I don't know why we don't go there more often, but there is this amazing place on the Berkeley Marina for kids 7 and older called the Berkeley Adventure Playground.
I went there on July 4 with Ariel, and it was just stunning. You have to sign a piece of paper when you come in saying you will never in any way sue Berkeley for what happens in this place, and it's obvious why. Children can check out a can of paint and a paintbrush, or a hammer and some nails, and go to the structures (all built with wood) and paint to their heart's delight. You can slide down a 20-foot-long rope on a wheel and smash into a pile of sand. Here's the video of Ariel doing it if you don't believe me:
You can get into a barrell and roll down a hill. Here's the video:
You can play in a huge pile of dirt. You can put an old plastic boat at the top of an incline and "surf" it down the hill.
There is old netting. There are bits of old piano lying around ready to be painted. The place is an insane heaven of chaos and play. It is like the alter-ego of the nice, brightly colored plastic playgrounds where a slide is just a slide and steps are just steps and you can not in any way hurt yourself if you tried. I don't know if you've noticed, but newer playgrounds don't have merry-go-rounds or see-saws, staples of my childhood play. Why? Because you could hurt yourself.
So some parents are willing to sign the paper, take a little risk, and let their kids have a little fun. And believe it or not, you can even drop your kids off to play there, and the volunteers will watch over them. Wow.
Here's a full slide show of the pictures I took there. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you definitely have to come over and see it for yourself.