Hmm...what to do today?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cool Fun for Hot Days: SV Toddler's Top Picks for Beating the Heat


This weekend is expected to be one of the hottest of the summer, and I'm sure many of you are looking for ways to burn some toddler energy without getting burned in the process. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Check out one of the playgrounds on my list of Shadiest Playgrounds in the South Bay. Many of these offer not just shaded play structures, but also shaded lawn areas that would be great for a picnic. (Tip: Pack sunblock anyway, as most playgrounds don't have complete shade coverage, especially in the mid-day hours -- and, if your toddler is anything like mine, he or she will gravitate to the least shaded areas.)

  2. Visit one of the few water play options operating in the South Bay despite the drought. Sunnyvale's playground water features (Ortega, Seven Seas, Serra and Lakewood Parks) are on, and provide a welcome spray. Ortega is one of our favorites, as there is ample shade near the water feature for parents to -- literally -- chill in while their children splash about. The fountains at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose are also functioning, last I heard, and can be combined with a visit to the Children's Discovery Museum, the Tech Museum of innovation, San Pedro Square Market, or the King Library (indoor activity first, of course!).

  3. Check out the Water Oasis at Gilroy Gardens or Boomerang Bay at Great America. I can testify personally to the awesomeness of Water Oasis (we visited twice last week!), but I've heard that Great America's offerings are wonderful as well.

  4. Head inside for creative, intellectual or pretend play fun at:
    -- Whimsy (Saratoga)
    -- Billy Beez at Oakridge in San Jose
    -- The Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose
    -- The Tech Museum of Innovation (Downtown San Jose)
    -- Bumble (Los Altos)
    -- Play! (Los Altos)
    -- Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo
    -- CuriOdyssey (San Mateo), or
    -- Hiller Aviation

  5. Visit one of our great local libraries, either for a scheduled program or just some reading and playtime. We particularly like the Bascom Branch Library, Cambrian Branch Library and Palo Alto Children's Library (located right next to the Junior Museum and Zoo -- a great combo outing!).

  6. Find a cool place to climb. Check out the huge indoor climbing structures at Billy Beez, La Petite Playhouse, Safari Run or The Jungle, or the smaller one at Whimsy.

  7. Find a cool place to bounce. Check out the inflatables at Silver Creek Sportsplex, Bounce a Rama or Pump it Up, or the trampolines at Rockin' Jump (Saturday morning features the toddler/preschooler-friendly "Rockin Tots" event) or Sky High Sports.

  8. Everything is cooler on the water. Rent a paddle boat and go for a cruise at Vasona Lake, Shoreline Lake or Lake Elizabeth.

  9. Head for the coast! Temps in Santa Cruz are supposed to be 5 degrees cooler than San Jose on Saturday, and 12 degrees cooler on Sunday -- plus a sea breeze always cools things down!
    -- In Santa Cruz, check out the fun aquarium at the Seymour Marine Life Center, the sand and scenery at Natural Bridges State Beach, the rides and adventures at the Boardwalk (there are GREAT toddler rides here!), the toddler-friendly games inside Neptune's Kingdom (check out the little side room for toddler-specific fun), and the sea lions on the wharf.
    -- In Capitola, head to the main beach for a great expanse of toddler-friendly sand and yummy food options (including a Pizza My Heart walk-up window), or to the Santa Cruz Children's Museum of Discovery (haven't been yet, but it's on my list).

  10. Seek the shade of the redwoods. We love Forest of the Nisene Marks in Aptos, Henry Cowell in Felton and the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos.

  11. Walk in the woods (other trees offer shade too!). There are great, shady hikes at all of the above, as well as Sanborn Park in Saratoga (wonderful nature trail!), Uvas Canyon County Park in Morgan Hill, and Mount Madonna County Park in Gilroy.

  12. Enjoy summer in the city! As always, San Francisco is looking cooler than the South Bay this weekend, so head up the peninsula to visit:
    -- The San Francisco Zoo
    -- Golden Gate Park (including the Koret Children's Quarter, the carousel, the bison and Stowe Lake)
    -- The Exploratorium,
    -- Fisherman's Wharf (including the Aquarium of the Pacific and Pier 39's sea lions)
    -- The California Academy of Sciences
    -- The Children's Creativity Museum and nearby carousel
    -- Yerba Buena Gardens, and much, much more!

  13. Get a haircut. Bizarre, yes, but some local kids' haircut places have lots to offer besides a quick snip. Toddler X loves visiting Kinder Cuts on Blossom Hill near Oakridge for the big screen TV (showing Disney favorites) and cute chairs, as well as the fun table games and multiple play houses. He also enjoys Lollipop Cuts on Prospect in Saratoga, which has a big upstairs playroom with toys galore (beware -- it can get hot up there!) -- though I haven't loved the cuts as much. If your toddler needs a cut, make an appointment (weekends and back to school = big crowds) and head on over. If you go to Kinder Cuts, ask for Maria -- she's amazing!

  14. Visit a store with toys out for sampling. Our favorites are Barnes & Noble (Thomas train tables and Duplo blocks), Diddams at Almaden Plaza (the Hape marble run could entertain him for hours), and Automobuild in Los Gatos (tons of toys out for sampling fun!).

  15. Head to the mall -- but watch out for back-to-school crowds! Several of our local malls have huge arrays of entertainment options for kids -- it's just a matter of dealing with parking and back-to-school crowds. I've posted several times about the activities at Valley Fair -- from the TV, toys, books and coloring in the Nordstrom kids' area, to the bathtub at Build a Bear, to the coloring table, kid-controlled TV and fun tunnels and knobs at the Disney Store, to the Lego and Duplo tables at the Lego Store, to the multiple coin-operated ride-on machines, to (of course) the soft play area, there's a ton to entertain a toddler. At Oakridge, you can enjoy Billy Beez, the little train by Nordstrom Rack, the Fun Factory arcade (Toddler X loves this), the kid iPads at the Apple store, and various little coin-operated ride-ons. The Great Mall in Milpitas is full of toddler-fun too, from the trampoline-bungee thing (a Toddler X favorite) to the little train to Bounce a Rama, with its inflatables and arcade.
  16. Check out the trains at the South Bay Historical Railroad Society, open Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

  17. Head out for a cool treat! If you can't beat the heat by finding shade or staying inside, you might as well lower your body temperature a bit with a cool treat. Here's a post listing readers' favorite ice cream and frozen treat places in the South Bay.
That's what comes to mind as I sit here and enjoy a latte at Whimsy (yep, that's up there on my list of indoor spots!) -- if you know of anything I've missed, please let me know!

Stay cool, and remember, according to all the El Nino forecasters, this is just around the corner!


Happy toddling!

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