Tilden Regional Park

Berkeley, CA
Editors' Notes: 

One of the District's three oldest parks, Tilden has been called the jewel of the system, and its recreational activities have become a happy tradition for generations of East Bay youngsters. From a carousel ride and a picnic to a swim at Lake Anza and a stroll through the Botanic Garden, Tilden has variety to delight everyone. Yet there are plenty of quiet places in Tilden's 2,079 acres to shelter the wildlife and preserve natural beauty. Tilden was named for Charles Lee Tilden, first president of the Park District Board of Directors. The park is reached via Canon Drive, Shasta Road, or South Park Drive, all off Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley.

Parent Q&A

  • 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!

Parent Reviews

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When my teen was that age, we loved to go to the Tilden carousel multiple times over the winter break. Sadly, he’s not so into it anymore.

Have you tried the Nimitz trail at inspiration point in Tilden Park? That’s where I took my daughter. Great biking trail. Enjoy!

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...

It sounds like you want easy in- town access so my first suggestion is Codornices Park.  There are BBQ grills at the end of centerfield (off the grass) of the baseball diamond.  More special is to go from there across the creek to the picnic area at the big chimney.  Berkeley req does reserve for you, but I'd think not necessary unless a weekend.  Another close by,  but small and private location is Remoullard Park on Regal Road above Euclid

Our more favorite suggestion would be Tilden and specifically the Spillway Picnic Area.  It is east of the great lawn at Lake Anza.  Their parking lot was closed last month...but parking in the over-flow lot next to it is actually closer to the BBQ sites.  Seven tables, lovely location, short 2 minute wLk from over-flow parking lot (gravel). If you don't know Tilden, easiest directions is from top of Spruce Street to Anza Lake.  You also go right by the Merry-Go-Round and could easily stroll between the two.  Good luck.

Tilden Park has a lot of picnic areas both large and small, with BBQ grills and either their own bathroom, or they are nearby. You can reserve the big ones (35 people and up) ahead of time to ensure you get the spot you want. Or just arrive early and stake out your spot.  http://www.ebparks.org/activities/picnics

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Activities at Tilden Park

Nov 2011

Re: Where to take carousel-obsessed toddler?
East Bay: Tilden Park - my favorite!

Feb 2007

Re: When will my baby be interested in the zoo?

You might want to start out by going to Little Farm in Tilden. They have cows, ducks, geese, chickens, goats, sheep...interesting enough for a baby. I don't think the zoo would work unless your infant can see long distances and has an attention span longer than 10 minutes. Angela

RE: out-of-town visitors: The steam trains in Tilden. Not only did my two-year-old nephew really enjoy the ride, but so did all the adults (nice views) and my eight-week-old baby was just fine with it. Trains are at southern end of park (548-6100). Also in Tilden, a petting zoo and pony rides (527-0421)at the northern end of the park and a merry-go-round (524-6283), as well as Lake Anza for swimming.

Presuming Berkeley is near by, a 6 year old and 3.5 year old would love all the activities in Tilden State Park. Take them to the small scale steam train rides ($1.50 per person), the 1940's classic merry-go-round($1.00 per person), the little farm petting zoo(Free) (bring lots of celery and lettuce! No carrots) to see the goats, cow, pigs, burros, rabbits, ducks , roosters.And then go to the pony rides ($2.50 per ride). Then, if it's hot out, a picnic and swim at Lake Anza. This is a great beach for kids with a grassy area for a picnic and and a dressing room with (cold water) showers. Josh

You don't say where you live, but if it's in the East Bay, Tilden Park is a good option. The Farm is always a kid-pleaser -- bring celery to feed the animals. There's also a pony ride near The Farm. Then you could go to the Carousel and/or Steam Train. There are lots of places for a picnic, and if it's a warm enough day, you could end the day with a swim (at least for the kids) in Lake Anza. Colleen

Suggestion for daytrip: Tilden Park is excellent for young kids, with petting farm, pony ride, carousel, steam train and plenty of room to run around. Getting there is easy -- just keep driving up from Albany or North Berkeley, and it seems to me you can't miss it. To me, this is a great resource that is surprisingly close to home.

Tilden Park caveats -- pony rides don't start until 11 a.m. and the field by the merry-go-round (formerly a nice place to sit with kids) is under construction. Bruce

Birthday Parties at Tilden Park

2 year old birthday party at Tilden Steam Trains

June 2011

I'm thinking about having a birthday party for my son at the Tilden Park Steam Trains. I can't find any information on the Redwood Valley Railway or on the Tilden Park website about parties though. Has anyone else done this before? Can you make a reservation for the picnic tables up there? What is a good number of people to invite? Any advice on how to do this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! train mama

We had a birthday party at the trains a couple years ago. I don't think you can reserve those tables, so we just sent someone up early to grab one. We bought plenty of train tickets ahead of time, so we could just pass them out freely to guests, without the awkwardness of counting heads, having guests offer to pay their own way, etc. You'll need some people to stay behind at the table(s) while most of you are riding the train. We also had activities set up at the table area: face-painting, parachute, and also a pinata, I think. It was a good party, pretty easy to execute. We probably invited 10-12 kids. Hope this helps... anon

I haven't attended a birthday party at the Tilden Park Steam Trains before, but a steam train birthday party is a great idea!

