Nestled next to the Balboa Park BART near Ocean Avenue, Balboa Park was one of those places I'd driven by a million times and never noticed. To be fair, the sweet skate part on the corner always attracted my attention enough that I completely missed the huge park complex behind it. The area is an activity gold mine: four ball fields, the skate park, a pool, a parking lot, and a lovely two level playground setup.
The two levels are loosely arranged by age--toys aimed at smaller kids up top closer to the bathrooms (great idea), more freeform toys for bigger kids on the lower. But most children gravitated to both sides on our multiple visits, regardless of age. In fact the first time I had a true "OMG WHERE DID MY CHILD RUN OFF TO IN THREE SECONDS" moment was when she chased some kids down to the lower level. Luckily, you can see the entire area from almost every vantage point so I quickly spotted her.
The playground was renovated in 2012 and is chock full of all the latest playground tech: rubber surfaces, that stretchy climbing thing, lots of swings and sitting areas scattered throughout. The equipment is also spread out enough that there's lots of room for spontaneous running.
Balboa is one of the more colorful playground spaces, contrasting nicely with the native, drought-friendly landscaping. It was also great to practice identifying colors with Mia.
Name: Balboa Park
Neighborhood: Balboa Park
Address: Ocean & San Jose
Parking: Small Lot and Street
Sand? No sand
Public Transit: MUNI 49 City College, J-Church/Balboa Park; Balboa Park Bart
These ratings are totally subjective and based on our experience on one or more visits. They are based on playability, location, accessibility, cleanliness, facilities, mood of a toddler and the number of snacks in my purse. Please use your best judgement when visiting these playspaces and share your experiences with us!
Four Stars: Worth a trip across town
Three Stars: Nearby? Check it out
Two Stars: Use In Case of Playtime Emergency
One Star: Don't Do It
No Stars: No. Nope. Never.