Here's a list of some of the places in the Bay Area where we like to take our kids. Check the discussion groups to meet up with us sometime!
A's Games (Oakland, of course!) — Day games with (or without) the kids and night games without (or with) the kids. It's always fun, even when the A's lose. 7000 Coliseum Way.
Amtrak — Typically, we'll take the train from either Jack London or Emeryville to Martinez. The views of the bay and the industrial activity along it are great, and the 40 minute ride is perfect for the kids. There's a nice park by the train station and/or sometimes we walk into town for lunch before returning on an early afternoon train. (Map of the train station and park.)
Aquatic Park (Berkeley) — There is a big wooden play structure, swings, lots of grass for playing on, a path for the big kids to ride bikes on, a frisbee golf course, grills, and open air restrooms.
Go to Bolivar Dr & Bancroft Way and then go south on the road that parallels the water until the road dead-ends at the playground.
Arlington Park (El Cerrito) — Great park for big and little kids. There's a giant slide, a smaller playground for toddlers, a lake with little minnows, a big grass area, grills, and restrooms. 1120 Arlington Blvd.
BART from Rockridge to SFO — We meet a little after 10 am on the platform at the Rockridge BART station, and take the Millbrae train all the way to SFO. Check the BART Schedule for train times.
We eat lunch in the international terminal (there are several good places before the security check), explore the rotating art exhibits and/or the aviation museum, then take BART back home.
Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito) — The Bay Area Discovery Museum is a huge place with all kinds of hands-on activities for kids of all ages and some outdoor climbing and playing areas as well. Even older kids love finding treasure around the shipwreck. There's also a pretty good cafe. Note that this place is not the best rainy day destination. You have to walk outside to go from one building to another and some of the fun stuff is outdoors. AAA members can get $1 off each admission. 557 McReynolds Rd.
Berkeley Marina (Berkeley) — Dads with little kids can hang at the small playground at Shorebird Park. Dads with bigger kids may want to go to Adventure Playground (where the kids can get wood, hammers, nails, saws, and other real tools to build climbing structures and forts). There are also some rocks to climb on, shoreline to explore, and a long pier to walk down. There are grills and restrooms near the Shorebird Park Nature Center.
Shorebird Park is at 160 University Ave. The Berkeley Marina facility map (note that up is west) shows different spots of interest. Park in the lot by the Cal Sailing Club and walk west along the shoreline to Shorebird Park.
California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco) — It's expensive and the new building has fewer exhibits than the old building. The new planetarium is state of the art, but it's only for older kids. Try the Early Explorers Cove for toddlers. 55 Music Concourse Dr.
There is a discount if you take public transportation. If you don't mind a short walk, there is always free parking next to Stow Lake at N 37 46.188 W 122 28.284. Follow the path to the east, down the stairs, around the Japanese Tea Garden, and head towards the Academy.
Castro Park (El Cerrito) — Two play structures, a climbing structure, lots of grass, and restrooms. Donal Ave & Norvell St.
Castro Valley Community Park (Castro Valley) — We meet at the big playground near the Castro Valley Community Center. Note that the water for the splash pad is turned on most of the year, so bring a change of clothes if your little one is the type to jump in the water. The park also has several sports fields, grills, and restrooms. Park in the lot next to the Chanticleers Theatre at 3683 Quail Ave.
Central Park (San Ramon) — There's a couple of big play structures and a great water play area, so be sure to bring your kid's swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen. There's also a big grass field, paved paths for bike or scooter riding, and a small skate park! Alcosta Blvd & Overlook Dr.
Cerrito Vista Park (El Cerrito) — A frighteningly tall play structure, a much smaller play structure off to the side, a big field, and restrooms. The grills and picnic tables are up the stairs behind the playground. 950 Pomona Ave.
China Camp State Park (San Rafael) — We like to camp Memorial Day weekend at China Camp State Park. It's less than an hour from the East Bay, but a great escape!
Civic Park (Walnut Creek) — This park has a nice playground, grills, restrooms, and a big grassy area on the other side of the bridge. 1375 Civic Dr.
Codornices Park (Berkeley) — Codornices Park is in the North Berkeley hills. There's a nice playground, some nice grass, pretty trees, grills, restrooms, a dank echoey tunnel, and an epic concrete slide for the braver kids (and dads). We meet at the playground, which is in a valley at the northern end of the park, where the path from the sidewalk goes down to the playground. 1201 Euclid Ave.
