You have a free day and an active 2 year old. What do you do?
Fall in the bay area is a great time to get outside. These spots are entertaining for both parents and their small children, which is a hard combination to find! As you venture around checking out these places, tag me @andriagrodzinsky to share your photos. I would love to see how you are having fun :-)
Shoreline Lake is a giant park with a number of activities. The trails near the lake are paved and relatively flat with great, open views of the wetlands.
Roaring Camp Railway
This redwood park “offers train rides amid natural landscapes, seasonal routes & special events”. There are a couple of different train routes to choose from, and honestly, you can't go wrong. All of them are pulled by a beautiful steam engine and move at a leisurely, comfortable pace. There is also an old fashioned themed main street with a store and a bbq.
Redwood Grove Loop Trail
“As the main attraction in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, the Redwood Grove Loop Trail is a pretty fantastic way to get immersed among these giants. The trail itself is less than a mile, but it could easily take you an hour as there is so much to see that you will want to take your time… The trail itself is flat and shaded nearly the entire way. There are so many massive trees in this old growth grove that it is a fabulous spot to explore.” This trail is adjacent to Roaring Camp.
Vasona Park is a public green space in Los Gatos with “45 acres of lawn, a multi-use trail, and picnic areas plus a lake with fishing.” The lake also has paddle boats during the summer. Within Vasona is Oak Meadow Park that has a large playground with a real, decommissioned USAF T-33 Jet.
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
At Vasona Park, Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad offers “rides on 1/3-scale steam and diesel locomotives, plus a historical carousel.” These train rides are about 15 minutes. Perfect for a toddler's attention span. They love going around the loop waving to all the people walking by.
Capitola Village and Beach
This is a super kid friendly beach with easy parking and restaurants. The best time to come is during the week or first thing in the morning. From santacruz.org: It’s all about the bustling scene at Capitola Beach and the bench-filled Esplanade Park that fronts it. Beach goers perch themselves on a wide, arcing sea wall lined with colorful tiles painted by community members and take in the panoramic beach scene. A nearby bandstand comes alive during the summer months with live music and a free movie series screening popular flicks at dusk, like Wall-E and The Avengers.
Home Depot Kids’ Workshop
The first Saturday of each month, Home Depot hosts a free kids’ building workshop. Some stores require preregistration to ensure they have enough kits. Here is the description for the November 3rd project: Kids Celebrate and honor all who have served our country in our hands-on Veteran’s Day focused workshop. You and your child can build a custom model military helicopter to spark a conversation with a Veteran about fighting large fires, moving troops, getting supplies to ships and transporting patients. Once the “helo” build is complete, your child can decorate it with paint and stickers. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin while supplies last. Children must be present at the store to participate in the workshop and receive the kit, apron, and pin.
Sky Kitchen Restaurant at San Carlos Airport
This little airport is awesome for kids and the best viewing for watching the small planes land and take off is from the Sky Kitchen Restaurant. The staff is very friendly and they have plenty of tables with window views.
Mountain View Farmer’s Market
“Consistently award-winning farmers’ market for over 22 years, this market was voted Top 5 in the Nation by American Farmland Trusts’ Favorite Farmers’ Market Contest. This Farmers’ Market showcases over 80 farmers and food purveyors every Sunday, 9am to 1pm hosted by the City of Mountain View at the Caltrain Station year-round. The third largest market in the state, it offers an extensive selection of organic produce, baked goods and fresh flowers.” It can be pretty fun to take the train from San Jose to Mountain View, eat lunch at the Farmer’s Market, and then ride home again.
Emma Prusch Farm Park
This is working farm open to the public with lots of animals to visit. From their brochure: This farm and park is home to San José's largest barn where 4H livestock projects are housed; animals vary throughout the year so keep coming back to see what is around. The park also features robust community gardens, a rare historic fruit orchard, and acres of open grass perfect for picnicking, kite flying, games and relaxing. Bring a quarter or two so you can feed the chickens and peacocks that roam free.
Deer Hollow Farm and hike at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve
This is another working farm with animals and an education center. It is about a 1 mile hike in the beautiful Rancho San Antonio Preserve. The path is wide and relatively flat. Very pretty open space.
Also a working farm on a park. Hidden Villa stretches over 1600 acres of open space in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. A wonderful garden and animals to visit. Once you get past the farm area, there is hiking, but it is more rugged and steep than the other farm parks. If your little person is a trooper, it is beautiful hiking with some gorgeous views. Just be prepared for tired legs :-)
If you have visited any local places with your toddler that you love, let me know! It would be great to add additional recommendations to this list. Tell me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.