Where to park it in the East Bay: Urban parks and plazas

Lake Merritt may be the East Bay’s most easily recognizable spot for resting and roaming in the middle of Oakland, but you can take a breather at lesser-known locales when that scene isn’t your thing; smaller quiet and green spaces are also within BARTable reach. Avoid the rushing crowds for some downtime in between city tasks, or lay out a picnic spread for a weekend group hang at one of these East Bay urban parks and plazas.

Whether it’s a standard day on the calendar, a festival, or a holiday cultural event, spread that blanket for a lawn picnic at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. Just under three acres, the Berkeley staple houses a historic fountain and the vibrant Peace Wall — its signature art piece inlaid with tiles painted by community members.


The Kaiser Roof Garden is a true Oakland gem with a bird’s-eye view that is open to the public year-round. Its well-manicured lawns, water features and 42 specimens of trees provide a surprise getaway above city streets.


Kaiser Roof Garden

19th St. Oakland

Just on the other side of Sacramento Street from North Berkeley Station, the Ohlone Greenway ushers pedestrians and bicyclists to Ohlone Park on Hearst Avenue. While the 5-mile Greenway trail starts in Berkeley and ends in El Cerrito, the 5-block Ohlone Park is a dog- and family-friendly break in the concrete cityscape.


Ohlone Greenway and Park

North Berkeley

In addition to being a headline-making epicenter for activism, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza also doubles as a place for daily relaxation. Post up near the famous coast live oak tree, sit on its amphitheater steps and gaze at the architecture (Oakland City Hall is across the way) for a pause in your Downtown Oakland meandering.


Frank H. Ogawa Plaza

12th St. Oakland City Center

This central Berkeley park has a lengthy lawn space alongside tennis courts, basketball hoops and playground sets for the tots. Just laying around but still working up an appetite? The 3-acre urban plot of green also touts a barbecue area.


Grove Park

Ashby (Berkeley)