Parks for Birthday Parties & Other Gatherings

Parent Q&A

Birthday party near Tilden Little Farm Apr 4, 2019 (2 responses below)
SF Park to host kid's birthday party Feb 19, 2019 (2 responses below)
Park in the Peninsula to host kid's birthday party Feb 10, 2019 (2 responses below)
Last Minute Afternoon BBQ/Picnic Venue May 16, 2018 (3 responses below)
  • Birthday party near Tilden Little Farm

    (2 replies)

    How early would you suggest to arrive at the picnic sites outside of Little Farm to snag a table or two for a kids birthday gathering - on a Saturday or Sunday?

    What's been your experience? It's been a few years since we've hosted at this location. Thanks!!

    We recently hosted our daughter’s party at Indian Camp- the park just outside little farm and got there st 9.30a. We were the second of the three tables- the first family had gotten there an hr earlier and had a bouncy castle ready; although had set everything up and left. Returning at 2p for their party. Hope this helps!

    SUPER early...if you want to be sure to get one!

  • SF Park to host kid's birthday party

    (2 replies)

    Hello,

    I'm planning to host a birthday party for my daughter in June, and I'd like to ask if there's a park other parents would recommend. I live in San Francisco, so ideally I'd like to host somewhere close by but warm and not too windy. Are there any fees or permit required to host a party there? Any advices or tips will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Two of the best parks for hosting birthday parties (and I've been to, and hosted, parties in most of them, having raised two kids in SF) are Julius Kahn and Midtown Terrace. Both have clubhouses you can rent pretty cheaply ($50-100 per hour: https://sfrecpark.org/permits-and-reservations/indoor-facilities/recreat...) and have nice playgrounds and flat grassy areas if you want a jumpy house. I would say Midtown Terrace is a bit better for younger kids, since it's very self-contained and fenced in. Other good ones that are self contained with rentable clubhouses are Grattan, Douglass, and JP Murphy. Can't help you with the fog and wind in June, but you never know :-) Good luck and have fun!

    The other writer did a great job covering the parks in SF. Julius Kahn was my favorite.  The other parks I’d like to add are Michelangelo Playground and Presideo Heights Playground, both small gems. 

  • Hello,

    I'm planning to host a birthday party for my daughter in June, and I'd like to ask all the parents out there what parks they would recommend. Ideally I'd like to host somewhere in the peninsula where it's warm and not too windy. Are there any fees or permit required to host a party there? Any advices or tips will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Viv

    I'm not sure how deep into the Peninsula you want to go but the park near downtown Los Altos off Foothill is beautiful.  Always lots of parties there and picnic tables.   I'm not sure if they can be reserved, but if so I assume there is a fee to do so.  Also a nice creek to play in as well as several structures.  Not too far from Draeger's where you could order the cake or other food/treats.  

    Usually people choose a park near home. Assuming you are casting a wider net, Redwood City and San Carlos have good weather and plenty of parks. You pay a small fee for the rental and can book online. 

  • Last Minute Afternoon BBQ/Picnic Venue

    (3 replies)

    Hi - wasn't able to find any recent advice on this topic and was hoping someone might have some new ideas. We're looking for a last minute place to host a small gathering (20 adults,10 kids) Saturday afternoon. We'd like to go to one of the regional parks but are concerned there may not be picnic space available unless someone goes to the park in the morning and stakes out a spot until we plan to arrive later in the day (3-4pm). We've called a few parks and most of the reservable space is already reserved.  

    Any suggestions on places that may be less crowded? Would we be able to show up at Tilden or Roberts and find space in the afternoon? 

    Thanks for the suggestions and advice

    Try Kennedy Grove in El Sobrante.  Gorgeous, rarely crowded, plenty of picnic/BBQ spots, and a playground and paved loop trail for kids to play and ride bikes.  A real hidden gem in the East Bay.

    If you go to the less popular areas in Tilden, you may be able to find a spot. Maybe check out Possum. Laurel, or Willows.  http://www.ebparks.org/images/Assets/files/parks/tilden/Tilden-map-2250w...

