San Pablo Park is Berkeley's oldest park and one of its largest. It is nestled among the neighborhood homes near San Pablo and Ashby spanning several blocks. Many of my adult friends know it for the softball and baseball leagues that play throughout the warm months.
San Pablo Park playground profile:
San Pablo Park tot lot
The toddler playground is at the south end of the park at Russell and Park streets. It is fully enclosed with a fence; has mixed surfaces of sand, rubbery bouncy ground, cement, and grass; includes two baby swings; four springy bouncers, a train and playhouse, and a single climbing structure with a slide for toddlers. Benches surround the play area.
The toddler play area is super popular with local nannies and daycares and gets quite crowded in the morning. By about 1pm, it clears out for naptime. A small grassy area near the fence line provides a nice spot for picnics and storytimes within the toddler playground.
There is no real shade (unless you want to hide under the slide structure or cling to the fenceline at certain times of day) and the bathrooms are far away in the brown building near the basketball hoops and not-so-nice (clean, but no doors or soap) or in the community center (perfectly nice, but a bit far). No biggie if you wear hats and your child is still in diapers.
I recommend that you bring some sand toys to share and chalk for the playhouse and cement.
The big kid playground
The older kids' play area is not as adventurous as other playgrounds in the area, but the scale of the climbing structure is larger and the playground is unfenced. It has more slides, monkey bars, 4 swings, two spinning poles, a special see-saw for four kids, and a strange mountain that looks like it used to be a water table. The giant blue see-saw gets lot of action by older kids since it requires more weight to get it moving.
The rest of San Pablo park
San Pablo Park features wide open spaces for pick-up soccer, 2 baseball diamonds, 3 basketball courts, and 6 tennis courts. Newly remodeled picnic tables have barbecue grills (or you can BYO). The tables are first-come-first-served, but you can contact the City of Berkeley to reserve baseball fields, tennis courts, and rooms in the recreation centers. The Frances Albrier community Center hosts after-school programs, special classes, neighborhood meetings, Santa Claus, and a few large festivals each year.
There is usually ample street parking in the neighborhood.
When you visit, treat yourself to a mocha at Caffe Chiave (about a ten-minute stroller walk), or you could pick up a picnic dinner from Berkeley Bowl on Heinz (about a five-minute walk).
[All photos by Kat Choi for 510families; all rights reserved]