The three things I like best about throwing a child's birthday party at Tilden Park are 1) it can be as small or as large as you like; 2) it can be as short or as long as you like; and, 3) the venue is free.
The Tilden Park Nature Area offers a playground, adjacent to the parking lot (free parking!), which may be a good meeting place to begin the party and could even serve as your home base if you spread out picnic blankets on the grass next to the playground. Note that the playground is not fenced in and really is very close to where cars are coming in and out, so consider these two other options:
Picnic Tables: On the other side of the parking lot from the playground is a deeper grass-covered area with picnic tables. There you will be able to play on the grass and not be quite so close to the cars.
Next to Little Farm: Leave the parking lot, cross the small bridge by foot, and look for a picnic area closer to the Farm and Environmental Education Center. Pros: Closer to the animals and restrooms. Cons: Will need to carry party supplies from car.
There are reservable picnic sites in Tilden Park, but none are adjacent to The Little Farm area, so the spots described here are first come, first serve.
Activities for a birthday party at Little Farm
The main attraction at Little Farm is close-up viewing of cows, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, and rabbits. Bring enough celery and lettuce for every guest at the party to have several pieces to feed the cows and goats. (Do not feed the rabbits!)
Your group can take a slowish walk counter-clockwise around the whole farm area – up to the top! – and end up back at the building for restroom access and hand-washing before eating. The hours of the building are 10 am to 4.30 pm, open every day except for Monday.
Bounce houses and inflatables are not permitted in this area.
What to bring for a birthday party at Little Farm
Whether you celebrate with a couple of special friends or the entire class, here's a short list of what I would not want to forget:
- Wagon for transporting supplies from car to picnic destination
- Hand-sanitizer for cleaning after exposure to farm animals
- Band-aids/lightweight first aid items for inevitable scrapes on “hike” around farm
- Sunscreen, extra hats, and sunglasses for folks who have forgotten theirs
- Picnic blankets and/or tablecloths
- Finger foods, birthday treats
- Water and/or other beverages
- Wipes/Napkins/Paper Towels
- Outdoor toys: balls, cones, etc
Finally, here are general directions to share with guests, courtesy of East Bay Regional Parks District. Take note that “Nature Area” and “Little Farm” are the same thing.
How to get to Little Farm from San Francisco, Berkeley, or Oakland
From Hwy 80
Take the University Avenue exit in Berkeley. Follow University towards the hills, turn left onto Oxford St. Turn right onto Rose St. Turn left onto Spruce St. Follow Spruce up the hill, you will reach a stop sign at the top of the hill, proceed through the intersection and turn immediately left down Canon Dr. At the bottom of Canon, veer left onto Central Park Drive and follow into the parking lot for the Nature Area.
From Hwy 24
Exit at Fish Ranch Road. Take Fish Ranch Road to Grizzly Peak Blvd and turn right. Continue on Grizzly Peak Blvd. until you come to the intersection of Spruce Street, Wildcat Canyon Road and Canon Drive. Turn right on Wildcat Canyon Rd, then immediately make a sharp left down Canon Drive. At the bottom of the hill, veer left onto Central Park Drive and follow into the parking lot for the Nature Area.