The East Bay is crawling with families with young children. So it should come as no surprise that the park game is strong. Read on to get the low down on some of the best of the best playgrounds this side of the bridge!
photo: Melissa Bouse
When you’re on an island, the water is never far. And at Washington Park, it’s right next to the super fun playground. If you tire of the climbing and sliding on the playground, take your babe to the beach at Crab Cove with a skyline full of kite surfers, or watch the dogs play in the dog park. There’s also sport courts, grassy picnic areas complete with grills and restrooms.
740 Central Ave.
Dubbed a neighborhood “Mary Poppins” park, this quaint and quiet playground still delivers a lot of fun. Your kid can choose between two play structures all surrounded by Redwood trees and old street lamps. A giant chalkboard wall connects the spaces. The park is also home to a rose garden and public swimming pool.
1450 High St.
photo: Iris R. via yelp
Albany / North Berkeley
As the name implies, this might be one of the area’s most popular playgrounds for the tot set- kids under the age of four. For starters, the area is completely enclosed with benches! There’s a clean sandbox with tons of toys for sharing, a merry-go-round, big swings and little swings, big slides and little slides—need we say more? And, there’s a bathroom with a changing table! Definitely one of our favorites in the East Bay.
1644 Virginia St.
Veterans Memorial Park
There is something for everyone at this beloved community park. The play equipment is suitable for a wide range of ages and the large, open space is great for those kids who just need to RUN. Check the calendar before you plan your trip: Memorial park is also known for hosting family-friendly events, like free concerts on Wednesdays in the summer.
1325 Portland Ave.
photo: Cindy C. via yelp
Tilden Regional Park and Little Farm
Tilden Park is so much more than just a playground. Yes, you can find a small one here, but wander just a bit further and you’ll find a carousel, tons of hiking trails, and Little Farm—a traditional (and free!) farm full of cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and rabbits. Plan for a long day of frolicking outside here and bring leftover celery and lettuce to share with the animals!
Central Park Dr.
Parents, you might just get a pang of nostalgia when you lay eyes on the giant, cement slide carved into the hillside at this park. Bring some cardboard if you or the kids want to test it out. While the slide is probably best for kids over 6, there is plenty for younger kids at this park. Rumor has it that with a bit of exploring, you can even find small waterfalls along the trails. There’s an enclosed sandy play area with infant swings for the little ones and a playground for the older kids. Bonus: Cross the street via a little tunnel and you’re in Berkeley’s Rose Garden with breathtaking views of San Francisco.
1201 Euclid Ave.
photo: Melissa Bouse
Shorebird Park Nature Center & Adventure Playground
All you need for this playground is a little imagination. Well, that and clothes you don’t mind ruining. With the help of adults and some handy volunteers, kids can use a variety of tools and materials to literally create their own fun. They can hammer, saw, paint—you name it. There’s even a kid-built fort and zipline. The playground is best for kids ages 6 and up. Be sure to check the hours before you go!
160 University Ave.
If you’re a bit further in the East Bay, this is one of our quiet neighborhood favorites. This park is actually four playgrounds in one, designed especially for kids of all ages. There’s a big clean sandbox and a huge splash pad for water fun in the summer! They turn the water on after Memorial Day.
18988 Lake Chabot Road
Castro Valley, CA
photo: Simon F. via yelp
This amazing spot has a little something for everyone: a playground, a petting zoo, a bounce house AND a train ride. (Be sure to bring cash if you’d like to do an of those extras.) Although this park is pretty great as it is, it’s about to get even better. Starting in August of 2018 much of the park will be closed for a major renovation. So go now!
19501 Hesperian Blvd.
photo: K N. via yelp
No frogs in sight, but this park has a wooden play structure full of swings and nooks and twists and turns and slides. There’s a sandy area, a little creek for the curious ones to splash around and lots of open grass. Bonus: Hit the Temescal farmer’s market first, and bring your snacks for a picnic in the park. If all this gets a little overwhelming, follow the paved path down a little ways to a much smaller, wooden play structure.
5500 Claremont Ave.
Montclair Recreation Center and Park
Nestled in the Montclair District, this park offers separate swings and structures for little kids and older kids. You’ll also find a cute little western “town,” a duck pond and a skate ramp.
6300 Moraga Ave.
Roberts Recreation Area
Be sure to look up as you’re parking here—the lot is surrounded by a beautiful grove of redwoods. Just beyond, the playground is full of climbing structures and fun slides. Tons of grass, big trees overhead and after a day of working up a sweat on the playground, take a dip in the community pool. Bonus: the playground is also handicap accessible.
10570 Skyline Blvd
This is definitely that hidden gem worth discovering. The play structure and rock climbing wall (!) are geared towards older kiddos but there’s swings for the itty bitty babes, a miniature cement slide, sand with a water table and lots of green grass. Parents bring the training wheels here—there’s a path surrounding the play area that’s perfect for scooters and bikes. This park is tucked into a residential area, so note that parking can be a little tricky on weekends.
130 Dracena Ave.
photo: Christina G. via yelp
Bring the towels and the bathing suits. This park has a great water play area with a bunch of different spray features and a little “river” that runs through it. If they get tired of that, there is a more traditional play structure. The park is also home to skate ramps and plenty of open, grassy areas.
12501 Alcosta Blvd.
San Ramon, CA
Oakland / Grand Lake
Lake Merritt Playground
A tried-and-true playground tucked away on Lake Merritt, this spot is perfect for kids of all ages with plenty of big and little swings, slides and climbing structures. Listen for the bells, and you’ll catch an ice cream cart for a popsicle snack. Take a little stroll along the water to the Bird Sanctuary, or across the street to the gardens.
Perkins Street and Bellevue Ave.
This park is a bit difficult to find online—but once someone fills you in, it’s absolutely worth exploring. There’s an enclosed area for the toddlers with infant swings, dinosaurs to ride, a play structure, a play house, shareable toys and lots of sand. There’s also a great play area for the older kiddos and a basketball court.
Jordan Road at Bennett Place
photo: Melissa Bouse
This playground was completely made over a couple of years ago and it’s now an all-ability wonderland! You’ll find super colorful play structures, giant slides, sand pits, swings, rock climbing walls, monkey bars and bouncy seats. The centerpiece are the hills made of astroturf—grab some cardboard from the bin or bring your own to give the kids a one-of-a-kind sliding experience. The park also has a cool duck pond and paths that weave through a garden. One of the public pools is just across the parking lot, too. Check the times as they often have a fun, inflatable water play structure.
Walnut Creek, CA 925-943-5858
photo: Melissa Bouse
Between the playground, the pool and the nearby Lindsay Wildlife Experience, it’s easy to spend a whole day here. The playground has two separate areas, one geared toward older kids and one that’s better for all ages with swings, slides and sand. Just down the grassy hill is the newly-renovated Larkey Swim Center, complete with a rockin’ splash pad. If you’re not too tuckered out, check out the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, too. The museum and working wildlife rehab hospital has some magnificent birds and animals. Occasionally, they exercise the birds outside, so you can catch a free glimpse!
Buena Vista Ave. at 1st Ave.
Walnut Creek, CA
—Melissa Bouse & Rheanna Martinez