Places to take your toddler in the Bay Area: Tanforan Target Play Area

My daughter is 15 months old at present and wants to go somewhere every day. In winter it’s dark when I get home so there’s a limited number of indoor places for me to take her.

There are a few indoor playgrounds in the area, but they cost money and are for somewhat older children.

One nice place is an indoor play area in Tanforan Park, a shopping mall in San Bruno, on the San Francisco Peninsula.

If you’re in the Bay Area looking for indoor playgrounds or places to go with your toddler, this is a nice enough place.

It’s not large, and on Friday nights it can get rowdy with older kids, but it’s got a soft spongy floor, and soft plastic structures to climb on or through.

Tanforan used to be a racetrack, so it is themed that way. There is a saddle, two horses, a horseshoe garland, a pair of binoculars (functions as a double tunnel) and a car with a slide.

It’s inside the mall right outside the lower level entrance to Target. There is a storage area for shoes and cushioned benches inside for parents to sit.

Along the walls is a distortion mirror, a bas-relief like racing scene, and some toys where you flip panels or move a ball through a maze.

The structures are such that bare feet provides excellent traction allowing kids to crawl up anything if they know how.

If your child is small, you’ll want to keep an eye out that bigger kids don’t jump off the taller structures without looking, particularly on busy Friday nights.

In addition, a short distance from the play area is an island with rides. Like the horsey rides of old outside supermarkets, but on steroids. They have a helicopter, a space shuttle, a ride which mimics a roller-coaster (with video screen) and more. They are 75 cents or a dollar.

Another ride island is on the upper level above the food court. That is my preferred location in the evening as it is usually uncrowded. Furthermore, the ice cream truck ride moves on its own every few minutes (to entice passers-by) and many of the buttons work whether you put money in or not, making it a great budget choice.

The rides all say 3 years and up, but if you’re responsible and don’t leave your child’s side for a moment, you can enjoy them much earlier.

Note: Tanforan Park was remodeled and now they call it “The Shops at Tanforan” which I think is a STUPID name so I don’t call it that. Also the old mall layout was nicer, but I guess I’m in the minority because it was a pretty dead mall until the remodel. And the play area is new so I guess I’m happy about that, now that I have a child to use it.

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