5 Bay Area Playgrounds With Stunning Views
Taking the kids to the same neighborhood playground day after day, year after year, can be tedious and uninspiring. Sure you can unleash the inner child every once in awhile, jump on some bridges and dive down some slides, but there’s only so many toddlers you can accidentally knock over before it’s back to the bench, watching the clock and lamenting your persistently uninteresting Facebook news feed. Lucky for us, we live in an area where awe-inspiring and life-affirming views abound, many of which can be enjoyed from the comfortable vantage point of the playground bench. So put away those phones, breathe in that crisp and pure air, and bask in beautiful views at one of these great parks.
Glendale-Loma Linda Park, Berkeley
Formerly the site of a stone quarry, this award-winning park features top-of-the-world panoramas of the city, the bay and both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. The park occupies three terraced levels, the top of which contains off-street parking and a fenced in toddler play area with bucket swings, sand, a slide, train, climbing ramp and, in typical Berkeley fashion, an assortment of donated toys.
Follow the steep, paved path to the large big kid play structure on the second level for sand, swings, a tall slide, zip line, monkey bars and rolling log. On the bottom level, you’ll find a softball field, half basketball court and restrooms that are open from 8:00 am – 2:00 pm on weekdays.
Map it: Glendale-Loma Linda Park
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park and Portview Park, Oakland
Driving past rows of semis and walls of concrete through the nation’s fifth busiest port, it’s hard to believe you’re headed toward a 38-acre shoreline park with grassy fields, picnic areas and spectacular views of the city and bay.
Take advantage of the free telescopes at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, then head half a mile along the water to Portview Park, where you’ll find similarly striking views along with a modern play structure, sand pit, diggers and public restrooms. The parks’ location along Oakland’s westernmost point puts them well into the bay, framing a magnificent view of the Bay Bridge the city’s sparkling skyline.
Southview Park, Sausalito
Located on a steep hillside in a quiet residential area, just two blocks from the bustling Bridgeway, this small park boasts an expansive, unobstructed vista of the bay, city, Bay Bridge and Alcatraz. It includes a small grassy area and fenced-in playground containing one bucket swing, one big kid swing, sand, three slides and monkey bars. Lower levels contain basketball and tennis courts. Be sure to bring sunscreen and empty bladders because this park has no shade and no public restrooms.
Map it: Southview Park
Walter Haas Playground, San Francisco: This hilltop playground in Glen Park/Noe Valley wins the award for “best view from a bucket swing.” Launching the little ones into the air almost feels like they’re soaring high above the Financial District and the bay. The park also features fenced in play structures for kids of all ages, a tire swing, grassy area and basketball court, though unfortunately no public restrooms.
Map it: Walter Haas Playground
Julius Kahn Park, San Francisco
Situated on the southern edge of the Presidio, this newly renovated park affords a unique vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge’s towers peeking above the Presidio’s hills and forest with the Marin Headlands and Mt. Tam as a stunning backdrop.
The elaborate playground features a play structure suitable for toddlers and big kids, swings, spinning cups, large swinging saucers, a Christmas tree-like climbing structure/merry-go-round and a more modern climbing structure for big kids. Restrooms, drinking fountains, and a clubhouse are adjacent to the playground.
Map it: Julius Kahn Park
Know any other parks in the city with stellar views? Share you favorites in a comment below.
– Neil Chhabra
photo credit: Kent Oberheu via Flickr