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San Mateo County Parks & Playgrounds

18 Jul 2023 3:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

With many wonderful parks and playgrounds in San Mateo County, it can be hard to decide where to go. Should you go to a tried and true park with playgrounds the kids already love? Or should you check out a new park that could become their new favorite? The only thing better than the parks in our area is our weather, which allows for visits virtually any time of the year!

Some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a playground:

  • Separation between age groups: Playgrounds can be exciting or scary for smaller kids. Separate areas for older and younger kids can create a safer and more comfortable setting for younger kids to explore.

  • Gates: Gated playgrounds provide parents with peace of mind when supervising kids, especially if there’s more than one child to keep an eye on. 

  • Tan bark versus rubber surfaces: Your mileage may vary with this one. Tan bark can be fun for kids to play with (or throw, grrr), but has a tendency to get stuck in clothes and hair. Rubber surfaces are softer and ideal for new walkers, but can get hot on warm days.

  • Sand: Many playgrounds have sand pits for imaginative play. It’s a great place for kids to socialize and learn how to share, as long as you’re okay with brushing sand out of clothes, shoes, hair…

  • Shade: With the longer days and warmer temperatures, shade can be very important for keeping your kids (and yourselves!) comfortable during any playground outing.

  • Water: We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve forgotten to bring a snack or a water bottle. Easily accessible water fountains will ensure everyone stays well hydrated.

  • Facilities: Bathrooms are essential, and picnic areas are handy for outdoor meals and snacks. Some parks may have additional facilities.

With that in mind, here’s a short, not all-inclusive, list of parks in San Mateo County that are popular with parents and kids. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite!

Beresford Park

2720 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

A park that has a lot to offer for its size. It has a large playground (not gated, tan bark) with separate play structures for older and younger children. There are some shade structures throughout the play area, but it can still get very warm on sunny days. Due to the large number of picnic areas around the playgrounds and the expansive grassy areas, it’s very popular for birthday parties. For older kids, there’s also a small skate park. It is the home to San Mateo’s only community garden as well as the San Mateo Garden Center.

Burton Park

900 Chestnut Street, San Carlos

The only playground on this list where the toddler playground is separately gated from the rest of the park. The playground for the bigger kids is not gated. Both play areas have sand pits to play in. The play surfaces are rubber and concrete and there is some shade from surrounding trees. There are picnic areas scattered throughout the park, and there are a few picnic tables located within the gated toddler playground, perfect for snack time. There are grassy areas adjacent to the playgrounds for the little one who needs to work off the wiggles.

Central Park

50 East 5th Avenue, San Mateo

There’s lots that this park has to offer, including a few playgrounds (not gated, tan bark/sand). Playgrounds are shady due to nearby trees, but it can still get warm on hot days. The park has many picnic areas and is very popular on weekends. Besides playgrounds, Central Park has many community events throughout the year. The Japanese Garden is a peaceful sanctuary with public koi feedings twice a day during the Spring and Summer. There used to be a popular Mini Train, but it has recently gone into retirement.

Laurelwood Park

3471 Glendora Drive, San Mateo

This park has many walking paths and trails that lead into Sugarloaf Mountain. There is a gated playground area with play structures for older and younger children. Both play structures have sand pits, and there is no separation between the two play structures. There are many picnic areas with expansive lawns for running around. Pro tip: This is an extremely big park adjacent to Sugarloaf Mountain. The closest parking to the playgrounds can be found on Shasta Drive. There is a small parking lot as well as parking in the adjacent neighborhood.

Magical Bridge Playgrounds

CuriOdyssey, San Mateo

Mitchell Park, Palo Alto

Red Morton Park, Redwood City

The Magical Bridge Foundation designs and builds playgrounds all around the world that are socially inclusive and physically accessible. There are multiple Magical Bridge playgrounds in the Bay Area, and a few are linked above. There is a separate play area for toddlers, but it is not gated off from the larger playground. Play surfaces are rubber, Astroturf, and tan bark (some loose, some bound). Shade varies depending on playground location. The Palo Alto playground is well shaded, while the Redwood City playground has less shade and can get warm on a hot day (but there are often ice cream trucks nearby!). The Redwood City location has a water feature for kids to play in, while the San Mateo location is at CuriOdyssey and is only open during museum hours.

Paddock Park

2900 Baze Road, San Mateo

Located in the Bay Meadows neighborhood, it is very popular with families who live in the area. There’s a gated playground with play structures for older and younger children, with no gate separation between the play structures. The surface is rubberized, but there is no shade, so it can get warm on sunny days. There is a sandpit that sees a lot of action from toy trucks and plastic shovels on the weekends. There are also some picnic tables, one of which is right next to the playground.

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