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Four of the Best Bay Area Parks for Families

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the tire wall If you are anything like me, you woke up yesterday in a panic realizing that school was almost out for the summer and no plans had been made. Fear not because there are 4 of the best boredom busters right here in the Bay Area.

For all of my city friends you can never go wrong with Golden Gate Park.  Free, closed to traffic on Sundays, and something for everyone.  The newly revamped playground (now known as the Koret’s Children Center) is one of the best I have ever seen. Old school cement slide you ride down on cardboard, a small river, a HUGE climbing net for the older kids, truly a hit for all ages.  The kids can climb on a huge plastic wave, dig in the sand or make it to the top of a giant pyramid and see a view of the sprawling park. Located next to the carousel and  near the lawn bowling center, parking is not hard to find.  http://www.sfgov.org/site/recpark_page.asp?id=17796

For some East Bay excitement your first stop should be the Adventure Land playground at the Berkeley Marina.  http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=8656 This playground is not for the faint of heart.  With the play structures being made by the kids out of old tires and recycled building materials it may not be the place for the Purell Parent.  The kids love it! They pick up nails and turn them in for tools, there is a zip line that ends in a pile of dirt, and an old cargo net to climb in.  This place is for imaginations to run wild.  Admission is free, check the guidelines for large groups.  An ice cream man does seem to make the rounds quit frequently so keep a couple of bucks handy.

Next up in Berkeley is Lake Anza.  http://www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden Lake Anza does charge a fee to use the beach, $2.50 per child and $3.50 per adult.  The space is wonderful.  On those hot summer days you can count on some shade, enough sand to keep the kids happy for hours and lifeguards on duty at the beach.  The swimming area is soft sand underfoot and there are lanes for laps if you so desire. If your kids are older there is a great trail around the lake that is also off leash for dogs.  Pack a picnic and spend the day.  There is a snack shack for any treats or drinks you may have forgotten.

Last but not least, farther east in Walnut Creek  is Rock City on Mt. Diablo.  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517 Admission is $10.00 per vehicle and they DO NOT take credit cards.  Rock city is a series of wind blown caves and formations that are great for climbing, exploring and crawling around.  It is a beautiful drive up Mount Diablo and breathe taking if you make it to the top where the visitor center is located.  The roads are well marked and finding Rock City is not difficult.  Watch out for Poison Oak and bring your sunscreen, it gets hot out here and the best time to hit the park is early in the morning.  Bring your own snacks and plenty of water.  The visitor center has some snacks but mostly candy bars and soda.

So for those first few days of summer boredom, try some new adventure spots.  Bring your friends, combine the families and let the kids run wild.  That is what summer is still about, right?