Just Opened: Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose

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Kids of all ages and abilities are in for a treat at the brand new Rotary PlayGarden. Slides, swings and kinetic art are just some of the many features of this awesome new playground right near Mineta San Jose Airport. Bonus: toddlers will be delighted by the ability to check out the many planes that fly overhead as they are landing at the airport! Read on to explore everything that the PlayGarden has to offer!

Inclusive Play for All Children
This new addition to Guadalupe River Park is the Rotary Club of San Jose’s centennial gift to the community. Its unique design definitely accomplishes the goal of encouraging inclusive play for all children. The ongoing maintenance of the PlayGarden was taken over by the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, which also provides volunteer staff at the entrance to ensure a safe and fun play experience for all visitors.

Slides, Slides for Everyone!
Lots of research went into the design of this playground, which is evident from the choice of slides that are available. Concrete was selected instead of the usual plastic slides as the planners learned from the special needs community that plastic slides can interfere with cochlear implants. There is an extra wide slide available so that kids can slide next to their caregiver and also some shorter slides for the younger kids. All slides are wheelchair accessible by ramps to the top of the hill.

One of the most popular features at the PlayGarden is the two-story rope merry-go-round. Kids can easily get the merry-go-round moving but it doesn’t go so fast that little ones would be scared. Older kids can climb to the top for even more fun. Right next to the rope merry-go-round is a super cool feature—the wheelchair accessible merry-go-round. With the assistance of a caregiver, a child in a wheelchair can get on the merry-go-round for a fun (and safe!) ride with his or her friends. The youngest visitors will also enjoy this feature as it has a bench and easy on and off access.

Climb to the Stars
Tons of climbing features are included in the PlayGarden, from the rock walls on the sides of the slides to the rope feature totally devoted to kids who like to climb. None of these are very far off the cushy ground—great because, inevitably, what goes up, must come down!

Art You Can Play With
Some of the more unique features are the many animal sculptures that kids are encouraged to play on and climb over. At the top of the slides are a dragonfly and other flying bugs—inquisitive kids will notice that if you spin the circle at the bottom of the structure you can get the bugs to fly!

Other Fun Features
Toddlers will love the musical installation where they can bang attached mallets on musical pipes to create all sorts of groovy tunes. There is a sand feature (bring your own shovels) which is raised off the ground allowing access by a child in a wheelchair. In the very back is a rubber trampoline surrounded by a rope climber that is a big draw for the younger kids. The water feature looks cool but is currently not turned on due to the drought.

Good to Know
The entire PlayGarden is fenced with only one entrance/exit point. There is ample parking right near the PlayGarden. Across the street are many food options including Panera and Chili’s. The park has limited hours: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the summer as it is staffed by volunteers during that time to maintain the cleanliness of the facilities. There are restrooms and water fountains on-site. Shade is at a minimum at the park so make sure you wear hats and bring sunscreen. You can reserve the six picnic table area (for a toddler birthday, perhaps?) as well as the small amphitheater for 2 hours with a $100 donation.

Rotary PlayGarden
Guadalupe River Park
Coleman Avenue at Autumn Street
San Jose, Ca
Summer hours: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Online: rotaryplaygarden.org

Have you visited the Rotary PlayGarden? Let us know what your favorite feature was in the comments below!

—Kate Loweth

All photos by the author.

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