The picnic area just across the street from the Train is not reservable, but can be staked out early in the day. There are only two tables there, widely spaced, so depending on the size of your group, you could gather around one of them. Or use one for food and the other for games or for cake and ice cream? To make sure there are places for riders on the steam trains, picnickers should park in the upper lot.

Larger groups can use the picnic areas on South Park Drive (Willow, Laurel, Padre, or others). These are reservable through the East Bay Regional Park.

The Train is now open Sat. & Sun. 11 - 6 & Mon. - Fri. 11 - 5. Tickets are: $2.00 each, or $8.00 for a five-ride family ticket.

To reserve a picnic area on South Park Drive, East Bay Regional Park District Reservations line is 888 327-2757, option 2, then 1, during office hours. Or go to www.ebparks.org You can check to see if the picnic area you want is available by going to https://online.activenetwork.com/EBParks/Facilities/FacilitiesSearchWizard.asp
hope this helps

April 2010

RE: What Park for 5-year-old Birthday Party?

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 A

March 2003

Re: Picnic site for 1st birthday party
I love the Big Leaf site at Tilden. It has several picnic tables, nice shade trees, a big plot of grass and bathrooms right nearby. The pony rides are directly across the street and it is a 10 minute walk to the little farm. I've had several birthday parties there and everyone seemed happy. Reservations are essential and cost around $75.00. Mary

Re: Picnic site for 1st birthday party 
We are celebrating our daughter's 1st birthday at Tilden Park in Berkeley. They have numerous picnic sites with BBQ pits and tables. Some sites also have bathrooms right on site. The bathrooms are very clean. Reserving a site is affordable and you get a full refund if it rains. Residents of Alameda and Contra Costa counties get a discount. There is a Merry-go-Round the kids might enjoy for $1 per person. There is also Lake Anza which is open for swimming in the summer, pony rides, a train ride, and a playground. Unfortunately, Tilden is huge and the fun stuff is spread out throughout the park, so you'll have to pick one and get as close as possible to it. I highly recommend going to the park to view the picnic sites as some are definitely better than others. Check http://www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden.htm for more information and maps. denise

Sept 2002

RE: Site for outdoor 1st birthday party in October

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

April 2002

RE: Picnic in the park for 1st birthday party

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

April 2002

RE: Picnic in the park for 1st birthday party

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

From: Fran

When my son turned three, we had a party for him at the Tilden Park Carousel . The Carousel has a party package that costs $10/person, including 4 rides (I think), but we decided against it because all of the kids would also have a parent along and it would get expensive. There are lots of tables under the trees next to the Carousel so we bet on enough being available for the party time, and we lucked out, although there was another party in the area at the same time. I think it would have cost $50 to reserve a site at Tilden. I gave each parent 8 tickets and those who brought along other children were welcome to split up the tickets any way they wished.

If you plan a party for such young children that requires admission to something, keep in mind that you may also have to pay for a parent, and decide in advance what to tell a parent who asks if their other young children can come along

Tilden is great for adults and children of all ages. If you're early risers, it's nice to get to the Little Farm around breakfast time (we always bring a thermos of hot chocolate and warm cinnamon rolls and sit at the lone picnic table there). Usually it's misty and the deer are munching the grass near the parking area. Then we take a long hike, which ends around the time the sun has burned through the clouds. It's really peaceful, and you can see and hear more wildlife first thing in the morning. Once I took a playgroup of third-graders to the farm around dinnertime. We were the only ones there except for Farmer Dave, who asked the kids to help him feed the cows and milk the goats. What an unexpected treat!

If your children are between the ages of 9 and 12, the Environmental Education Center near the Little Farm offers a Science Days program on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the summer. There is a different topic each week. The program runs from 10am-4pm (kids bring their own lunch), and it costs $12.50 per day for residents of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, $15 for nonresidents. Upcoming topics are astronomy (July 25 and 26), dinosaurs (August 1 and 2), reptiles and amphibians (August 15 and 16), and rainforests (August 22 and 23). You have to reserve a spot in the class by calling 636-1684.

The only note of caution re Tilden has to do with bees. No one in our family has ever been stung there, but we have hiked along paths where we discovered hundreds of bumblebees on thistle plants and tiptoed quietly past them. And we have come upon beehives and wasp nests of all kinds--some built right into the high banks of dirt, others hanging like paper lanterns in the trees. It's good to warn kids to be aware and not to touch or disturb them. Lisa