Crown Beach (Alameda) — Crown Memorial State Beach has a big grass area, lots of picnic tables and grills, restrooms, a decent beach (though sometimes closed due to strange bacteria in the water), a paved trail that parallels the shore, and the Crab Cove Visitor Center, which has some interesting little displays about the local flora and fauna.
Either park in the lot next to the visitor center at 1252 McKay Ave, which has a seasonal parking fee, or park on the street and save a few bucks.
Cull Canyon (Castro Valley) — This regional park has an eerily clean lake, incredibly clean sand, and a fun diving platform. Take 580 to Castro Valley. Take Center Street exit, go left on Center, right on Heyer to Cull Canyon Road, and left on Cull Canyon Road to the park entrance on the left. Park in the lot and take the footbridge to the entrance, it's a little bit of a walk. Note they don't open until 11am, or at least this used to be the case. Map (but not a very good one)
Dimond Park (Oakland) — We like the more northern (and bigger) playground next to the Dimond Recreation Center. There are some nice play structures, swings, and grass to play on, as well as a creek and a few trails to explore. The grills are a long walk away, next to the southern playground. There are restrooms in the recreation center and between the two playgrounds. 3860 Hanly Rd.
East Bay Vivarium (Berkeley) — We meet at James Kenney Park at 1720 8th St. Then we walk over to the East Bay Vivarium at 1827 5th St and look at the snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, tarantulas, and more. It's like a mini zoo right next to the most upscale shopping area in Berkeley.
Fernandez Park (Pinole) — This park has two play areas, a horseshoe pit, picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. Use the public parking lot next to the Pinole Youth Center at 635 Tennent Ave.
Fire Station Tour — Borrowing an idea from Broke Guy Day Care in the San Francisco Chronicle, we will arrange a tour of a local fire station. Fun and interesting for both dads and kids!
Habitot (Berkeley) — Habisnot (okay, it's really called Habitot) is an indoor kids play area, with a make-believe market, water play area, art stuff (wear clothes that can get paint on them!), and a special area for little crawlers and toddlers. AAA members get in free with a paid child. The official entrance is at 2065 Kittredge St, but the more well known entrance is just inside the lobby of the Shattuck Cinemas at 2230 Shattuck Ave.
Hap Magee Ranch Park (Danville) — Perfect for a hot day with a water spraying area, several different play areas, a picnic area with grills, restrooms, and 1.5 acres just for dogs. So this is how the rich folk live. 1025 La Gonda Way.
Hardy Park (Oakland) — Also known as Hardy Dog Park or FROG park. It's the playground that's behind the dog run and basketball court that are under the 24 Freeway at Claremont Ave. This small park has a restroom too. Hardy Park is (not surprisingly) at the end of Hardy St. You can also stroll for three blocks along the greenbelt and creek to Redondo Park at Redondo Ave & Clarke St.
Heather Farm Park (Walnut Creek) — This huge complex has swimming at the Clarke Swim Center, ten tennis courts, picnic areas, a community center, an equestrian center, bike paths, tot lots, a sand volleyball court, a fishing pond, a nature pond, six athletic fields, restrooms, and a connection to the Iron Horse Trail. Wow. The playground is across from the swim center, grills are towards the pond, and restrooms are at the swim center. 1750 Heather Dr.
Jack London Square (Oakland) — We typically meet on the grass by the Ferry Landing at 10 Clay St. After running around on the grass and watching the ferry, we head southeast along the waterfront looking at more boats and other random stuff until the kids get tired and/or hungry and then head somewhere for lunch.
Joaquin Miller Park (Oakland) — Meet at the tot lot, then we hike due north to the grills at the Fire Circle, which is uphill in the trees. The restrooms are further uphill to the northeast. We can go on a hike to Lookout Point or to the fountain and the cascade. 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd.
Kennedy Grove (El Sobrante) — Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area is at the base of San Pablo Dam. It has eucalyptus trees, grills, restrooms, a big meadow, a playground, and a seasonal parking fee. 6531 San Pablo Dam Rd.
Lafayette Community Park (Lafayette) — A tot playground, an adjoining lawn, two sports fields, grills, and restrooms. 480 St Marys Rd.
Lafayette Reservoir (Lafayette) — The Lafayette Reservoir Recreation Area has grills, primitive restrooms, a nice playground to the east of the parking lot, and a 2.7 mile paved trail around the reservoir, if you need the exercise. Pay the daily parking fee or bring lots of quarters to feed the meters every two hours. 3849 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lake Merritt (Oakland) — We meet at the playground at Lakeside Park. It's next to the Rotary Nature Center (which has restrooms) and the bird islands. Bellevue Ave & Perkins St.
