We visited Berkeley for a day with our three young kids ages 4 and under while staying for a month outside of Sonoma. The big draw for the day was visiting Adventure Playground, an unusual playground in Berkeley where kids can get into all sorts of stuff parents wouldn’t normally allow. Kids can physically create and add onto the playground itself with hammers, nails, wood, and paint. They have a system where kids scour the playground for stray nails and in return they get paint to use wherever and however they like. There’s even a child run zip line that requires a decent climb up to an elevated platform and ends by kids sliding into a big mound of sand. Its all pretty magical.
I had heard about the playground in a parenting book that I read. I thought it’d be fun to try out a playground that prided itself on being unstructured and kid and creativity centered. It was created in the 70's and is located right on the Berkeley Marina which juts out into the water. We packed a picnic lunch, played on the playground for the morning and found a great scenic spot to watch the boats and eat our sandwiches. There are public bathrooms available and a more standard playground right next door if you are looking for something a bit tamer.
After lunch we made our way to Shattuck Ave, one of the main drags in Berkeley to walk by the restaurant Chez Pannisse. I would have loved to have eaten there, but they book up far in advance and I didn’t plan far enough ahead of time. The restaurant was started by Alice Waters who is one of the founders of the farm-to-table movement. This is also where Samin Nosrat author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (you may have seen this book in the book section of Costco) got her start. She also has a 4 episode series on Netflix which I really enjoyed.
We took a stroll down the street and made a stop at Books Inc. a cute little bookstore not too far from Chez Pannisse. We then hopped in the car and drove up the very steep and winding hillside to The Lawrence Hall of Science on the UC Berkeley Campus. There we got an incredible (though foggy) view of San Francisco Bay. There’s a massive open area with multiple viewing points and a couple of sculptures including an enormous whale and the double helix structure of DNA that kids can climb on if they're not too hot. Inside there is a science museum with kids activities (we did not go in except to use the bathroom, but it looked like a ton of fun).
It was a really nice, mostly leisurely day and because we didn’t have too many things on our list to see or do and our picnic lunch was easy, it was fairly stress free. We also did not spend any money, and yet had a wonderful day. It also helped to spend the whole morning at a playground just doing kid stuff. It was a really fun playground for us to check out as adults too. Berkeley was a great day trip with little kids. I didn't know much about the city before going and I love now that I have a better idea of what the city is like and what the UC Campus looks like.
- Adventure Playground
- Chez Pannisse (reservations book in advance)
- Books Inc. Bookstore
- The Lawrence Hall of Science to see the view