    Did you look into reserving a space? Technically you are supposed to reserve a space for events with 30 or more people at east bay parks and rec district parks. Roberts has a lot of reservable spaces if you are willing to be off of the main lawn.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions


Adventure Playground vs Train Museum for 7yo's birthday

Sept 2014

We're considering either Berkeley's Adventure Playground (AP) or Richmond's Golden State Railroad Museum (GSRM) for our son's 7th birthday. I've checked the archives, but don't find answers to the questions we have.

We'd love to hear from anyone who has held birthdays at either location. In particular, we'd find it helpful to know: -Was there enough to do/see at the GSRM for a birthday party? -If not, what other activity(ies) did you add to make it a well-rounded party? (A pinata outside perhaps?) -Where did you set up your meal/snacks/cake? -We've not visited it yet, and are wondering: will it hold the attention of 6 & 7 year olds, or is GSRM better suited for younger kids?

For a party at AP, did you ask (some) parents to stay to help supervise? -What ratio of kids/adults did you find helpful? -If you brought in lunch and used a restaurant for the meal, who did you use?

Any other advice or tips you can suggest for a party at either place would be great, too! Thanks. Caryn


We've done a birthday party at both locations. Adventure Playground is so much fun, but not appropriate for younger siblings and you will want significant help overseeing the kiddos. There are plenty of places to picnic in the adjacent park. It can, of course, be freezing and blowing fog!

Golden Gate Railroad Museum is a look-not touch hobbyist's association. My train crazy son loved to go there, but it won't occupy much time. We combined it with a traditional party by renting PRAM's fieldhouse, which is across the street and is extremely affordable. It is a parent group that has a club house with a kitchen, toys, and an outside area. See http://www.pram.net/. Birthday vet


I say Adventure Playground would probably be more fun for a group of 7 year olds. The Golden State Railroad Museum is really cool and worth a visit (even if you're not a train enthusiast). The intricate layouts are really amazing and it's fun to watch the trains running BUT the kids would probably be ready to move on after 30 minutes. There isn't anything else to do in the museum aside from observing the trains running behind the glass windows. If you go you'd probably want to plan to spend much of the party time exploring Miller Knox Regional Park (GSRM is in Miller Knox). There's a nice little beach, trails, barbeque pits and picnic tables. Kites are great there.

Adventure Playground on the other hand will definitely keep them entertained for hours. No, parents don't need to stay. The park is staffed by the City of Berkeley so some supervision is provided. Make sure you reserve spot for your group in advance and everyone needs a waiver. FYI kids 7 and older can be dropped off at the park for up to 3 hours if you register! There is a picnic table right outside the park and many other tables/barbeques close by. I recommend having pizza delivered and bring a cake. Keep it simple, the kids will just want to play in the park and hunt for sand crabs on the beach. Have fun


Park for 3-year-old tricycle party

Sept 2011

I'd like to have an outdoor birthday party for my soon-to-be three-year-old twins at a park that's amenable for group tricycle (etc.) riding. We live in Oakland near Grand Lake, and I'm leaning toward Mosswood Park, but I'm wondering if I'm missing somewhere else even more suitable. Any suggestions? Lori


I've seen groups of kids riding bikes along the path at Lake Temescal. Laura


What Park for 5-year-old Birthday Party?

April 2010

I am trying to plan a birthday party at a park for my five year old. I am trying to keep it simple, so that I do not get him into the habit at such a young age of expecting an elaborate $250+ major event party every year. I think he and his friends would enjoy just running around and eating a cake. But, I think I would like to be able to reserve a set of picnic tables rather than taking my chances on having an open spot available. I have looked at East Bay Regional Parks, specifically Roberts Park and Lake Temescal, both of which I think would be great - but with the parking charge of $5 per car, the costs would quickly add up above the reasonable reservation fees. Do you have any suggestions of other greak parks (hopefully with a fun playground) that have a reservable picnic area, but free parking? We live in the Oakland Hills and prefer this side of the tunnel, but am open to any suggestions...Thanks for your help. Ready to Party, but where to go?


