San Pablo Park is Berkeley’s oldest park and one of its largest. As of April 2021, both newly renovated playgrounds are now open! Woohoo! And boy was it worth the wait! From a giant rope climbing structure and slide for the big kids, to a colorful and engaging tot lot complete with slides, sand area, water feature, and so much more, your preschoolers 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 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 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 new renovations included brand new tennis courts and shaded bleachers. Baseball field, plenty of grass, basketball courts, and sidewalk loops good for scooting.
Lunch tables & seating: Many benches and tables scattered throughout and several tables that can be reserved for parties.
Parking: Free street parking right next to park all around; weekday parking usually isn’t a problem; weekends a bit more difficult.
Shade: There are some big trees around, so shade is easily found. New 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.
Covid-19 Restricted Occupancy: No occupancy restrictions posted. Masks optional.
Pros: Mixed-age appropriate; lots of wide open space; sport courts; bathrooms; brand new and sparkly.
Cons: A very popular park, so it can get crowded.
San Pablo Park Tot Lot
The tot lot has always been a very popular spot with local families, daycare’s and preschools. And with the sparkly new renovated features, it’s sure to become even more popular. My kids, ages 2 and 4, love all the new features, and I love the less sandy surfaces and more shade. It’s still fully fenced in, and the sand has been replaced by a cushy rubber mat surface. There’s also a new tree house 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 new xylophone waiting for your toddler to bang away at.
If your kids loves playing in sand, fear not, they’ve added 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 draw back. Happily they’ve added a new 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 (though the train is nothing like the old one).
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 newly renovated playground is the humongous rope climbing structure and slide in the big kid area (the slide is back after a prolonged absence). 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 tree house 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 spiny 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 newly renovated and have a new 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??