Best Berkeley parks for socially distanced hangouts

Willard Park
Josh Kahen/Staff

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As students move in for the new semester, some for the first time, it is important to make time for safe and distanced socializing. If you spent last fall studying with friends at Moffitt Library, attending group movie nights in a Unit 1 triple or engaging in any other indoor activity, you’re in for a major adjustment this year. Hanging out or studying with others will require you to take your plans outside.

You may want to consider planning a picnic to hang out with friends as school starts back up this September. Or, at the very least, grab a blanket and some readings, and invite some friends to study outdoors with you. What you bring and whom you invite is up to you, but just be sure to keep your distance, wear a mask and wash your hands. After you’ve figured out who’s coming, you’ll need to decide on where to meet. Berkeley is full of beautiful spots for you to unpack and hang out while staying safe during this pandemic.

If you are looking for ideas for where to chill with good company, here’s a list of five spots in Berkeley that are ideal for socially distanced hangouts.

Ohlone Park

Ohlone Park is located on Hearst Avenue, between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Sacramento Street. The park contains a softball field, a soccer field, a basketball court, poles for lawn volleyball, a dog park, a community garden, four children’s play areas and plenty of open space for distanced socializing. My favorite spot at Ohlone Park is a hill with several rocks at the top, wedged between California Street and Sacramento Street.

Willard Park

This park is close to campus, at 2730 Hillegass Ave. (just up from Telegraph Avenue). The park is just one large grassy area that can get crowded fast, but the trees on the perimeter make for a cool afternoon in the shade. You won’t regret taking up a spot at Willard on a sunny September day.

Dwight Way playground at Hillside Avenue 

I saw one of the prettiest views I’ve seen in Berkeley while I was sitting on the swing at the intersection of Dwight Way and Hillside Avenue and overlooking the city of Berkeley and the Bay. Getting to the park is an uphill walk, but the hike might be worth it if you’re a fan of golden-hour views. Invite some friends to have a socially distanced hangout and watch the sun set over the Bay.

Cesar Chavez Park  

If you’re not a fan of taking in the view of the Bay from a distance, find your way to Cesar Chavez Park near the Berkeley Marina. It’s a waterfront park, stretching across a large chunk of land. You can visit this park to have a picnic, fly a kite, walk around or ride your bike through. There are many options for safe, distanced fun at this location. The views are gorgeous, especially at sunset — just be sure to bring a light jacket for the nighttime chill. 

Live Oak Park 

Located in North Berkeley at 1301 Shattuck Ave. on the corner of Berryman Street, Live Oak is full of phenomenal spots for having socially distanced hangouts. The park is full of trees, shady areas, large open fields, picnic tables and beautiful wooden bridges that cross over a creek. This is definitely the park you want to choose if you’re craving a day with nature. 

Whether you’re on the shore or in the hills, Berkeley’s parks are beautiful places where you can safely hang out with friends. Try finding your favorite places to unpack at each of these spots. Who knows, you might find a new happy place.

Contact Sera Smith at [email protected].