If the party is not in the summer, you'll have no trouble going to that awesome grove down the slope from Woodminster theatre. Up joaquim miller left like you are going to park at Woodminster, but just pull off there, look down. ITs a great meadow with tables and grills and a perfect field for an organized tball game. Im sorry I don't recall what its called. In busy season you need to book it ... in the spring your fine to just get there early and put an icechest on the table.

Also.... Linda Park, Piedmont park, Draceana, and don't dis the adventure playland down at the berkeley marina. that's really fun and free. Enjoy these wonderful years. Reenie


This doesn't really answer the question, but there is ample street parking near Lake Temescal; you don't necessarily have to pay the fee. In fact, if you drive by on the weekends, the lots are typically empty while the street fills up first. If you want to save $ that's a good place to start! Mary


Union Point Park is great & you can reserve through City of Oakland Parks and Rec Department at (510) 238-3187. We've had & attended parties there. There are two free parking lots, a structure that is shaped like a ship, sand pit, & large grassy area plus you are by the water with can look at the boats. http://www.yelp.com/biz/union-point-park-oakland


Tilden Park near the Little Farm is a great place for 5 year olds' birthday parties, and the parking is free, although it fills up quickly on beautiful weekends so your guests may have to park a little distance away and walk through the park to the party. Kids can see the animals, play in the grass, and on the play structure, and there are tables there. It's a wonderful place for a party. Lucy Armentrout


Cordonices is a lovely park in Berkeley, with plenty of free street parking. You can reserve the tables throught the city of Berkeley. Great playground and really great big slide, and lots of space to run around.


Picnic site for 3-year-old's birthday party

March 2009

I am looking to have my child's 2nd birthday at a picnic site in a park (Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, or Berkeley) and am interested in recommendations for parks that let you reserve the tables ahead of time. I have checked out wildcat canyon's playground area and think it's awesome but am concerned about the lack of parking and the hike into the spot. The carosel spot in Tilden seems ok but it seems like my son would rather be near a playground. Any other recs? BS


I had two birthday parties for my son at Aquatic Park in Berkeley. There is a picnic table directly next to the playground that is NOT reservable, but there are several picnic tables in the nearby field, a three-minute walk away, that ARE reservable, and this is what I did. It worked out well -- for some time, kids played together in the field, balls and frisbees and such, we had cake and lunch, etc. Then we moved to the wonderful playground. The only problem with this site is that it can be cool and windy. Nanu


We had our birthday party at Memorial Park in Albany. It was easy to rent the tables and they have great bbq pits, playgrounds and easy parking. http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=588 k


A great little playground with picnic tables is Dorothy Bolte Park, in Berkeley, on Spruce Street, in the Berkeley hills. It was recently remodeled with new play equipment. It has a sweet little lawn area and plenty of street parking. The only drawback is there is no restroom. We have had two parties there. There is a great tree for hanging a pinata (though too old for a 2 year old), great adult gathering places without being so large that you have to worry that kids will wander off. Actually, the two picnic tables are first come first serve. You may want to consider Tilden park for reservable tables. Party on


We have had/been to great children's parties at Cordonices, Aquatic Park, Tilden (we did one at the Merry Go Round), Fairyland in Oakland (I thought it was too expensive for what you got). Children are good at entertaining themselves on play equipment after you have organized a few simple games. We had a pinata at Cordonices. For one party at Aquatic Park, it got too cold so we had a back up video ready at our home. kl


2-year-old's birthday at a park

Feb 2009

I'd like to host my son's 2nd birthday in April at a park. We're going to invite about 5-6 other toddlers, their parents and some other adults. I thought we'd have the party from 11-1 on a Saturday and just serve lunch (like sandwiches) and cake. I don't want to have a big fuss but I do want to bring our friends together. I am thinking of having it at either Aquatic Park in Berkeley or Memorial Park in Albany. I'd like advice on hosting a party in the park without reserving the space in advance (i'd like to save money on the reservation fee). Also, what should I think about it terms of logistics? And, are their other parks in the Berk/Alb/El Cerrito area that are great for toddlers and parties? party planner


