South Bay

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Peninsula parks for a 2-year-old?

Jan 2007

I live in Berkeley and get together regularly with a friend who lives in Redwood City. I'm looking for recommendations for good parks that would allow us to meet somewhere in between our two houses - anywhere on the Peninsula between South S.F. and Redwood City. I have a 2-year-old, and so would prefer the kind of park that is small and fenced-in with sand and old plastic toys rather than the big kind with ballfields, etc. Parental amenities (benches, nearby food) would be a bonus, too. Any BPN members live or play on the Peninsula? Or, if you don't know specific park names, any suggestions for how I can find them? Park-bound

Definitely try Central Park in San Mateo, 5th avenue and El Camino. I used to live a few blocks from there, and still visit with kids -- it is a great park for all ages. They have a very nice playground with some toddler things separate from big kid things, and a sand area. It is not fenced in like a tot lot, but there is a fence separating it from the sidewalk, there are bathrooms and benches, and I'd have no problem taking a 2 year old there.

It's not tiny as you stated you were looking for (It's maybe 1 or 2 blocks wide by 2 blocks long with ballfields, tennis courts, a big grassy area, etc.), BUT, they also have a little train that is great for toddlers and preschoolers (it's very small and goes in a circle), which I think runs on weekends. They also have a wonderful Japanese Tea Garden which babies, kids and adults love. Little ones get a kick out of watching the koi fish, especially at scheduled feeding times. There is easy parking in the structure under the tennis courts, and many selections of food on nearby 4th ave (or 3rd, 2nd, Ellsworth, B St. etc.) Check out Draeger's market there. L

I would like to put in a plug for San Mateo. Central Park is right downtown. There are swings and other play equipment. The Japanese Garden is beautiful -- koi swimming in the pond that the kids usually love to see. Unfortunately the Japanese garden part of the park will be closed from January 29 for 6 months for renovation. Still, Central Park is full of other 2 year olds and their parents / nannies. A short stroll is the downtown full of cafes and restaurants. There is also Coyote Point Park right on the edge of the Bay in San Mateo. However the entry fee for a car is $5 (last time I went). There is also a playground there, and a museum with animals that can no longer live in the wild. There is a free Tuesday per month to enter the museum with the animals, though you always have to pay the $5 per car admission. Another option would be to park at Ryder Park and then walk along the Bay about 20 minutes (on a paved walking path) to Coyote Point. Then you avoid the $5 fee. Ryder Park also has a nice play area with a water play area that operates in the summer months. I especially like the spongy stuff they have under the play equipment so the kids fall down and don't get hurt. Ryder Park is small but brand new and very close to the Third Ave exit off 101 (it's on Third Ave on the edge of the Bay). Lastly I have heard that Washington Park near the Burlingame train station is a great place, but I haven't been there (yet) myself. anon
My friend (from SF) and I (from Castro Valley) often meet with our 2 yos and 7 month olds at Central Park in San Mateo. It takes us both about 1/2 hour to get there. It's right over the San Mateo bridge and has a good play space both for younger and older kids with lots of benches/picnic tables. Also has some free play areas with grass and a nice Japanese garden to walk around. And is relatively close to downtown to pick up food either before or after. We have also met at Coyote Point. Costs money to get in/park but also with nice play spaces.

Day trips on the Peninsula

Aug 2005

My husband and I are looking for some ideas for day trips to the Peninsula (with our 2 year old). All suggestions are welcome, but we'd be particularly interested in recommendations for parks and farms (i.e. something that would be a refreshing contrast to our gritty East Bay environment). Perhaps too, some recommendations for nice cafes or restaurants (good, healthy, simple food - not too expensive). THANKS! Italian family new to the Bay area

