San Pablo Park is Berkeley’s oldest park and one of its largest. The recently renovated playgrounds are open and hopping. From a giant rope climbing structure and slide for the big kids to a colorful and engaging tot lot complete with slides, a sand area, a water feature, and so much more, your toddlers to grade schoolers will be thoroughly engaged.
San Pablo Park playground profile:
Location: 2800 Park Street between Russell and Ward Streets.
Unique Features of Playground: Huge rope climbing structure for big kids; slides, sand, swings, and musical features for the little ones.
Fenced in? Tot lot, yes; big kid area, no.
Swings: Two bucket swings in the tot area; 4 swings plus 2 accessible swings in the big kid area.
Surfaces: Cushy rubber mat surface in the tot area, along with grass and some concrete. The big kid play area is mostly the cushy rubber mat surface.
Bathroom: Yes, by the basketball courts. Not always the cleanest.
Unique Features of the Park Overall: The large park has tennis courts with shaded bleachers, a baseball field, plenty of grass, basketball courts, and sidewalk loops good for scooting. There’s also an active community center, Frances Albrier Center, that hosts family events.
Lunch tables & seating: Many benches and tables are scattered throughout and several tables can be reserved for parties.
Parking: Free street parking right next to the park all around; weekday parking usually isn’t a problem; weekends are a bit more difficult.
Shade: There are some big trees around, so shade is easily found. The shade structure in tot lot near the sand area is a welcome addition. Still, it can get hot in the play areas on sunny days.
Pros: Mixed-age appropriate; lots of wide open space; sports courts; bathrooms; updated play structures.
Cons: A very popular park, so it can get crowded.
San Pablo Park Tot Lot
The toddler playground is at the south end of the park at Russell and Park Streets. The tot lot has always been a very popular spot with local families, daycares, and preschools. My kids, ages 2 and 4, love all the features, and I love the less sandy surfaces and more shade. The tot area is still fully fenced in, and the sand has been replaced by a cushy rubber mat surface. There’s also a clever treehouse-themed play structure with slides and climbing elements, as well as some super cool electronic music features at the top of the play structure. Adding to the musical theme, there’s also a big beautiful xylophone waiting for your toddler to bang away at.
If your kids love playing in the sand, fear not, there’s a contained sand area with a water feature rock like the one at Totland (functional seasonally; bring extra clothes!). If you remember the old playground you’ll know the lack of shade was a definite drawback. Happily, there is a shade structure and seating near the sand area, as well as other shade elements as part of the tree house play structure. There’s also a cute little train and several playhouses for imaginative play.
Pro Tip: If you have toddlers and big kids, the big playground has a clear sight line from the totlot, so you can keep an eye on older siblings relatively easily.
San Pablo Park Big Kid Playground
The real star of the updated playground is the humongous rope climbing structure and slide in the big kid area. It’s best for kids ages 5-12, much to my 4-year-old’s chagrin. He tried and tried, but couldn’t get more than halfway up, which was frustrating for him. We saw a few other younger kids struggling as well, but on average, the bigger and older kids were nimbly climbing around and having a blast. There is a rubber mat surface below, should anyone fall, though we didn’t see anyone do that.
The rest of the big kid area includes a treehouse-themed play structure with lots of challenging climbing opportunities, slides and so much more. They kept the popular four-person teeter-totter from the old playground and four of the big kid swings. They added two accessible swings and a fun spinny cage that is very popular.
The rest of San Pablo Park
San Pablo Park is a favorite local neighborhood park that features wide open spaces for pick-up soccer, 2 baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and 6 tennis courts. The tennis courts are in great condition and have a shaded bleacher area. The Frances Albrier Community Center hosts after-school programs, special classes, neighborhood meetings, Santa Claus, and a few large festivals each year.
What are your favorite upgrades to San Pablo Park??
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