The Best East Bay Playgrounds

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Fabian Centeno via Unsplash

With many young families calling the East Bay home, 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!

Alameda 

Washington Park

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 pay a visit to the small aquarium at nearby Crab Cove Visitor's Center.

740 Central Ave.
Onlinealamedaca.gov

Lincoln Park
Dubbed a neighborhood “Mary Poppins” park, this quaint and quiet playground delivers a lot of fun. Your kid can choose between two play structures surrounded by Redwood trees with a giant chalkboard wall connecting the spaces. A walk in the rose garden and a dip in the public swimming pool completes a day Mary Poppins herself would approve of.

1450 High St.
Onlinealamedaca.gov

 

photo: Sasitorn O. via yelp

Albany / North Berkeley

Totland Playground

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.
Onlineci.berkeley.ca.us

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.
Albany, CA
Onlinealbanyca.org

 

Tilden Regional Park and Little Farm
Tilden Park is so much more than just a playground. 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 exploring and bring leftover celery and lettuce to share with the animals!

Central Park Dr.
Berkeley, CA
Onlineebparks.org

Codornices Park
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 six, there is plenty for younger kids at this park. 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 with more hidden spots to explore and you’ll find yourself in Berkeley’s Rose Garden with breathtaking views of San Francisco.

1201 Euclid Ave
Onlineci.berkeley.ca.us

photo: Melissa Bouse

Berkeley (West)

Shorebird Park Nature Center & Adventure Playground
All you need for this playground is a little imagination... 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 & up.

Covid update: Open Thursday-Sunday from the hours of 11am-5pm. Pre-register online for a one hour time slot. 

160 University Ave.
Berkeley, CA
Onlineci.berkeley.ca.us

Castro Valley

Community Park
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! The water is on through Veteran's Day on Wed., Sat.& Sun from 11 a.m-5 p.m. Bonus: Sometimes Mr. Softee can be found parked nearby! 

18988 Lake Chabot Road
Castro ValleyCA
Onlinehaywardrec.org

photo: K N. via yelp

North Oakland

Frog Park
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. Follow the paved path down a little ways to a much smaller, wooden play structure. Bonus: Hit the Temescal farmer’s market first and bring your snacks for a picnic in the park. 

5500 Claremont Ave.
Onlinefrogpark.org

Montclair Recreation Center and Park
Nestled in the Montclair District, this park offers separate swings and structures for little kids (5 & under) and older kids. Inspired by the Old West, you'll also find whimsical structures representing a little western "town," a duck pond and a skate ramp.

6300 Moraga Ave.
Onlineoaklandnet.com

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. After a hard's day work of play, have your shorties take a dip in the community pool. Bonus: the playground is also handicap accessible.

10570 Skyline Blvd
Onlineebparks.org/parks/roberts

Piedmont

Dracena Park
This is definitely that hidden gem worth discovering. The play structure and rock climbing wall are geared towards older kids but there’s swings for the itty bitties, a miniature cement slide, sand with a water table and lots of green grass. A paved path surrounding the play area is perfect for scooters and bikes. This park is tucked into a residential area, so parking can be tricky on weekends.

130 Dracena Ave.
Onlineci.piedmont.ca.us

photo: Christina P. via yelp

San Ramon

Central Park
This immaculate park has something for everyone: a climbing wall, splash pad, playground AND skate park so pack the towels and bathing suits and plan to spend the entire day out!

12501 Alcosta Blvd.
Onlineci.san-ramon.ca.us/parks

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.  Take a little stroll along the water to the Bird Sanctuary or visit the gardens across the street. Bonus: Listen for the bells to catch an ice cream cart for a popsicle snack.

Perkins Street and Bellevue Ave.
Onlineoaklandnet.com

Avenue Terrace Playground 
This park features 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: Heather C. via Yelp

Walnut Creek

Heather Farm Park
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—use cardboard from the bin for a one-of-a-kind sliding experience. The park also has a cool duck pond and paths that weave through a garden. Bonus: a public pool is across the street. 

301 N San Carlos Dr
Online

 

Larkey Park
The playground has two separate areas, one geared toward older kids and one for all ages with swings, slides and a sandbox. 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 nearby Lindsay Wildlife Experience with its museum and working wildlife rehab hospital of magnificent birds and animals. Bonus: Occasionally, they exercise the birds outside so you can catch a free glimpse!

2771 Buena Vista Ave
Online

—Christine Lai & Melissa Bouse

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