Dear party mom My daughter's parties have been successfully held at Bateman park in Berkeley for several years. There is a nice play structure, several swings, a big grassy area with trees, several picnic tables, and, perhaps most importantly, a fence around the perimeter. You can't reserve in advance, you just have to get there early. I have tried to get there to lay out my stuff before 9 am for our Sunday parties. Perhaps you should aim for earlier for Saturday parties. Last year there were three parties in the park in exactly the same two hour window. An infant's birthday party, my 8 year old's party and a 12 year old party. It worked out fine, all the parties cooperated, the space was big enough for every one and it was great. Bateman park on Regent between Prince and Webster, on the dead end street of Alta Bates hospital. Try not to stress, a park party is lots of fun. park party mom p.s. note from birthday kid: It was my birthday I had A lot of fun.AAAAAAHHH


When my daughter was little, I had totally no-fuss park parties for her at parks in El Cerrito: Castro, Tassajara, and Cerrito Vista. Each time we had practically the whole place to ourselves and I never made a reservation. I would not recommend Aquatic Park, Albany Memorial or Arlington parks, because on nice weekends they get crowded with folks who do have reservations. If you do choose one of the less-crowded El Cerrito parks, make sure to buy a bathroom key from the El Cerrito Community Center in advance. -- park parties are fun


Outdoor locations for first birthday party?

March 2008

Hi there! Im having a party for my daughters 1st birthday in one town and then having another one for friends in the East Bay. Im planning on a May 10th date but Im not sure what the weather or crowds are like around that time. can anyone let me know if the weather has usually been good for them in the Tilden park area during may? I'd also love any recommendations on other suitable party locations (preferably outdoors) for a 1 year olds birthday party (aprrox 20-30 people). thanks! Megg


We had my daughter's 1st birthday party last May at the picnic area near the carousel in Tilden. It was later in May but the weather was cool but sunny and comfortable for a lunchtime BBQ. And ''kids'' of all ages enjoyed the carousel! Tilden Fan


Outdoor site for a BBQ and jumper

May 2007

I am starting to plan my son's birthday party and I am having a hard time finding some where to do it. I want to rent a jumper, we would like to BBQ and there will be 30-40 people. I am looking at any area from Richmond to Berkeley. Please does anyone have any thoughts??? Hillary


We just had my daughter's birthday at Kennedy Grove in El Sobrante. It is a beautiful park run by East Bay Regional Parks District. There was another party there that had a jumpy house, so I know this is possible. It has a great big open grassy area, and plenty of picnic tables, some of which you can reserve through the EBRPD website. Also, it tends to be warmer there than here. The kids had a great time, and all of the adults loved the spot. Have fun!


Nice picnic site in Oakland for 1st birthday party

Sept 2003

My son is turning one next month and I am looking for a nice park in Oakland to have his party. I'm looking for something that would have grassy areas, picnic tables and a play area for the older kids. I've checked out Montclair, Joaquinn Miller, and Temescal. Are there any others I haven't discovered yet? Thanks! Stephanie


  • Dimond Park
  • Roberts Regional Recreation Area (2)

    Outdoor celebration for 50 family and friends

    March 2003

    Our baby will turn one this summer. We want to have an outdoor celebration picnic with about 50 family and friends in the Berkeley/El Cerrito area. We are looking for a site that has activities/interesting things to do for children ages 1-14. Any ideas will be appreciated. Parent trying to plan early


    Recommendations received:
  • Arlington Park (2)
  • Tilden Park - Big Leaf (2)

    Site for outdoor 1st birthday party in October

    September 2002

    Hi, I've read the archives on birthdays but didn't see much about outdoor parties for babies. Our son is turning one in October and we'd like to have a party at a park. We' re having quite a few kids and our house is too little, so that seems like a good solution (if the weather is nice).

