Universally designed to be accessible to everyone, the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto lives up to its reputation. About 40 minutes from Oakland with no traffic, my girls and I thought it was totally worth the drive!
I was really excited to visit this very unique playground, and it totally met our expectations. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Magical Bridge is thoughtful. This playground is thoughtful in design for children and adults, of all physical abilities.
Why We Love Magical Bridge Playground
I LOVE the inclusive, all-abilities concept of this playground. While my children were running around discovering all the structures, I enjoyed reading how each element was thoughtfully designed. I learned that people with special hearing implants are unable to use plastic slides because of static electricity interference; all the slides and structures were created with these types of considerations.
Magical Bridge Playground Features
Magical Bridge has almost too many unique features to mention so here are some of my family’s favorites:
The Music Zone Laser Harp felt like an Exploratorium exhibit: this unique installation was probably our favorite playground feature, like ever. Imagine a giant arch that plays 24 musical notes via lasers! Yes, lasers. Kids move up and down underneath it to create music. My girls pretended they were fairies waving their arms underneath the arch, creating beautiful music as they ran, so so fun!
Accessible slides and swings. I mentioned the thoughtful slides above. There are a wide variety of of bucket swings for all capabilities.
Lots of little coves and hideouts. There are plenty of cozy areas to retreat if the playground becomes a sensory overload.
Soft surfaces and ramps. We saw so many types of play zones that it seems that the designers really thought of everything.
The signage is also in Braille. The really cool info signs are accessible to low vision guests.
Fenced in? Yes, definitely. Keep in mind, Magical Bridge is very strict about no drinks or food inside the fenced area. We only brought water and were asked to leave it outside the park perimeter.
Surfaces: The playground has a variety of surfaces: astroturf, bouncy surfaces and cement pathways throughout with lots of ramps for those limited by stairs. The tree and picnic table area is mulched.
Bathroom: There are two adjacent to the tennis courts.
Lunch tables & seating: There are tables and seating within the playground, but you won’t be having lunch here due to the no food rules during Covid-19 pandemic. There is ample seating all throughout the playground.
Parking: Yes, park at the lot next to the tennis courts and follow the signs to Magical Bridge playground.
Shade: Lots of shade to be found both on the playground from trees and umbrellas. There are plenty of areas outside the playground perimeter to find shade as well.
Covid-19 Restricted Occupancy: Yes. This playground was unique in that they had two security guards enforcing occupancy limits and social distancing. They require all guests to sanitize hands before entering and masks are obviously required. If someone was unable to wear a mask, they wore a cute sticker indicating they’re unable to mask up. During the pandemic restrictions, personal toys and cardboard boxes are prohibited.
Pro tip: While we didn’t encounter this, if the playground is at maximum occupancy, you will have to wait to enter. To avoid this, we arrived at 9am when they opened.
More to Love About Magical Bridge
- It’s truly for everyone: this playground is seriously for all ages and abilities. There are even a couple adult-sized, self-propelled exercise machines on the outer perimeter of the play structures.
- It’s quite a large playground with tons of space to distance.
- The ramp down to the playground is wide enough for wheelchairs and strollers.
- They’re serious about mask rules here, for which I was grateful. It feels more relaxed to play when everyone is following the mask rules.
- There are challenging structures for climbers, but also a very sweet accessible, two-level tree house for children who enjoy more imaginary play.
The Bottom Line on Magical Bridge & Playground
Driving to Palo Alto to play is a magical field trip for a holiday weekend or anytime when traffic is light; I would definitely consider this playground “worth the drive.”
While this concept is new to me, when we visited it didn’t feel like we needed to tread lightly as we played, or that the playground was only for special needs family. Instead, we felt welcome to play at this super awesome playground with a bunch of other families. It truly felt inclusive and also special.
Pro tip: I may or may not have promised my girls milkshakes for the long-ish drive home.
Location: 3700 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto in Mitchell Park.
Hours: 9am-4:30pm, everyday (except holidays) — check the website for any special events or Covid-related cleaning days.