Sunday, November 2, 2014

Playground Review: Briones Park (Palo Alto)

Today I challenged my Facebook readers to visit a new park, and I couldn't ask them to do something I wasn't willing to do myself, so I set off for Palo Alto in search of exciting new playgrounds. I'm happy to report that I hit the jackpot at our first playground of the day -- Briones Park. Here are the details:

  • A large, pleasant park with two separate playground areas -- one completely for big kids, and one split between toddlers and big kids.
  • Fantastic toddler area (ages 2-5) featuring an adorable train play structure, with four train cars, tunnels, bars for hanging, binoculars, and seats for passengers, all set under large awnings for shade -- the best train structure I've seen. Toddler area also has a playhouse-style structure with a slide, climbing walls, some fun spinning features and no real fall concerns; a multi-level water table (water is currently off due to the drought; a fun turtle spring toy for up to four riders; and two baby swings. Toddler area ground surface is all sand, and it appears to get shade for a good portion of the day (the train gets shade from the awnings all the time).

  • Set just a few feet away from the toddler area is an equally fun big kid (ages 5-12) area, with a fantastic (but very high) play structure with several climbing features and two tall, twisty tube slides. Big kid area also has a fun spring structure, three big kid swings and one handicapped-accessible swing, and Toddler X's favorite feature ever -- a platform with a pole that spins madly when pushed. 
  • Aforementioned play areas have particularly large and comfortable wooden benches around the perimeter.
  • A separate big kid (ages 5-12) play area is located a short distance away, with a very tall, very modern play structure with two high slides, as well as a rock climbing feature and tire swing.
  • Bathrooms are clean, with changing tables and convenient hooks.
  • Very convenient street parking on dead-end street (Clemo Avenue).
  • Picnic tables, many shaded.
  • Large lawn, plenty of trees, peaceful setting in a pleasant neighborhood.
  • Bustling but not over-crowded on a Sunday morning/midday, with a pleasant, friendly crowd.
  • Excellent choice for families with a toddler and an older child, as it would be very easy to supervise children on both sides of the playground at one time.
  • A big pro -- the awesome big kid structure just feet from the toddler area -- can be a con if your toddler is too young to safely maneuver big kid structures, but really wants to check them out nonetheless. The highest levels of this structure are very accessible to toddlers (easy steps going up), but about midway up is a shoulder-height potential fall area above a climbing wall, and it's situated right at a turn, which could be dangerous for toddlers if older children are also coming up or down the steps. The very highest level, where the slides begin, is actually quite contained though -- it's really just the trip u
    p that could be problematic. Toddler X loved this structure and particularly the long, twisty slides, so I just positioned myself near the one potential fall area and tried to relax.
  • The second big kid structure, situated in a separate area of the park, is also very tall and the slides are not enclosed, so I wouldn't recommend it for young toddlers.
  • Ground surface is tanbark under the big kid structures, and there's not much shade over them.
  • The playground is not fully-fenced, but the bordering streets are very quiet (one is a dead end, with only park traffic), and there's plenty to keep kids interested at the playground itself, so this is not a huge con.
Overall, we had a GREAT time at this park, on both the toddler and big kid structures, and on a comfortable bench enjoying a snack. The other park patrons were very friendly, and the setting was very pleasant. We will absolutely be returning to Briones next time we're looking for a park on the Peninsula.

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