Construction for spectators?
June 9, 2016 9:30 AM   Subscribe

My 3-year old son is obsessed with construction sites and trucks, to the extent that he will just randomly close his eyes and scream with glee at the things he sees in his imagination. How can I get him some live action safely and without being too weird?

We live in the East Bay (California) near El Cerrito and Richmond. I know I am not the only parent who ever had a kid who loves big trucks - the little guy even urged me to "vote for bulldozers" on Tuesday - so I am hoping someone has some tips. Is there an easy way to find or seek out large construction sites? Any chance we can see something happening when he is NOT in daycare and I am NOT at work (assume typical weekday schedules)? If I do blow off work for a morning/afternoon, any way to guarantee we find something active and cool?

To be clear, all I want is to be able to sit or stand somewhere for half an hour or so and see big trucks do loud things. Looking over a fence or other obstruction is fine if not ideal. Any tips, either general or specific?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
That is SO cute. Would road work potentially be of interest? Some of that happens at night... there's a contact # on the CA Dept of Transportation page, as well as a map of current projects, you could ask about the ones nearest you to see if any of them are going at night...
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:38 AM on June 9, 2016

This isn't until October, but I bet he would love the Touch a Truck event in Richmond. There was one in San Fransisco, but that already happened in May. You might want to look around at other towns and cities near you, to see if there's something coming up sooner that you might be able to get him to.

Also, Fire Department-related fundraisers? I know you said construction equipment, but in my experience most kids who like construction equipment like fire trucks too. Any Fire Department-related events in your area will generally have a nice shiny fire truck or two at them for kids to ogle.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:39 AM on June 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

The Nutter Foundation does a Dozer Day near us in Vancouver, WA, that is pretty cool. There are two other locations in Washington that apparently host it. We took our daughter for the first time this year and she loved it. You could email them and see if they do any events in California or know of any other orgs doing something similar.
posted by amanda at 9:43 AM on June 9, 2016

When my son was little, I'd pack a lunch and go sit in the car near the Microsoft campus to watch big construction projects. If you go on your local city website, you can find listings of construction in your area. It's kind of fun watching the progress.
posted by jennstra at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

I once gave my own truck-loving two-year-old a thrill by spontaneously following a garbage truck when we ended up behind it in traffic. It was one of the big ones that empties dumpsters.

When I was a young person, we had family friends who competed in truck pulls. If there is a truck or tractor pull near you, there will be a lot of earth moving the morning of the event to get ready for the competition. This can be fascinating to watch. There may be such a thing at a county or state fair.

May I digressively recommend the Read Wheels videos, if you and your child are not already familiar with them? I can't tell you how many times my kid watched these back in the day. Titles like There Goes a Monster Truck, There Goes a Motorcycle, There Goes a Bulldozer.
posted by not that girl at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

They are doing construction at the Bart Richmond stop, you can see it from the platform. Not sure when they're active though.
posted by bleep at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2016

There's a daycare in my town that does an annual truck show as a fundraiser-- 2 dollars a pop to get little kids sitting in a bulldozer and screaming with glee. You might look around at a local events page and see if something similar is happening near you.

I also agree with firefighters as above. Our local volunteer department hosts birthday parties, which includes rides.

In my experience, if you stay at a safe distance, roadwork crews are perfectly happy to be goggled at by small children whenever you luck into passing one on a day that you have 10 free minutes. Roadwork is usually easier to get a good view, too, and they tend to start early, so you might get a before-work treat. Universities always seem to have ongoing construction, too.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:56 AM on June 9, 2016

Just a quick note that these suggestions are awesome and exactly what I was hoping for. Thanks and keep them coming!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:59 AM on June 9, 2016

UCB has a major construction project ongoing on Shattuck at Hearst. It's a relatively small lot with a ton of different pieces of heavy equipment on it. There's a fence but you can get good views from the corners or by taking the pedestrian walkway at the east side of it.
posted by agentofselection at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Come to downtown SF and walk around the perimeter of the enormous Transbay center project. Construction webcams, current activity, construction schedule.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

If he gets sick of trucks, take the SFBF ferry from Oakland to SF and check out the huge cranes, container ships and metal recycling from the estuary as well the cool dry docks and unusual vessels at Bay Ship & Yacht. There is nearly always something happening, and if not, he'll be digging being on a boat.
posted by quarterframer at 10:06 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is more of an at home thing, but I hope you know about the show Mighty Machines? There are episodes of it on YouTube and for purchase on iTunes.
posted by rozee at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

And construction sites are used to this.