    Ideally, we'd have the party at Tot Land in Berkeley . We love that place and it's perfect for little kids. But the party is on a Sunday and I'm afraid it will be too crowded. Plus, it seems like we'd have to get there early in the morning to claim a table or two and since there are only three or four picnic tables in the first place, it seems a little rude. But I love it there and so does our kiddo.

    So - does anyone have any ideas about other parks to have a party? Or have you had one at Tot Land and had it work out okay? We are not making much money right now, so renting a space isn't really an option. With that in mind, where is a good place to have a party and how do you make sure you get a table or two? Thanks! Berkeley Mama


    I had our son's one year party at Tilden (several years ago). We were able to be close to one of the tot areas, and it gave us room to spread out for fun. I also like Cedar Rose park since there are two play areas and a big grassy field. I was never brave enough to tackle Totland. Bennett
    We held our daughter's second birthday party at Tilden Park in the grassy area by the Little Farm parking lot. It's a pleasant spot for a picnic party. There is a little playground with sand there, not to mention the farm itself, ample grass, a number of picnic tables, typical park bathrooms, but also the more decent bathrooms at the farm.

    We've also done two other park birthdays out in Contra Costa. My comment: just go early (maybe 7-8 am) and put stuff on the tables you want. You can have someone guard the site, but you could probably also just leave the non valuable stuff on the table to claim possession and leave it alone (this works in a more remote spot like Tilden, but at Totland you might need a warm body there too). People are used to seeing reserved tables, and will probably not mind.

    The weekend or two before the party, I would drive over to the picnic spot at 8 or so, and maybe again at 10 to see if people have claimed tables. That gives you an idea of when to get there to set up on your actual weekend.

    My kid's parties have all been on Memorial Day weekend, and we haven't had a problem in three years at three different parks getting the table and spaces that we want. I would think that in October it might be even easier--just get there fairly early, and good luck! Suzanne


    Our moms group had a group one year old birthday party in Montclair Park last June. it was a lot of fun, plenty of room to set up the food on one or two tables, lots of grass for the kids to crawl around and a playground not too far away. I think that you have to reserve a table ahead of time and then get there early to stake your claim. We all had a great time. dawn
    Hi. I don't know where you are, but there's a great playground in the Alvarado Area of the Wildcat Canyon Park up in the Richmond Hills (where Arlington ends at McBryde). The reservation site with tables is called ''Acacia'' and right next to it is a really nice toddler park with good sand. It's a bit tricky to describe to party goers in the invite, but you can direct folks to a map of the area and then a subset map of the park and/or send them to the park website: www.ebparks.org and you can always put signs or balloons up to help get them there. Contact that website for more info on how to reserve (free). Good luck! Just had a party

    Picnic in the park for 1st birthday party

    April 2002

    hi, My baby girl will be one year old in 6 weeks' time. I would like to throw a party in honor of this joyous occasion - a picnic in a park (since our place is way too small), inviting our parent friends and their kids, total of 14 adults and 11 kids between the ages of 6 months-7 years. I would appreciate any advice you have to offer - what kind of food should I serve (budget is tight, and no meat or fish)? my husband said it's OK to tell people to bring some dish to share - won't it be rude to ask them since I'm inviting them to a birthday party? Should I also invite non-parent friends (for a total of 25 adults)? Should I organize activities? which ones? anything I didn't think of? Thank you for your help. Anne


