Many counties and agencies own open, undeveloped land that they designate as parks. These open areas are fabulous places to go hiking, fishing and exploring with your kids.
Use Great-Kids-Parks to discover the treasures that may be waiting for you and your children right in your very own backyard!
County parks are lands owned by the county and designated as parks. The land area typically is much smaller than a state or national park. But don't write them off just because they are smaller. Smaller means they are better for shorter stays and generally less expensive entrance fees.
Some county parks may be quite rustic with only outhouses and some marked trails, while others are developed with working bathrooms, play structures and ball fields. In some cases county parks are scaled down versions of state parks and in others they are very similar to city parks. For example, the San Mateo County Parks Department operates 17 separate parks in a variety of settings including a coastal marine reserve, a bayside recreational area, coastal mountain woodland areas, and urban sites.
At some parks you may have to pay a small entrance or usage fee. If you plan to go fishing, make sure you have the necessary licenses or permits. The parking fees are very affordable and typically are charged on a per car basis. Don't let minor fees deter you and your kids from exploring the world around you!
A regional park is an area of land preserved on account of its natural beauty, historic interest, recreational use or other reason. Regional parks are administered by a regional park board who is either elected by the voters of the district or appointed by governing officials rather by than the National Park Service, state, county, or city government.
A regional park is also sometimes referred to as a Metropolitan Park (Metropark). The terms "region" and "metropolitan" are interchangeable and have no precise meaning in US local government. Examples of Metropark districts include Metroparks Tacoma and Five Rivers Metroparks of Dayton, Ohio.
The San Francisco Bay Area is extremely fortunate to be home to the largest urban park district in the United States. The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) spans more than 98,000 acres with 65 parks and over 1,100 miles of trails within Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Our family is very lucky to live next door to one of EBRPD's larger parks, Lake Chabot. We love it and use it at least once a week! We walk the dog along the lake, hike the back trails, spy deer on the lawns, search for turtles in the pond, and try to pet the geese (that's all my son). More than once we have stopped and watched a fisherman struggle to pull up dinner and even asked what fish they had caught.
My son's first tent camping experience was at the Lake Chabot campgrounds. Bright and early at 6 am he woke up and asked his dad, "Are we done yet?" We still get a good laugh out of that one.
I fondly remember a couple of summers ago in the late afternoons there was a violinist who practiced in one of the shady groves. What better way to end a warm summer's day than walking along through shades of trees listening to the glorious sounds of classical music.
Our family has visited nearly all of the East Bay Regional Parks. We love them all for different reasons. Ardenwood has its horse drawn train, Garin has its apples, and Sunol has its Little Yosemite waterfall. We love to swim at Cull Canyon, feed the farm animals and ride the carousel at Tilden, windsurf at Del Valle, watch trainers work on water skills with their dogs at Shadow Cliffs and dig at the beach at Crab Cove.
My point is to get out there and visit your regional parks. They all offer something engaging and creative for a child to do, even if it is simply exploring what might be around the next bend. Many offer summer programs for kids too. Check them out today!
Simple question: how do you know what all county, and regional or metroparks have to offer? You could visit them with your kids and see for yourself. You could ask around. Or you can use Great-Kids-Parks to find pictures and descriptions to help you make an informed decision about where to take your kids.
In today's world cost and time are the biggest limiting factors. Don't waste your time looking for entertainment for your kids and don't squander money on toys that will only hold their attention for a short while. Get them outside! Great-Kids-Parks can help you find regional and county parks that hold their attention for hours and don't cost you an arm and a leg. Besides, the memories you make with your kids will be both timeless and priceless.