They see happy toddlers watching all the time.
posted by nickggully at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

Are there any mines near you? I took a tour of a coal mine and somewhere have a picture of an uncle standing next to a machine with that he is positively dwarfed by. I'm not sure how difficult it is to get a tour, we went as part of a family reunion, a cousin worked there.
I love this question so much. Be sure to take pictures. This may be the fondest memory for him, traveling with his Mom to go see the big machines. He has the coolest Mom/Dad!
Coal mining machines.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:29 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

So sweet. This was me and my kid, too. Part of it is that you just have to open your eyes and "see" the stuff around town that you used to ignore. Like, I finally actually saw that near our home was a random city maintenance yard...and ZOMG it turned out that was the place where street sweeping trucks go to get emptied out!!! So I just rerouted us many times when we were going by and if we'd pull over and watch if there was anything interesting going on.

Also, in my experience (in LA) you can walk up to any fire station at any time and if they're not busy there's always one firefighter who is happy to chat up your kid and let them look at or even get into a truck or ambulance.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:35 AM on June 9, 2016

Not exactly construction related, but a Monster Truck Rally might fit the bill when they come to your area. Be sure to wear hearing protection though.
posted by monospace at 10:51 AM on June 9, 2016

Oh, you j-u-s-t missed a "Touch A Truck" event last month in San Francisco!
That's the phrase to use "touch a truck" -- maybe see if any of the local municipalities have this on their radar.
The event last month was a fund raiser.
Good luck sounds cool!
posted by calgirl at 11:09 AM on June 9, 2016

You know how every construction site puts up big signs announcing the company's name? Maybe call them and ask....

And while giant projects and roadwork could be fun, don't forget smaller stuff like house-building, especially when they're doing things with cement trucks. Or for a really off-the-wall thought, you know all those homeowner DIY classes at places like Home Depot or Lowes? No big trucks, but might be worth a shot.
posted by easily confused at 11:11 AM on June 9, 2016

Not live, but for the "construction on demand" files...when we were kids my brother had a VHS tape that was just roads being paved and bulldozers bulldozing for exactly this purpose. He would sit in front of it for as long as anyone would let him. I am sure these still exist! Maybe even on YouTube.

Oops, rozee already said it. But +1 to the magic of the internet to have videos of everything!
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:43 AM on June 9, 2016

I was your son 60 years ago, and I never outgrew it.
For my birthday one year, my husband arranged with a local gravel/soil/rock outfit (very rural location, about 40 minutes from our house) for me to get "lessons" on how to drive a front-end loader! I got that and much much more!
I got to use a trackhoe, to move some rocks from one pile to another, and I drove the front-end loader up to the trackhoe.
The owner was my 'tutor' and he easily had as much fun as I did. If you could find someone sympathetic, and have them let you know of a 'slow' Saturday morning (what we did), your son might get to sit on his lap while he loads some gravel, or shifts rocks around.
It was one of my best birthday presents ever!
posted by dbmcd at 12:15 PM on June 9, 2016 [9 favorites]

There are so many Youtube videos of monster trucks that make me squeeee. Park that kid with a digital device for a 1/2 hour or so.

And for Pete's sake, get that kid a big yellow Tonka dozer to play in the dirt!
posted by BlueHorse at 12:17 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's a great pity you're the other side of the country to Diggerland.
posted by Vortisaur at 12:33 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

The forums are basically a construction "fan page" where people post news and photos of active construction sites. Here's the Bay Area thread.
posted by alexei at 1:14 PM on June 9, 2016

Omg, Diggerland! It makes me happy just knowing this exists.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:16 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I can't believe I have to take my kids to New Jersey.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:26 PM on June 9, 2016

You might try contacting BoDean. They have two quarries in the bay area and a community outreach program. They might be amenable to arranging a tour.
posted by RichardP at 1:51 PM on June 9, 2016

If you are traveling, try to find a hotel near a construction site. Call the hotel and say your 3 year old loves looking at construction sites and you want to get a room where he can watch.

