All playgrounds are fun, and every family has a go-to neighborhood playground their little one could play in day after day, at least until they're old enough to spend a day at a theme park. Luckily, there are a few playgrounds around the Bay Area that have such unique features, you might be able to put off that big Disney World trip for a year or two. Here are five "destination" playgrounds around the Bay Area that are worth the drive:
Formerly known as the Golden Gate Park Children's Playground, the Koret Children's Quarter lives up to its reputation as the biggest and best playground in San Francisco. This playground has it all: mega play structures, dry and wet sand pits, a soft sculpture area, a rope pyramid, and a twisty, bumpy concrete slide. It's surrounded by grassy knolls for lots of running and tumbling, and a classic 1914 Herschell-Spillman carousel is just steps away. Best of all, it's located right in the heart of Golden Gate Park, so you can pack a picnic lunch and go for the day.
Everything in Berkeley's Adventure Playground, from the cargo nets to the forts to the raised bridges has a DIY, junkyard vibe—and the kids who play there wouldn't have it any other way because it's their playground. Literally. Where else would kids be allowed to paint on climbing structures or even build their own? At the Adventure playground, creativity is not only allowed but encouraged. Kids can build with real hammers, nails and saws (volunteers are at hand to help and supervise, and parents of children under seven are asked to stay within arms length). With so much creative fun to be had, the tire wall, rope swing, and zip line almost seem boring in comparison. Almost.
There's magic in San Mateo's Coyote Point Recreation Area—the Magic Mountain Playground, that is. From the two giant purple dragons flanking the playground's five-foot hill to the 42-foot high castle slide perched atop the hill, this is a place where fairytales come true. A variety of attractions including tire swings, regular swings, a wobbly platform and ride-on cars ensure hours of fun and play. There's a nearby open field for kicking a ball, throwing a frisbee or flying a kite—and when your little ones are all tired out from all that activity, they can laze on the grass and watch the planes taking off and landing from the San Francisco airport.
The ants go marching one by one all over Santa Clara's War Memorial Playground. They're stamped into the concrete paths that meander around the area. They're cut into the rubber play surface beneath the toddler play structure. Best of all, there are giant ant sculptures scattered throughout the playground for kids to climb on. Grassy slopes to slide on, cool monkey bars, clean restrooms, and benches for sitting and watching planes take off from the San Jose airport make this a playground well worth the drive.
The Henry Schmidt Park in Santa Clara is a wonderful neighborhood park with a Traintown theme. All the structures are built to look like an old-fashioned train depot, from the water tower slide to the control tower fireman's pole, and to the playhouse disguised as a train station and saloon. And of course, right in the middle of the sand-filled play area is every preschooler's dream: a fun ride-on train with an engine (complete with a working train whistle), open car and caboose.
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