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Spend A Day at the Berkeley Marina's Adventure Playground
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Spend A Day at the Berkeley Marina's Adventure Playground

Picture of Clara Obstfeld
Updated: 9 February 2017
Situated on the chilly water of the San Francisco Bay, the Adventure Playground, located in the Berkeley Marina, is perhaps the most pleasantly surprising feature of the area. Catering to adventurous kids of all ages, the playground provides a creative and unique environment perfect for exploration and innovation.
San Francisco Bay | Berkeley Marina
San Francisco Bay | Berkeley Marina © Clara Obstfeld

A visit to the Berkeley Marina is the perfect outing for a short and inexpensive trip outside of the city. Adults and children of all ages will find plenty of activities, all with a stunning view of San Francisco and Marin. A stroll around the area is pleasant at any time of day, but is especially beautiful around sunset when the sun dips below the Golden Gate Bridge. Fishing vessels and sailboats travel back and forth daily, coming to rest at the calm and protected docks. If the setting alone isn’t enough, there are plenty of other attractive features in the area.

Berkeley Pier | Berkeley Marina
Berkeley Pier | Berkeley Marina © Clara Obstfeld

With restaurants, multiple playgrounds, picnic areas and beautiful walks, a visit to the area can be an all day event. For kids and many parents, the Adventure Playground is undoubtedly the highlight of a trip to the marina. The playground was opened in 1979 and has been a hit ever since, attracting kids with an appetite for a more interactive environment. The model for the playground rejects a static view of children’s play, advocating for moving parts that can be manipulated in novel ways.

Entrance and Tool Area | Adventure Playground
Entrance and Tool Area | Adventure Playground © Clara Obstfeld

Given the tools to create, the hope is to encourage initiative and creativity in even the youngest of visitors. It stands out as a jagged structure nestled between a large parking lot, a less developed picnic area and the rocky shoreline that houses a fleet of kayaks. Experiences here are unique and ever-changing, something that conventional playgrounds cannot provide. The goal is to allow children to create their own fun while teaching skills like cooperation and problem-solving.

Play Structure | Adventure Playground
Play Structure | Adventure Playground © Clara Obstfeld

Visitors create and complete their own challenges with minimal guidance or structure from staff members or other adults. Kids are encouraged to change the existing wooden structures with paint, saws, hammers or nails. Over the years, this freedom has facilitated the creation of multicolored forts, boats and climbing structures. Interaction with the built environment is key to the success and excitement of the Adventure Playground, but this is not all the venue offers; It also functions as a uniquely engaging playground, with ropes for climbing and a sea of tires for scrambling across.

These features are created with recycled and donated materials assembled in a safe and exciting manner. It is the perfect place for kids to interact with one another and create their own games within the structures. While building upon the existing structure is certainly the primary attraction of the Adventure Playground, a zip-line provides additional entertainment for children 6 and up.

Zip Line | Adventure Playground
Zip Line | Adventure Playground © Clara Obstfeld

A simple rickety wooden tower allows kids, and even some adventurous parents, to access a small wooden seat secured to the zip line with a thick rope. The whole setup looks and feels a little precarious, but has been effectively the same for years. This time tested ride is simple but deceptively fun, just exciting enough to be hours of entertainment. With joyful screams, kids slide down with surprising velocity, finding a soft landing place in a large pile of playground sand at the end of the line. While the park itself is fun for kids of all ages, the zip line is especially exciting for older children.

The playground is free for families willing to provide their own supervision, making the venue additionally attractive for those on a budget. For parents looking to relax, eat, or explore while kids play, there is a modest $10 fee for up to three hours of play for kids over seven. Groups of five or more should call ahead to reserve space, especially during busy weekends. Staff members and volunteers provide some supervision, but parents are encouraged to take an active role in keeping both their own children and the general area safe.