Sunday, June 25, 2017

New Playground Review: Tamien Park (San Jose)

Let's bid a warm welcome to Silicon Valley's newest playground: Tamien Park, located on Lick Avenue in San Jose.

("Wait," you're thinking -- "Didn't you already do a review of Tamien Park on Lick? And wasn't it in Santa Clara?"

Houston, we have a problem -- one that will no doubt lead to tons of confusion among Silicon Valley parents planning playdates for years to come.

Yes, I have previously posted about Thamien Park. It is located on Lick Mill Boulevard in Santa Clara.

This, on the other hand, is Tamien Park. It is located on Lick Avenue in San Jose.

No, I'm not joking. Consider this your heads up that you need to be really specific with friends when planning park meetups at this place, or its name/address near-twin across town.)

And now that that's settled...on with the review!

Located adjacent to the Tamien lightrail station near Highway 87, Tamien Park is easy to get to and easy to enjoy. While only the first phase of the park has been built so far (it opened to the public last Friday), it is already a pleasant destination for some family fun. Here's what we found at our visit today:

Location/Parking: Tamien is located on Lick Avenue, a short distance from the intersection with Willow Street (on the far side of Highway 87 from Downtown Willow Glen). It is in a neighborhood setting, but is bordered at the rear by the train tracks (behind a fence) and Highway 87, and on one side by an open lot where presumably the rest of the park is going to be developed. There is some street parking available on Lick. There is a lot on the far side of the park, but I was unable to determine from the Lick entrance how to get into it.

The 2-5 year old structure

Playground: Every single kid at the park seemed delighted by the playground, and with good reason. The brand new structures -- one designated for 2-5 year olds, one for ages 5-12 -- are cool and creative, with a natural, woodsy theme.

The 2-5 year old structure
The 2-5 year old structure is small but more than adequate for toddlers and young preschoolers, with log and toadstool steps for climbing, a cute little treehouse-esque ladder, and a double slide. The highest opening is about waist-high.

The 5-12 year old structure
The 5-12 year old structure is a nice design too, again with log steps, a ladder, and two slides. It has a rope climber and two rock-ish climbing areas, one of which includes a cool cave that I enjoyed exploring with Toddler X. The cave has options for climbing on both the outside and the inside (as in, you can climb up out of it onto the structure above) and offers kids a fun hiding nook, but the coolest part is searching for the creatures hidden in its crevices. Look closely and you'll find ladybugs, spiders, bats, and lizards, as well as stalactites and fossils of animals and plants. Toddler X was excited as he pointed out each new discovery to me, and I heard other family groups doing the same thing. A really creative feature for a play structure, and one that I'd never seen before.

A bat, stalactites, and fossils in the cool cave

The playground also has several peripheral structures for kids of various ages. The biggest is the curved climbing wall -- great fun (and a workout!) for older kids.

There are also three spring features for different group sizes -- a four person see-saw (Toddler X loved this one), and a two person and one person spring bouncer.

Finally, there is a log for little ones to climb on/through and a "wooden" balance beam of sorts.

There are no swings.

All of the playground's structures are close together, making it a great park for parents with kids of various ages -- you could easily stand between the two main structures and keep an eye on kids on both. (Note, though, that the playground isn't fenced and isn't super far from the street entrance to the park, so if you have a "runner," stay alert.)

The playground's ground surface is the squishy rubber stuff (super squishy!) in a nice color pattern, with no tanbark or sand -- hooray!

But by far the most impressive aspect of the park -- and one that should be mandatory in all California parks that don't have natural trees to offer shade -- is the clear effort that went into keeping playground-goers cool and safe from the sun. There are three HUGE shade sails, one over each structure and one over the adjacent picnic table/ping pong area.

Although they don't offer complete shade over the entire play area, the amount that is covered is more than ample (and more than most parks). While today was hardly as hot as yesterday, it was still over 80 degrees during our visit, but both kids played comfortably on the shaded parts of the playground, and we enjoyed our picnic lunch at a fully-shaded table. Way to go, San Jose!

The Rest of the Park: Again, only Phase 1 of the park has been completed, but in addition to the playground, there are already several other nice features. There are two areas of picnic tables -- one near the street entrance, one on the far side of the playground -- and both areas offer pretty good shade (the front picnic tables have individual umbrellas, while the ones on the other side of the playground fall under a shade sail). One set of the picnic tables has checkerboard tops.

Next to those (also under the shade sail) are two built-in ping pong tables -- very cool!

Past the picnic tables and ping pong, there is a small turf multipurpose field -- again, very cool! We happened to have a soccer ball in the car, so that was a fun discovery.

And finally, beyond the field is a nice, new basketball court. The parking lot is next to the court.

There is no natural grass at the park right now (just the turf field) and no native trees, but the shade sails provide a good amount of coverage and the landscaping is nicely done. There isn't a whole lot of ambiance, as the park backs up to train tracks and the highway, but those are a good distance from the playground portion of the park and I didn't notice them at all. Once the adjacent dirt lot is developed in the next phase of the park (which I believe calls for a youth soccer field and a walking track), the setting will be more visually pleasing.

The dirt lot, waiting for Phase 2
In addition to all the recreational offerings, the park has nice, new bathrooms (multiple stalls in each, and a changing table in the handicapped stall) and a water fountain with a water bottle filling station.

Overall, we were very pleased with the park, and everyone else out there exploring it -- there were three other families on the playground and a group of young men on the basketball court -- seemed to be as well. Though the footprint isn't large (when Phase 2 is complete, it eventually will be a big one, but currently is pretty small), the space is well-used.

If you enjoy checking out new parks with creative structures, this is worth a visit. Bring along a soccer ball, ping pong paddles, or checkers to take advantage of some of the park's offerings, or just enjoy the neat playground and a shaded spot to have a picnic.

Happy exploring!

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