February 21, 2012

Play Date: Micke Grove Regional Park (playgrounds)

Play Date is a series of little guides to the areas parks and play areas.
This week: Micke Grove Regional Park (the playgrounds)

The Basics | Micke Grove Regional Park
Location: At 11793 N. Micke Grove Road in Lodi 
Type: San Joaquin County Regional Park
Size: 258 acres
Amenities:  The sprawling park has a handful of playgrounds (including one water play area) with equipment that'd be fun for toddlers on up through school-age kids. It's home to the Micke Grove Zoo, The Japanese Garden, The San Joaquin County Historical Museum and Fun Town at Micke Grove. Other amenities include softball fields, rental facilities, picnic areas and horseshoe pits. Originally an oak grove, the park also has lots of open space and shade.
A little history: The park was a gift to the county from Lodi farmer and philanthropist William G. Micke. It now draws as many as 700,000 visitors a year.
Play date: Sure, there are plenty of picnic tables, but for this park, bring a blanket, pick up a pizza on the way over and enjoy lunch under the lovely Valley Oaks. See who spots the most squirrels.
Special notes: The Park is open daily (except for Christmas Day) from 8 a.m. until sunset. Parking is $5. Pets cost an extra $1 and must be leashed.
Source: County of San Joaquin)

While the park's size seems a little overwhelming for a weekend afternoon out, it's also what makes Micke Grove a really great community resource: You can carve out the space you need, whether it's a big, open expanse for a family reunion, or a low-key spot for the kids to burn off some energy before naptime. 

This week, we'll focus on the latter.

The playgrounds at Micke Grove are sort of scattered throughout the park which helps make a rather enormous place feel like a more familiar and manageable one. And I like that my daughter can run around pretty freely without me worrying about her getting accidentally trampled by bigger, faster kids.

After a recent visit to the zoo with a couple of 2-year-old girls, we parked in front of the play area nearest Wortley Lake, a 3-acre water feature that was built a few years ago as part of an expansion project. The equipment looked new and seemed the most toddler friendly: there are both regular and bucket-style swings, and the slides have stairs rather than ladder-syle bars to climb.

There was also a little rock-climbing feature that the kids enjoyed more than I thought they would, and some lazy Canada Geese that they had a good time quacking at.

If you time things right, you might be able to wave at an Amtrak train roaring by on the tracks just outside the park.
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