    My daughter turned 1 last July. We had a birthday party for her at the merry-go-round in Tilden Park, and it was fabulous. We reserved two picnic tables right at the site for $40 (I think), and invited both kids and adults, a total of 20 people. We served cake and ice cream and drinks. My husband and I designed and created a three layer carousel cake (complete with plastic animals) and bought animal-themed tablecloths, plates and cups. The whole party cost under a $100, including tickets for everyone to ride the carousel as many times as they wanted. Both the adults and kids loved the event, and we videotaped it for posterity. I think a first birthday party is really for the family members to remember (since I don't think my daughter remembers it), and it was memorable for all of us, and the setting was lovely. Jane
    We had a picnic at Willard Park for our daughter's first birthday and invited baby friends and adults. We too wanted a celebration of this exciting milestone. We had a great time and it was great to share it with friends, but I have some regrets. First, make sure someone is taking pictures, maybe not you if you are hosting. Also, make sure there is play space for the children. We set up on the lawn under a tree, when what we should have done was set up on the lawn *inside* the playground area. That may be a no-brainer for me now, but wasn't then...We served sandwich fixings from Andronico's and got a carrot cake from Nabalom. The cake was not too sugary. (Another friend reported her daughter going bonkers from a sugar high from a first cake.) The party obviously wasn't *for* the baby, she was sort of overwhelmed and cranky, but we wanted to mark the occasion and thought it would be great to have pictures to show her later, and she would have been much happier if she'd been able to play (duh!). Charlotte
    we had our daughter's first and second birthdays at our small apartment, primarily because it has a large courtyard off the back porch for people spillover, and it's in may. this year we've reserved a park site at tildne, but that's $71! as far as food, we always make a large pot of beans (soaked overnight with lots of garlic and onions, and cooked for a few hours the day of the party) and a lot of rice--these are cheap and can be very tasty. If you barbeque, you can buy some tofu hot dogs and (not too cheap) gardenburgers, and ask meat-eating guests to bring their own. You can also ask specific friends to contribute bread or salads--in my experience, close friends like to help out. for a one year old, i'd definitely make the cake on your own--much cheaper and your kid won't care! we haven't done games yet (this year we might have to) except a pinata, and that was more for the other kids in the past two years. i think that a one year old party is more to celebrate that landmark as parents (and to have photos to show your kid when they get a bit bigger) than to actually entertain the one year old! jessica
    I would suggest pizza as a good birthday party food. We did that with my daughter's first and second birthday parties now that I think of it. The first was homemade with yummy cornbread crusts that I can only find at certain Andronico's, and the second was from Round Table. Just be sure that whichever route you take that you add two extra pizzas to the total. We made the mistake of underestimating the pizza total the second time and there wasn't quite enough for everyone to have 2-4 slices, which was kind of embarrassing! I agree with you that it would be rude to ask parents to bring a dish when they are already bringing a gift -- it's too much to ask. If money is tight, maybe you coud have the party at an off time so that you are not feeding everyone lunch. Angela
    I feel that if people are going to host a birthday party, they should host the food. There are so many potluck parties that it becomes burdensome, and people tend to bring gifts to b-day parties. It would be preferable to make it affordable by keeping it simple. Serve cut up fruit and vegetables with dip, etc. If you still want a potluck, suggest on the invitation that, rather than bringing gifts, people bring a dish to share or drinks.
    Hi there, Congratulations to you all! I just wanted to let you know that I have been to a pot-luck birthday party (and had one myself at our son's first birthday.) So, I think it's perfectly fine. Good luck and have fun. A Mom
    We had a similar size first birthday party to what you are talking about-- 8-10 kids and about 20 adults. Here are some things that worked well:

    HAVE A BRUNCH-- 10:30 or so. This allowed kids to come before afternoon naps or between morning and afternoon naps.

    POTLUCK-- by all means! I made an EASY baked egg dish and baked homefries which I prepped the night before then stuck in the oven that morning.

    CAKE was a simple banana cake-- no frosting. Big hit with young and old alike.

    PARTY FAVORS (not necessary, but I got into it)-- little kid toothbrushes from Longs (about $1.59 on sale) and little stuffed animals from Ikea ($1 each).

    Have fun! Natasha H


    A couple of families I know celebrated their child's first birthday in the grassy area near Tilden Animal Farm. It was lovely and the kids can go on an excursion to feed the animals (you might want to provide some celery and lettuce). If your budget is tight, just do a cake and maybe some munchies - it doesn't have to be a meal. One friend did a light brunch with bagels and fruit. I would probably only invite as many guests as I could provide for, rather that ask the guests to also bring food, since they will be bringing a gift. Or maybe you could ask some of your closer friends or family to bring food instead of a gift. JJ's Mom