parks. 
  • Toddler structure has a modern, fun treehouse design that I've only seen at a few other parks, with a cute little "room" up top with benches and binoculars and a single slide.
  • Toddler play area also includes two baby swings, a fun spring toy, and a cute climb-on car feature. 
  • Fenced section (which includes toddler features described above) also includes a fantastic sand play area -- huge in size, with cute statues, a bridge that Toddler X loved, an apparent water spigot (it wasn't turned on in February) and a bizarre but cool concrete tunnel feature with circular openings that reminded me of gopher holes. 
  • Fenced section also includes a large, well-designed water feature, itself partially fenced off from the play/sand area, with benches around the perimeter for parents. Water comes from two concrete frogs and ground spouts. 
  • Finally, fenced section includes convenient bathrooms, kid-sized picnic tables and a hill with a large tree and climbing rocks. 
  • Unfenced "big kid" section's wooden play structure is large and has several cool features that I haven't seen elsewhere, along with side-by-side slides. Toddlers will probably need help and close supervision playing on this structure.
  • Parking is available in convenient lot close to fenced play area.  
  • There are plenty of grassy areas and a shaded picnic area nearby.
  • Ground surface of toddler play area is primarily tanbark, which I despise. 
  • The play structure in the toddler area is very high for a toddler structure, and though it is well-enclosed up top, there are two shoulder-height potential fall zones. The one slide is very steep. 
  • There is no shade over toddler play area, sand area or big kid area. The only available shade covers the small hill in the fenced-in section and the large rocks, which aren't the best spots for toddler play. 
  • Because the playground is located adjacent to an elementary school, if you make the mistake of timing your departure with dismissal, you will find it VERY slow going getting out of the parking lot. We ended up just sitting on the tailgate of our car watching the traffic clear rather than sitting in it, but if you have some place you need to be, I recommend you get out of there well before the students are released. 
Overall, I would definitely recommend Mitchell Park, its fabulous sand area and its nice-looking water feature to friends who find themselves on the Peninsula, though I wouldn't drive from San Jose just to visit. If you go, bring sand toys and, if the weather is nice, a towel and change of clothes for the water feature.

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