Centennial Park in El Cerrito (previously known as Fairmont Park), offers a cute little nook next to the Ohlone Greenway and BART tracks that is perfect for the under-five set. While there aren’t any fancy, bright play structures, you’ll find plenty of toddler-sized climbing opportunities, a snazzy platform swing, and a nature-inspired vibe that’ll enliven your little ones’ imaginations.
Centennial Park Features:
Location: The corner of Liberty Street and Eureka Avenue. Also accessible along the Ohlone Greenway.
Unique Features: A cool platform rope swing; large sandbox, rope climbing structure; turtle climbing structure; BART trains zooming past.
Swings: One, a platform rope swing.
Fenced in? Partially. There’s a fence between the street and the play area, but it is not gated. Little ones can climb through it, so it slows them down but won’t stop anyone for long.
Surfaces: Sand, wood chips, cement, grass.
Bathroom: Sadly, no.
Lunch tables & seating: Several benches scattered throughout, along with large rocks and logs where you can sit.
Parking: Easy and free street parking is generally available on both Liberty Street and Eureka Avenue.
Shade: Lots of sun with a bit of shade around the edges of the play area.
Covid-19 Restricted Occupancy: None posted. Masks required.
Pros: Great for small kids who like to climb; the natural vibe, BART trains passing by regularly.
Cons: No bathroom, somewhat small, not a lot of shade.
Centennial Park for Toddlers
Centennial Park is pretty small, but my two- and four-year-old entertained themselves for several hours playing in the sandbox, climbing on the rope structures, and swinging on the platform swing. The overall feel of the park leans more natural and earthy, with large boulders and logs offering seating and climbing opportunities.
Artificial colors and flashy play structures are notably absent, which allowed my kids to focus more on the natural elements at the park. They collected pine cones, rocks, and other little things to decorate their sand creations. It was lovely to see them exercising their imaginations without much coaxing needed. They also enjoyed the novelty of swinging on the platform swing together.
The playground has a fence partially surrounding the front from the street, but an enterprising toddler could easily escape. That said, the play area is pretty well contained and set back from the street and the Ohlone Greenway. There are no bathrooms or water fountains, so keep that in mind beforehand. As far as crowds, we were there on a warm, sunny weekday mid-morning, and it was moderately busy. There were four other children and their caregivers, along with a preschool group (8 kids) and their teacher. The park, while small, does allow for enough space for social distancing within these types of numbers.
Centennial Park with your Jogging Stroller
If you are looking for a jogging stroller-friendly path with a park as a pit-stop, Ohlone Greenway and Centennial Park are a perfect combination for you. You can jog the relatively flat Greenway from Berkeley to Richmond (or some segment in between), and make a stop at Centennial Park for snack time and stretching. There’s a small path directly from the Greenway to the play area. There’s even some open space if you’re a rockstar and would like to add some squats and such.
The Bottom Line on Centennial Park
Yes, it’s pretty small, but Centennial Park is a welcome alternative to the modern and artificial playgrounds we usually frequent. The sand area, landscape, and nature-inspired play space create a calm respite in the city. The occasional punctuation of the BART trains and busy Ohlone Greenway footpath keep things interesting. It’s unfortunate there are no bathrooms or water fountains. Ultimately, Centennial Park is refreshingly simple and a great space for children under five.
What to Bring to Centennial Park
- Sand toys
- Hats and Sunscreen
- Portable Potty if needed