Thursday, April 30, 2015

Playground Review: Washington Park (Sunnyvale)

The big kid structure
Toddler X and I visited Washington Park on a recent Wednesday afternoon, and we were very pleased with what we found. Sunnyvale generally does a wonderful job providing pleasant parks to its residents, and this one is no exception. With a large overall park space (much of it covered by big, shade-producing trees) and plenty of playground features (including bathrooms, a fenced-in toddler area, and an awesome big kid structure), it's hard to see many negatives of Washington -- the lack of shade on the toddler playground is really the only one that comes to mind.

One more plus: for parents who like to combine a park outing with some errands, Sunnyvale Town Center is a very short distance away -- I measured, and the walk from the playground to Target is exactly 1/2 mile. Park by Target, walk over for some play, then return to do your errands, a happy and tired toddler in tow (in an ideal world).

Overall, I'd definitely recommend checking this park out.

Washington Park's Features:

Parking: Ample and convenient street parking.

Restrooms: Yes -- convenient to playground.

Fenced-in Playground: Yes -- a toddler/preschooler playground that is fully-fenced with a latching gate. The fenced section includes four baby swings, two play structures, a climbing tunnel (very cool!), and several spring toys. There is one bench inside the fenced area for seating, but no shade at all.

Fenced-in little kid area
Playground Ground Covering: A variety of surfaces. Inside the fenced-in area, the ground is primarily sand, with some rubberized areas. In the toddler/preschooler area outside the fence, ground surface is rubberized. In the big kid area, ground is tanbark.

Play Structures: Inside the fenced toddler area, there are two small, modern structures that are great for young kids -- there are plenty of slides, but the highest opening is just about 3 feet off the ground. There is also a fantastic climbing tunnel inside the fenced area, of a variety I've never seen before.

Little kids area
Little kids area
Outside the fenced area, there is an additional structure rated for ages 2-12, this one with an "Adventure Ship" theme. While this structure is a bit more antiquated (okay, beat up) than the fenced-in ones, the pirate ship theme makes it fun, and it has plenty of enjoyable features. The highest opening is waist high.

The main big kid structure at Washington is exceptional. It is very large and long, spread over a significant area on a little "island" of its own. It is modern, with tons of climbing features, and a forest/treehouse theme, fitting given that it's situated in the shade of some large pine trees. Its length lends itself to end-to-end runs, and the two bouncy bridges make those runs challenging and fun. This is not a great structure for younger, unsure walkers, however -- there are plenty of head-high fall points that could make it dangerous for a little one.

Great big kid structure!
The "island"
There is also a small, secondary big kid structure, also on the island, that is very compact and tall. It has no steps going up, nor slides going down -- all sides are climbing features, and several of them look easier to ascend than descend. In other words, you might have a toddler who can get up by him or herself, but not get down. Keep an eye out.

Note that the big rock border around the "island" area is a huge flip-flop hazard zone! I almost broke an ankle.

Swings: Four baby swings in fenced area, 4 big kid swings near big kid structure.

Sandbox: Plenty of sand for digging.

Water feature: No.

Accessibility: No clear focus on accessibility. Parts of the structures may be accessible for kids with special needs (depending on the need).

Shade: There is substantial shade over a good portion of the big kid structure (it's a very large structure, and it appears that there will always be shade over at least some of it), and over the sand. (See pictures above.) There is also ample shade over the surrounding lawns and picnic tables. Unfortunately, there is no shade over the toddler area.

Picnic Tables/BBQs: There are plenty of picnic tables at this park, some in sun and some in shade, some reserveable and some first come, first served.

Overall setting: This is a really pleasant park, set in a quiet Sunnyvale neighborhood (though with a school nearby, you probably don't want to be arriving at or departing at dismissal time). The natural areas surrounding the playground are shady and nice, with lots of squirrels and birds. One of the best aspects of this park is also its location, just a few blocks from Sunnyvale Town Center and its Target!

Lots of trees = pleasant setting
Crowds: The park was bustling but not overly crowded during our Wednesday midday visit. There is plenty of space to spread out here, and while I can imagine it getting busy on weekends (especially when there are sporting events on the surrounding fields), there are several play structures and a large sand area to help even out the crowds.

Other Park Features: Baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, a swimming pool. Lawns and natural areas under oaks and pines. 

Overall, I think almost any family would enjoy a visit to this very nice park.

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