The weather is warm and the parks are reopening. Get some fresh air and catch some vitamin D while checking out one of these parks with creeks for some splashing fun with your whole gang. Pack up a picnic blanket, sunblock and towels for a fun day in the great outdoors.

Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19 regulations, park access and closures are subject to change. Check park websites for updates before planning your visit. 

San Francisco

Glen Canyon Park
Just a few minutes from Glen Park Bart Station is this natural recreation area that'll make you forget that you're in the middle of the city. There are hiking trails, baseball fields, tennis courts and a playground. Your little naturalists will enjoy spotting owls, hawks and other native wildlife, as well as exploring Islais Creek—one of the few remaining free-flowing creeks in San Francisco.

Elk St. and O'Shaughnessy Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 
Online: sfrecpark.org

East Bay

Alvarado Park
There is lots to explore at this historic park within Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. You'll find several kid-friendly trails with great views, a big playground, plenty of picnic areas, stone carvings from the areas native Ohlone and underground tunnels connecting to the park's popular Wildcat Creek. If you're up for more adventures, check out Tilden Regional Park just further south.

5755 McBryde Ave.
Richmond, CA
Online: ebparks.org

Diamond Park
This local, newly-revitalized gem features picnic areas, toddler and big kid playgrounds, a public pool, basketball and tennis courts, a rec center and family-friendly hiking trails that run beside Sausal Creek for water play and rock throwing.

3860 Hanley Road
Oakland, CA 
Online: Oaklandca.gov

 

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Strawberry Creek Park, Berkeley
If your lazy weekend is so lazy you can’t be bothered to pack a picnic, head here. Hidden Cafe is actually within the park perimeter and offers coffee (how better to survive the constant barrage of “watch this” on the playground?) as well as inventive tacos, salads and baked goods. And as if that’s not enough, Phoenix Pastificio is just next door offering fresh pasta.

There are a few picnic tables next to the creek in addition to a giant shady lawn that begs for picnic blankets. Fun fact: this park is at the former site of a Santa Fe train freight yard and this long buried creek was daylighted here to follow its natural course.

Where: 1260 Allston Way, Berkeley
Online: cityofberkeley.info

Frog Park
Built by over 1300 volunteers and located alongside former Temescal Creek, Frog Park has two wooden playgrounds full of swings, twists and slides that'll keep both big and little ones happily entertained. Enjoy a picnic in the open grass and splash around in the faux creek, perfect for cooling down.

5500 Claremont Ave.
Oakland, CA 
Online: frogpark.org

Peninsula/South Bay

Twin Pines Park
Tucked away in the heart of Belmont and home to the Belmont Historical Society is this cozy park filled with eucalyptus trees, picnic tables, walking trails, a gated playground, bridge and babbling creek to enjoy. There's plenty of parking and restrooms are on-site.

One Twin Pines Lane
Belmont, CA 
Online: belmont.gov

Stulsaft Park
A must-visit in Redwood City, Stulsaft Park will keep you and your littles amused with hiking trails, a playground, seasonal water features, a grassy area for ball kicking and an inviting creek for frolicking.

3737 Farm Hill Blvd.
Redwood City, CA 
Online: redwoodcity.org

photo: Kathleen Mikulis

Cornelius Bol Park, Palo Alto
True, there are only a couple picnic tables here and no barbecue pits. However, why would you want a table when there’s a huge expanse of grass calling you to lay down a blanket? Pack some flip flops and towels for the kids’ feet because they’ll love walking in Matadero Creek (the entrance is about an eighth of a mile from Laguna Ave. and down an embankment that might not be great for older caregivers). Afterwards follow the paved trail north to see if Bol Park’s famous occupants—donkeys Perry and Niner—are visiting. They’re the most recent of a long line of donkeys who have lived here since the 1930s. (Insider tip: Sunday morning is the best time to spot them.) Pair your outing with a showing of “Shrek” since Perry—the model for Eddie Murphy’s “Donkey” character—is also a movie star.

Where: 3590 Laguna Avenue, Palo Alto
Online: cityofpaloalto.org

Laurelwood Park
Within Sugarloaf Open Space you'll find this park with a good-sized playground for the kids to enjoy. Take a stroll on one of several hiking trails with great views of San Mateo, relax under a shady tree on the lawn and skip around in Laurel Creek that runs along the area.

3471 Glendora Drive
San Mateo, CA 
Online: cityofsanmateo.org

Vasona Lake and Los Gatos Creek County Parks
These adjoining county parks have tons of amenities for a huge day of adventure: nature trails for biking and hiking, spots for boating and fishing, educational venues, playgrounds, endless open space and picnic areas and so much more. If that wasn't enough, Los Gatos Creek runs through the parks for added water play fun. If all the splashing doesn't tire your little trekkers out, check out adjacent Oak Meadow Park, for a spin on the carousel and miniature train ride on the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad.

333 Blossom Hill Rd.
Los Gatos, CA
Online: sccgov.org

McClellan Ranch Preserve
This former horse ranch-turned wildlife preserve is a little treasure with a lot to offer. You'll find family trails, picnic areas, volley ball and bocce ball courts and a 4-H ranch. There's also a playground, orchard and cafe at the connecting Black Berry Farm Park. Well-known Stevens Creek also flows through this area, great for creekside adventures. Be sure to visit the environmental education center to get up close to the resident wildlife and nature exhibits while you are there.

22221McClellan Rd.
Cupertino, CA 
Online: cupertino.org

Wildwood Park
Just a hop and a skip from downtown Saratoga, this urban oasis is the perfect escape from the daily buzz. The tranquil surroundings will relax you and the playground, ample lawns, bridge and creek will keep the kiddos burning off steam. There's also horseshoe pits, a sand volleyball court and various picnic tables for a snack break.

20762 4th Street
Saratoga, CA
Online: saratoga.ca.us

photo: Nella DuBon-Koch

North Bay/Marin

Old Mill Park
Surrounded by a redwood grove, Old Mill Park is a local favorite. You will find a multi-level children's playground, picnic tables and the all-season Old Mill Creek. There's also Reeds Mill, the historical landmark for which the town is named after, and endless trails along the creek for exploring. The park is wheelchair accessible with restrooms on grounds.

352 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 
Online: millvalleyrecreation.org

Marinwood Park
Located in northern San Rafael in the charming Marinwood area, this is the largest park in this community. It offers shaded lawns, a fenced playground and tot play area, picnic areas and grills, several kid-friendly trails and access to Miller Creek for your minis to frollic in.

775 Miller Creek Road
San Rafael, CA 
Online: marinwood.org

Miwok Park
This Novato favorite offers ample lawn space, several picnic tables, a large playground, horseshoe and bocce ball area and a walking path along Novato Creek for some splashing fun. It is also home to the Museum of the American Indian, where you can learn about the native Coastal Miwok and get up close to a replica Miwok village and Kotcha (traditional house).

2200 Novato Blvd.
Novato, CA 
Online: novato.org

—Nella DuBon-Koch

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