Lake Temescal (Oakland) — We go to the beach at Lake Temescal in Oakland. Bring towels, swimsuits, sunscreen, etc. There are playgrounds, grills, and restrooms at both the north entrance at 6500 Broadway and the south entrance at 6502 Broadway Terrace. Seasonal parking fees and beach fees apply. You could also continue past the north parking lot, park on Broadway near the next driveway (which has a gate to keep cars out), and walk down the paved trail to the beach.
Larkey Park (Walnut Creek) — Nice playgrounds and grills in the middle of the park, which means a bit of a haul from the parking lot. The Lindsay Wildlife Museum and the Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society are here and sound interesting, but of course they aren't open on Mondays. Public restrooms are in the back of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. 2771 Buena Vista Ave.
Lawrence Hall of Science (Berkeley) — The Lawrence Hall of Science is a great indoor kids science center. Everything is hands-on and lots of fun to play with. There's a play area for toddlers and tons of stuff for bigger kids (which the toddlers can enjoy too). There's also an outdoor science area and a cafe with a view. Bring cash for the parking machines. 1 Centennial Dr.
Little Farm (Berkeley) — There's a mini-farm at the aptly named Little Farm in Tilden Nature Area, as well as an Environmental Education Center (with restrooms) and a bunch of hiking options (everything from paved trails to epic hikes). There is a small playground and a bunch of grills around the parking lot.
Little Farm is at N 37 54.541 W 122 15.898. Go to Canon Dr & Wildcat Canyon Rd, then head into the park down Canon Dr, following the signs to Little Farm (you'll turn left at the end of Canon Dr, then follow that road to the parking lot at the end).
Live Oak Park (Berkeley) — Live Oak Park has a play area in front of the recreation center, restrooms in the rec center, grills under the trees, a bunch of paths to run around on, and a creek for kids to fall into. 1301 Shattuck Ave.
Memorial Park (Albany) — A great park with a good-sized toddler playground, a really nice, big playground for bigger kids, grass, picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. And all of it is conveniently close together. Portland Ave & Carmel Ave.
Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline (Richmond) — A nice (sometimes windy) park on the bay with play structures, grills, restrooms, and the Golden State Model Railroad Museum (not open on Mondays). The play area is south of the railroad museum, which is at 900 Dornan Dr.
Montclair Park (Oakland) — Montclair Park has a tot lot as well as a bigger playground for bigger kids, plus a small lake, grills, grass to run on, fake horses to sit on, geese to get bitten by, and a skateboarding half pipe to crash in. The restrooms in the recreation center near the playgrounds are much cleaner than the restrooms near the half pipe. 6300 Moraga Ave.
Moraga Commons (Moraga) — Moraga Commons is a large park with a few play structures, nice picnic tables and grills in the shade, lots of grass, restrooms, and a couple of water jets that the kids can run through, so bring a swimsuit and towel for your kid (and since the water sprays over cement, it's best if you can bring shoes that your kid can get wet in). 1425 St Marys Rd.
Oakland Zoo (Oakland) — We like to meet by the gibbons, siamangs, and chimps ('cause they're so cool), then check out all the animals for a while, eat lunch at the mediocre Safari Cafe, then ride a few rides. 9777 Golf Links Rd.
Ocean View Park (Albany) — A small park with a playground, grills, restrooms, and a shady redwood grove. 900 Buchanan St.
Orinda Community Center Park (Orinda) — Also known as "Hot Moms Park". It's a nice park with several large play structures, a big grass area for running around, grills, restrooms, and also a paved trail that circles the grass for kids on bikes. (FYI, it was dubbed "Hot Moms Park" by a wife of one of the East Bay Dads, so please don't blame us dads for the moniker.) The park is just past the Orinda Community Center at 26 Orinda Way.
Osage Station Park (Danville) — This park has a great water play area, a big playground structure next to it, and fields for playing ball. Bring swim diapers, swimsuits, towels, and sand toys. 816 Brookside Dr.
Piedmont Park (Piedmont) — Piedmont Park has swings, a nice play structure, a restroom, grass to play on, and some paved trails to explore. Highland Ave & Magnolia Ave.
Playgroup, Pizza, & Poker — On rainy days, we often met up at someone's house for a typical dads playgroup (that is, we ignored the kids and drank beer and played poker). Now we have an occasional poker night and ditch the kids altogether! We may be sensitive new age guys, but we're still guys.
