Monday, January 5, 2015

Family Fun in Tilden Park

Tilden Park is one of my favorite places to take the kids in Berkeley and a hidden gem when it comes to free family fun (Note: some of the attractions have a low admission fee). The drive up to the park rewards you with some amazing views of the San Francisco Bay. I always have to remind myself to stop looking at the view and pay attention to the road! Below are my five favorite stops in Tilden.

Little Farm

The Little Farm is nestled in the hills of Tilden Park and is probably my favorite spot for free fun for the kids. The farm has cows, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits and pigs, all in a very intimate farm setting that allows children to walk right up to the animals! My favorite time of day to come is in the morning. If you can get there before 10am, you will usually beat the crowds (it's surprisingly never crowded to the point of not being enjoyable), and have the farm and the animals to yourself. Make sure to bring plenty of celery and lettuce to feed the animals. My favorite part of our trips to the farm is watching the kids interact with the cows. Our youngest (1.5 years old) is absolutely terrified of them and clings to us in fear (which sounds horrible, but is really very cute since she is usually fearless), and our oldest has become increasingly bold with each visit that we make (below is a picture of when the cow "ate her hand"- a story she retold for weeks).

Once you are all out of celery, you can head down the paved road (keep walking past the turnoff to Little Farm) to the Jewel Lake Nature Trail. This trail is an easy 1 mile loop and my kids love walking along the 750 ft. long wooden boardwalk that weaves through the woods that lead to Jewel Lake. The trail also has a lot of low hanging trees that cross the path, as well old logs lining the trail, that make for great balance beams and obstacles to climb over for the kids.

Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Garden is a 10-acre garden in Tilden Park that takes you on a walking tour of  native California plants. There are ten geographically-based sections, all showcasing native plants from their respective regions of the state. My favorite part of the walk aside from the plants are the beautiful stone paths and walls that meander through the landscape, as well as the wooden bridges that guide you over the small creek that runs through the center of the garden. Our kids loved walking alongside the creek and were thrilled every time they found a new bridge!

View from the top of the gardens.
These are pictures from our visit in early January. Can't wait to go back in Spring!
There are at least a dozen small bridges or wooden boardwalks that are fun for the kids to run over.

Steam Trains

The Steam Trains in Tilden Park are any little kids dream (and some adults too!). Also known as the Redwood Valley Railway, this scaled-down steam train takes you on a 12 minute ride along the scenic ridgeline of the Berkeley Hills. Each ride starts with a conductor that yells "All Aboard" and a ticket collector that goes through and hand punches your ticket. The train route goes through a small tunnel that the kids love, and if you are lucky, in between rides, the conductor might let you pull on the rope that blows the train whistle! Tickets are really reasonable at $3/ride or 5 rides/$12 (kids under 2 ride free). There is ample parking if you just pass the first parking lot (that is usually full) and follow the road around the corner to the 2nd and 3rd lots.

Choo Chooooo!

The Carousel

The Carousel at Tilden Park is a great stop if you are exploring Tilden Park for the day. The rides are $2 each, or 7 rides for $10. There is also a small concession stand that sells ice cream and other treats for the kids at reasonable prices and the carousel is surrounded by a grass playing area where you can lay out a blanket and have a picnic before heading on to one of the many other attractions in the park.

Note, this picture was taken from google image search. I plan to get some pictures on our next visit.
Lake Anza

Lake Anza is a great spot to take the family for a day of fun in the sun. Admission is $2.50 for kids (under 1 is free), and $3.50 for adults. I used to come here as a kid and loved playing in the sand and swimming out to the floating dock at the edge of the swimming area. There is a grass area and picnic tables to sit at, as well as a concession stand and bathrooms. I plan to take some pictures during our next visit, so I will be sure to update this summer! (Tip: you can check out the current water quality, as it changes regularly based on recent weather conditions)


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