These two favorite places go together beautifully, with something for everybody! If you are visiting the San Francisco Bay Area and don't know about the Adventure Playground over in Berkeley, you should - there aren't too many of these parks and this is a great one. It was created in 1979 and still has that old 70s feeling, where kids run (relatively) wild and build their own world.
By helping with a bit of cleanup, kids may earn hammers or paintbrushes, which they may use to make their own mark on the place. They may also simply play - there's lots to climb on, in and through. There's a zipline (for ages six and up), which my son's favorite part. He also loves rolling down the small hill tucked inside a plastic barrel. To each his own!
One of the excellent things about this park is it's location. It's right down by the water, with wonderful views in all directions, a little beach right next to the entrance, and plenty of places for walking and exploring. It's a beautiful spot. It also happens to be a few minutes drive from one of the best shopping districts around: Fourth Street in Berkeley. While Fourth Street is home to some chain stores, you will also find a large number of small and beautiful independent stores - The Gardener, The Builders Booksource, Rabat (shoes), Castle in the Air, Miki's Paper... There are also several wonderful places to eat - I love Tacubaya, Bettie's To Go (I love eating a slice of their pizza out on the sidewalk), and O'Chame.
Back to the Adventure Playground: as a city park, admission to the Adventure Playground is free. However, for a small fee (a $10 flat fee as of this writing), kids aged seven and older maybe left here for up to three hours. Can you see where I am going with this?
Here's what you do: After registering at the office (a few steps from the Playground), drop the kids (remember, they must be at least seven) at the Adventure Playground. Then head up to Fourth Street for lunch a bit of shopping. When you're ready, pick up the kids... but don't leave yet. Take a walk together down to the pier, or around Cesar Chavez Park. It's a wonderful way to experience the bay - the views are fabulous, the air is bracing, and there's just so much to see.
P.S. On April 18, the merchants of Fourth Street are hosting a sidewalk sale, with deals ranging from 40-60% off. Wish I could be there!