Most people prefer rooms that don't look out on construction, so they will probably be happy to fulfill your request.

I'm not sure there's a good way to search specifically for hotels with construction nearby, but you could try searching ratings sites for reviews mentioning "construction", "noise", "trucks", "loud", etc.
posted by yohko at 2:20 PM on June 9, 2016

If you ask on your social media platform of choice, your local friends will almost certainly be able to direct you to some good local sites. My friends also used to give me heads-ups when they were having work done at their house that might involve a backhoe or a crane or a dumptruck so we could come watch.

And, yeah, Mighty Machine have been a hit in our house for five years now. I have a dance to the theme song because I've heard it so many times.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:33 PM on June 9, 2016

Oh, happy memories! I used to take my son to all the construction sites around town. Don't worry, the construction dudes are used to it, kind of like the guys driving the garbage trucks are used to excited little kids running out of the house and waving frantically on trash day. YouTube videos of those insanely giant trucks used for mining are always a winner, too.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 5:14 PM on June 9, 2016

Like others have said, search your local government websites for current approved projects and then just go stalk the construction site. I used to do this all the time with my boy! We'd open the sunroof and he'd stand on the console with his head poking out, all the while singing the theme to Mighty Machines. Great fun.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:25 PM on June 9, 2016

Does he like planes?
posted by kjs4 at 6:07 PM on June 9, 2016

A lot of the guys (it's mostly guys, though not quite 100 percent) working for and managing construction companies used to be just like your son. My experience is that they are tickled pink to have a kid be excited about the machines, but with some important caveats about job site safety. Excavation is all about production, meaning getting the work done quickly. So tourism either has to happen after hours, or around the edges where things don't get interrupted by having people on site, and coordinating with the person in charge is an absolutely essential step.

My guess is that you will have the best luck if you can make contact with the owner or supervisor at a smaller company, because bigger companies tend to have much stricter jobsite safety rules, and just straight up ask if there is a day that your son can come out and watch and maybe get to sit in the machines. The owners I know would have your son operating a machine in no time, but there's no way to guarantee that.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:53 PM on June 9, 2016

Our toddler loves all things having to do with construction, trucks and job sites, too. A while back, Mrs. Zooroopa discovered Twenty Trucks on YouTube. They are short music videos about trucks and construction vehicles of all kinds and we cannot recommend them enough. WARNING: they are highly addictive and you will start singing the songs at the weirdest of moments.

Check out Twenty Trucks.
posted by zooropa at 6:57 PM on June 9, 2016

There's a new tv show coming up called Terrific Trucks that should be right up his alley.
posted by peagood at 8:08 PM on June 9, 2016

A medium amount of construction work is 6 days/week (time is money, and all that), so Saturdays are a pretty good bet to visit any construction sites you might have spotted during the week.
posted by misterbrandt at 8:23 PM on June 9, 2016

Look for demolition sites, too. Big machines taking bites out of buildings is always fascinating. The easiest times I ever had babysitting my nephew was the week we would park across the street so we could watch them knock down a suburban department store. We also took him to an 'implosion' (another department store) very early one very cold morning. He still talks about; he's 26.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:31 PM on June 9, 2016

See if you can figure out a place they are repaving the road, maybe call the DOT? They did the road in front of our house and holy crap my son went wild. They use so many different trucks to dump the asphalt, smush it down, paint the road lines..and they are FAST. it's actually pretty amazing to watch.
posted by gatorae at 9:40 PM on June 9, 2016

There's a very large construction site that will be operating tomorrow in Hayward at Tennyson & Mission. They're shaping the site now, so there's huge machines all over. The only bad part is that it's on a hill. You might have to drive around the surrounding roads to get a good look.
posted by spork at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2016

A little closer than Jersy, Las vegas has Dig This. I haven't been, but its on my when in Vegas list.
posted by ljesse at 12:08 PM on June 10, 2016

« Older Can you recommend a decent, fairly cheap, paring...   |   Help me choose a (second) gravestone Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.