Pleasant Hill Park (surprisingly, in Pleasant Hill) — A large well shaded park with swings, climbing structures, and play areas for kids of all ages. Construction projects going on in this park are not expected to be completed until 2013. 147 Gregory Ln.
PriPri Cafe (Albany) — It was a cafe with a kids play area. It is no longer in business.
Rancho Laguna Park (Moraga) — This park is way off in the boonies. We like to go here on holidays so we don't have to reserve grills or any other such nonsense that would require us to actually plan ahead. It has two play areas, a sand volleyball court, a large lawn, restrooms, and grills, of course. (The Town of Moraga removed the play structures and has not replaced them yet.) 2101 Camino Pablo.
Roberts Park (Oakland) — We meet at the new playground at Roberts Regional Recreation Area and then fire up the grills. It's a nice park that also has a grove of redwoods, a large grassy area, and restrooms. Pay the parking fee at the kiosk, then look for the playground on the left, up the hill just above the pool. 10570 Skyline Blvd.
SadieDey's Cafe (Oakland) — SadieDey's Cafe (formerly known as tumble & tea) was an organic cafe plus indoor kids playspace. It is no longer in business.
San Francisco Zoo (strangely, in San Francisco) — Kinda like the Oakland Zoo. Only bigger. And in San Francisco. Parking is free along Sloat Blvd, if you don't mind walking a bit. Sloat Blvd & Great Hwy.
San Pablo Park (Berkeley) — The City of Berkeley’s oldest park has a fenced tot play area, a school age play area, grills, and the usual Berkeley park restrooms that look like they belong in prison. Russell St & Park St.
Sequoia Bayview Trail, Joaquin Miller Park (Oakland) — This is a very easy trail for the medium sized kids to walk on, or for jog strollers, backpacks, etc. for the littler ones. It winds along a level grade in the shade of Sequoias, then offers a great view of the bay. Thus the name...
To get there, take 13 to Joaquin Miller Road, and go East to the top of the hill. At the light, turn left on to Skyline Blvd. Follow Skyline a short way, around a hairpin right turn, and look for the trail head on the left. Park on the side of the road. The route we take is a simple out-and-back on Sequoia Bayview Trail, so late-comers should have no trouble finding the group. The more ambitious hikers can also choose to make a loop of it.
Trail Map (Sequoia Bayview trail is on the bottom right)
Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve (Oakland) — We meet in the Sibley parking lot, and from there we hike (i.e. try to get the kids to keep walking) as far as we can. There are great wildflowers here in the spring.
Here's a trail map.
Sibley is on Skyline Road, just south of the intersection with Grizzly peak, between Redwood and Tilden parks. Map
Strawberry Canyon Pool (Berkeley) — Nice big pool with big steps for the shorter kids to play on, and a separate 8 inch deep kiddie pool for the really little ones. Also nice grass to sit and eat on.
Pool hours vary by time of year, so be sure to check before you go.
The pool is on Centennial Road, just above the Cal football stadium, and the entrance is at the east (far) corner of the parking lot. Map
Studio Grow (Berkeley, Concord, & Blackhawk) — Studio Grow is a play space with various activities for preschoolers. The Berkeley location has story time, music time, and parachute time every weekday. 1235 10th St, 1231 Diamond Way, & 3612 Blackhawk Plaza Cir.
Tassajara Park (El Cerrito) — A nice little park with fantasy themed play structures, grills, and restrooms. 2575 Tassajara Ave.
Terrace Park (Albany) — Jewel's Terrace Park is a small, hidden park with two play areas, a lawn area, grills, and restrooms. 1548 Terrace St.
Totland (Berkeley) — This playground has great climbing structures for littler kids, a few swings, a restroom, and a bunch of discarded toys for communal use. (There used to be an awesome amount of toys until the city started throwing them away.) Virginia St & McGee Ave.
Union Point Park (Oakland) — Union Point Park has a cool boat-themed play structure, lots of grass, paths for bikes or scooters, grills, and restrooms. 2311 Embarcadero.
Washington Park (Alameda) — A big park with a playground, grills, and restrooms, just a short walk from Crown Beach (where we could go if it ends up being hot). The closest parking lot at 8 St & Portola Ave actually says Lower Washington Park.
Willard Park (Berkeley) — It's a nice park with a great fenced-in playground for toddlers (though it's kinda small for any kid over 4), an open air restroom, and also a big grass area. Hillegass Ave & Derby St.