Try Coyote Point San Mateo. There's a nice wildlife museum, and a park with a good playstructure and places to walk around, and if your 2 yr old likes airplanes, you get the added benefit of being able to watch the planes land at SFO, very near by. If you go a little farther south, Rinconada Park in Palo Alto is nice-playgrounds, small wildlife museum, pools including a toddler pool. There are also several kid spots in San Jose, including heritage park, the childrens' discovery museum, etc.
I'm from the Peninsula originally, now living in Berkeley. Here are a couple of thoughts, places I go when I go home to visit my Mom: at Rinconada Park, at the corner of the Embarcadero and Middlefield in Palo Alto, there is a children's museum and also a small (really small!) 'zoo' -- with turtles and snakes and raccoons and a few bats, excellent for small kids! -- as well as 2 playgrounds, one more for toddlers, one for big kids. Across the park there is a pool, as well. This is a great place to take little kids. A more country-ish place is the Duveneck Ranch (sp?), in Los Altos Hills, on Moody Road -- you might want to look it up online to get directions, it's close to Foothill Junior College. I've gone there since I was a kid, and it's sweet, very countryish, a bit of a walk to the 'farm' where they have goats, horses, chickens, pigs, etc -- a bit like Tilden's little farm, but more rough and ready. It's beautiful there, and you feel like you're more in the country. Enjoy! Los Altos native

San Jose for the Weekend

May 2004

My girlfriend and I are hoping to take the kids away for a weekend in San Jose (of all places!) Our idea is to check in to some fun hotel, a Hyatt or Hilton, treat ourselves to room service, throw the kids in the pool, and then explore. Have checked the archives and was surprised to find nothing listed for this southern neighbor. So we'd love recommendations of places to stay and places to go with our daughters (both entering fifth grade) and our sons (both entering third grade). We're especially interested in cool parks and museums (and a hotel suggestion would be really great). Thanks!! local explorers

How fun! I'm going to suggest the Technology Museum in San Jose. It's really fascinating and there is a great IMAX theater within the museum. anon
You might check out the Fairmont in downtown SJ. They used to have a $99 special on the weekends. The pool is on the roof of the 5th floor or so with nice views, beautiful hotel, nice restaurants (the Grill for dinner is fun), and you're next door to Il Fornaio for breakfast, the Discovery museum, the art museum, etc. Have a fun weekend. Used to live in SJ
The Children's Discovery Museum is very fun! They have an IMAX theater too, so you can check out what's playing... I don't know about hotels though, as I grew up there and always had a place to stay. Jen
San Jose does have quite a few things to offer for ''fun'', depending on you/your kids' interests: - San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation and IMAX Theatre (a must for curious kids; - Winchester Mystery House ( - Rosicrucion Museum and Planetarium (mummies and Egyptian artifacts; - Paramount's Great America Amusement Park Remember that it can get quite a bit warmer just 50 miles south... Anon
Take Amtrak! My husband and then 4-year-old daughter took an overnight trip to San Jose a couple of years ago. They took the train from the Emeryville station to downtown San Jose, pretty much right to their hotel. They were within walking distance of several good museums. Light rail also runs all along the main drag, too, I believe. I think they stayed at the Hilton, but it had a *very* small pool, so that may not be the best choice for you. Anyway, the train was a great part of the experience. Lori
We've gone to San Jose for the weekend a number of times -- the best place to stay is the DeAnza if you can get a good deal which is often possible on the weekend. The DeAnza is a renovated older building, with well decorated rooms and a nice buffet breakfast is usually part of the deal. The Hyatt is in a historic building and has good weekend deals as well. There is a central area in San Jose which has the Tech Museum on one side and the Art Museum on the other (remarkably child friendly and free.) A block or so away is MACLA, a gallery of Mexican and Latin American art. There's a children's museum I haven't been to (my husband took our daughter when she was around 4, she liked it, he was bored.) The central square also has a fountains that come up out of the ground -- a sort of mega- sprinkler experience -- bring dry clothes and for kids past toddlerhood, shorts or a bathing suit - it's not a problem to change kids under 8 or so right there. The Vietnamese food along Santa Clara Street is very good; the DeAnza has a nice Italian Restaurant downstairs; Eulipia has good (though expensive) ''California'' food, and there are fairly accurate restaurant listings in the local equivalent to the East Bay Express. Have fun! Weekend Explorer
July 1996

Also, Happy Hollow in San Jose is an inexpensive destination. They have a small zoo in one half, and small themed play areas, rides, and a puppet show (all included in the price) on the other side. Sort of like Fairyland. I believe the price for adults in $4.00 (with a AAA discount on top of that). Wendy