James Kenney Park in Northwest Berkeley offers a fun-filled fenced-in tot lot, a nature-based climbing area, a sports field and courts, a bigger kid playground, picnic area, and community center. This park appeals to kids of varying ages and interests. Several fun features were added during its December 2020 renovation: a huge climbing structure, a spiderweb swing, and an interactive tot area. Plus, it’s great for gatherings—it’s the go-to spot for birthday parties for my daughter’s class. To top it all off, Fourth Street shops and restaurants are just minutes away for a post-playground meal or treat!
James Kenney Park Features
Location: 1720 Eighth Street between Delaware and Virginia in Northwest Berkeley.
Unique Features: Tot lot play structure includes slide; climbing opportunities; tunnel to crawl through; a bouncy toy; bridge; interactive houses for playing pretend; music features; and, sand area (without water feature). The big kid play area has a slide, climbing areas, swings, spinny features, balancing sling, and monkey bars.
Swings: Three baby bucket swings in the tot lot; two big kid swings, a spiderweb swing, and two high-back swing chairs in the older kid play area.
Fenced in? Yes, the tot lot is fully fenced! The older kid playground is not.
Surfaces: Both playground areas have fresh wood chips and a cushy rubber mat surface near the play structures and swings. The nature climbing area has wood chips.
Bathroom: There’s a port-a-potty located at the SE corner of the park, but it’s not always clean.
Lunch tables & seating: There’s a picnic table area, several benches scattered throughout, and wooden blocks that offer seating (or climbing) between the tot lot area and big kid playground.
Parking: Easy and free street parking is pretty much always available all around the park. Several bike racks.
Pros: New playground and in good condition; mixed-age appropriate; the playground is a combination of traditional and natural materials; offers lots of activities throughout the park. Located off a Bicycle Boulevard to make arriving by bike convenient.
Cons: Baseball field area doubles as a makeshift dog park and some owners don’t clean up after pets; occasional unhoused people near edges of the park. No indoor public restroom on site.
James Kenney Tot Lot
The tot lot has four main features: swings, a play structure, a sand area, and houses for pretend play. There are three bucket swings for babies and toddlers. The play structure is large and includes features like a slide, tunnel, bridge, and climbing opportunities There are also some drums and a piano-like toy for kids to jam out. The sand area is situated in the corner. It’s easy to miss—or avoid. Either way, there isn’t a water feature at this park, so little ones won’t get quite as messy or require a change of clothes after making sand creations.
Three houses make pretend play easy and interesting. Decked out with doors and flaps to crawl through, little windows that are perfect for playing restaurant, knobs to turn, and small tunnels to drop sand or wood chips into, these houses are perfect for toddlers.
James Kenney Park Big Kid Playground
There are so many areas to climb, with the showcase being a large 4-sided climbing structure. This one seems shorter than the climbing areas at King Park and San Pablo Park, but my kids had just as much fun. Kids can make it to the top then hang out in the inner area, which has ropes placed closer together. There are also ropes and monkey bars for traditional climbing on the play structure.
Swing lovers will enjoy the variety of swings at James Kenney playground. There are two traditional swings, two high-backed swings, and a spiderweb swing, which can hold multiple friends or siblings at once. The spiderweb swing is popular but worth the wait!
The big kid playground also has a few spinning features, some that even little kids can use. Plus, there’s a sling that kids can use as a hammock or surfboard.
The variety at this playground kept my kids moving and running around. There’s lots to explore and plenty of unique features that our family hadn’t seen in a playground. Kids can swing and balance on a challenging hammock surfboard.
Sports Courts and Field at James Kenney Park
There are plenty of courts and a field; choose from playing baseball, volleyball, basketball, tennis or pickleball at this park. The new sidewalks through the grounds are also fun for scootering or bike riding. Because an afterschool program is hosted at this park, some facilities may be unavailable to the public during afternoon hours during the week.
Nature-Based Play Area
Kids can take a break from the play structures to jump, climb and balance in the two nature-based play areas. One is located between the tot lot and the big kid playground. Another is near the community center and picnic area. These areas have rocks, logs, wooden blocks, and a tunnel. During our visit, my kids used this as an obstacle course. It was so fun!
The Bottom Line on James Kenney Park
James Kenney is a fun choice for toddlers to elementary-aged kids. Having the playground areas right next to each other makes it easy for parents to watch kids of different age groups. The variety of swings, play structures, and climbing options offer plenty of entertainment to keep kids playing. The open field and courts are also great for running around. I also love that it’s located just off a bike boulevard and a stone’s throw away from Fourth Street.
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