Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Toddler Adventure: Magic Mountain Playground at Coyote Point (San Mateo)

Last week I posted about CuriOdyssey, a delightful zoo and children's museum situated within Coyote Point Recreation Area in San Mateo. Today, with a week of gorgeous weather in front of us, it's time to share a corresponding outdoor adventure: Magic Mountain playground, a short distance from CuriOdyssey within Coyote Point.

Check out that slide -- it continues down the hill!
Summary: Magic Mountain is an incredible castle-themed playground, with a moat, dragons, even dragon eggs you can climb in. There are a huge variety of features, an excitingly (terrifyingly?) tall slide, and an amazing THIRTEEN swings (8 big kid, 4 baby, 1 tire). While the massive central feature is intended for 5-12 year olds, there are plenty of toddler-friendly options around the perimeter, particularly for 2 and 3 year olds, though even younger toddlers will find something to do at this awesome spot. Despite the drive (which can be lengthy if you get caught in 101 traffic), I think this is a must-do for playground loving families in the South Bay, at least once. Combine it with a picnic at Coyote Point (the promenade and breakwater along the bay are amazing spots for plane-watching!) or a visit to CuriOdyssey, or both, and you've got the makings of a wonderful day.

One of the toddler-friendly areas
Two different sets of hillside slides

Here are the details:

Location: Magic Mountain is located in San Mateo, within the Coyote Point Recreation Area, just off Highway 101 at the Peninsula Avenue exit.

Parking: To enter Coyote Point, you pass a gatehouse, which would seem to exist to collect parking fees (I believe the stated amount is $6)...except that both times we've visited, the gatehouse hasn't been manned, leaving no obvious way to pay the fee. We've parked in three different lots at the park, and have not seen any means of paying, nor have we seen anyone with passes on their windshields, or tickets from parking enforcement. In other words, they may or may not collect the supposed $6 parking fee when you visit; obviously, be prepared to pay it, but don't be too surprised if you don't have to. (Note that both of my visits have been on weekdays in the winter -- perhaps they enforce more on weekends or in the summer season.)

Once inside the park, turn left to access the parking lot right next to the playground.

Restrooms: There are plenty of restrooms throughout Coyote Point, including some right next to the playground.

Fenced-in playground: Magic Mountain has an interesting fencing situation. The entirety of the park is fenced in...with gates that are perpetually open. Within the park, there are additional fences to separate the 2-5 year old area from the 5-12 year old section (and even a fence dividing two portions of the same structure) -- yet those gates are perpetually open as well. In other words, yes, the playground is fenced, but no, you should not rely on the fencing to contain your child.

Playground ground covering: Tanbark and squishy rubberized stuff.

Two  more toddler-friendly areas

Play structures: So many options! The massive central castle-themed play structure is obviously the big draw. The center of that structure is very high and houses the start point of the super-tall slide. It includes several rope climbing features and therefore several drop points. However, on the two sides of the central structure are lower twisty slides that are far more toddler-friendly, still with the neat castle theme. There is also an outcropping of the large structure that reaches over to the toddler side -- that, too, is toddler friendly. There are several slides built into the hill surrounding the main structure, which Toddler X and his pal loved, as well as a number of bouncing and climbing features throughout the play area. Amusingly, one of Toddler X's favorite entertainments was simply running up and down the hill with the rubberized ground surface. Ah, toddlers.

Swings: As mentioned above, there is a profusion of swings at this park.

Sandbox: None.

Shade: None to speak of.

Handicap accessibility: A good portion of the play area is accessible, with ramps leading to the top of the hillside slides and onto the smaller slides on the side of the main structure.

Picnic amenities: There are several picnic tables within the fenced playground area, and many more outside it. The large area of picnic tables just outside the playground is reservable, so they may not be available when you visit, but there are plenty of other options throughout the park.

A lovely bay-side setting
Overall setting: Though the playground is just off 101, you're unlikely to focus your attention in that direction, as the opposite view is of the bay, with planes flying low overhead as they approach SFO. The park has large lawns and plenty of trees, and yes...that bay. It's beautiful.

Crowds: Both times we've visited, it has been a weekday morning during the winter -- and not surprisingly, crowds have been very, very light. I imagine that on a weekend, or in the summer when school is out, it could get very crowded. Given that the tall center structure is a big draw for older kids, I'm not sure if the environment would be as toddler-friendly during a weekend or summertime visit.

Other park features: Coyote Point stretches along the bay, and features lovely trails, large lawns, pretty trees, several picnic areas, a windsurfing/paddleboarding launch area with a store, snack shack and shower facilities (those last three are either seasonal or weekend only -- they haven't been open during out visits), and, of course, Magic Mountain and CuriOdyssey.

Additional tips or thoughts: Both times we have visited, we've really enjoyed exploring Coyote Point as a whole. We even found a second playground (boat-themed, near a picnic area), though it pales in comparison to Magic Mountain.

The "other" playground

But without a doubt, the don't miss area is the promenade area along the bay -- it's such a nice place to stroll and watch your toddler chase seagulls. Follow the path from Magic Mountain to the boathouse (a very short distance), then walk from there. If your toddler enjoys watching planes fly by very low, this is the spot to be. There are many other trails that we haven't explored yet -- I'll update as we do.

No pets are allowed within Coyote Point, so leave Fido at home.

Overall, I'd say that if you have a toddler who is 2 and up and who really enjoys playgrounds, Magic Mountain is absolutely worth the drive, especially if combined with a picnic, a walk or a trip to CuriOdyssey.

Happy toddling!

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