The blog for inspired travel with children

Monday, June 4, 2012

Berkeley, California

Berkeley is a paradise for kids – there are beautiful parks all over the place, plenty of nice things to eat, even for the picky, and magical spots galore.  I’ve included some of our favorites below.  The weather is mild but variable – microclimates abound.  Wear layers!

The Berkeley Marina The Marina is one of my favorite spots – being right next to the water is invigorating, and you can see so much of the Bay Area from here.  You can hike around the old city dump (don’t worry, it’s now a park), or venture out on the pier, which stretches for more than half a mile into the bay (bring a jacket, it’s cold out there!). The small beach is lovely for kids.  A real gem is the Adventure Playground – it’s constructed primarily by children, and is a constant work-in-progress. Here kids can climb, build, paint, engage in imaginative play, and ride the zipline to their heart’s content.  Children aged 7 and older may be left for up to three hours for a small fee ($10 at this time) – leave them here to play and head over to Fourth Street for a bit of shopping or lunch.  Or, simply take a hike and enjoy some peace and quiet!

Lawrence Hall of Science The Lawrence Hall of Science is perched high in the Berkeley hills, with spectacular views from its outdoor areas.  Indoors, there is plenty for kids to do, including daily planetarium shows. The rear terrace has an interactive water feature and plenty of pleasant spots for parents to sit.  LHS is served by the 67 bus line, and just down the hill to the south is the Botanical Garden and Strawberry Canyon Pool.  1 Centennial Drive

Habitot Children’s Museum This small but terrific children’s play museum occupies the basement of the old Hink’s department store downtown.  There is water play, a play store, a wonderful art center (including a painting wall), and more. Habitot is most appropriate for toddlers.  2065 Kittredge Street

East Bay Vivarium This amazing pet shop sells reptiles and amphibians and is packed to the rafters with every sort of creature you can imagine (well, those which can legally be sold as a pet).  The merchandise is fascinating, the staff is knowledgeable, and kids are welcome to wander the aisles to their hearts’ content.  1827 5th Street Ste. C

Sather Tower, more commonly known as the Campanile, sits in the middle of the UC Berkeley campus (it's that big tower in the image at top) and is the third tallest bell and clock tower in the world.  For a small fee, you can ride and climb to the top and enjoy fantastic views of the whole bay area.

Tilden Regional Park Tilden Park is huge, and has numerous terrific hiking trails and a lot more great views.  There is a carousel (an ice cream shop and a playground share the location). The Little Farm is home to pigs, goats, and other farmyard animals (as well as the Environmental Education Center).  Farther south is a miniature steam engine, which travels through the forest and is a delight (The Lawrence Hall of Science is close to this end of the park).

Codornices Park and Rose Garden Codornices is just a beautiful park and a great spot for a picnic.  The park is bowl shaped and surrounded by forested hillsides. The standout feature is the concrete slide (it dates to the 70s) which winds down a hill, past a glorious and patient old oak tree -  a constant stream of children (and some adults) trudge up the old staircase built into the hill, clutching scraps of cardboard to make the ride faster.  Some days it’s slow, some days it’s ridiculously fast – it’s always fun!  The Rose Garden is across the street, but you can get there via tunnel, which is of course more fun. Euclid Avenue between Eunice Street and Bayview Place

Live Oak Park Another lovely park with a well-shaded creek carving its way through it (there is also a playground).  I mostly mention this park because it is right down the street from the Thursday afternoon Farmer’s Market on Shattuck Avenue – grab some delicious food and head to the park for an easy picnic.  Shattuck Avenue between Eunice and Berryman Streets

Indian Rock Park  This is a neat little spot for older kids (i would say 5 or 6 and up) – years ago, somebody carved meandering steps into this giant rock outcropping.  The views are lovely, and it’s fun to just clamber around.  Corner of Indian Rock Avenue and San Mateo Road


This excellent but super casual Mexican restaurant is large, fun, and good for large groups.  1328 6th Street

Acme Bread What kid doesn't like bread?  And this is some of the best you'll ever eat.  They also have amazing croissants and other baked snacks. Southeast corner of San Pablo Avenue and Cedar Street

The Cheeseboard Collective By which I also mean their not-quite-adjacent pizza restaurant.  No plain cheese pizza here – the Cheese Board only offers one variety of pizza per day, and there are usually vegetables involved.  But the pizza is consistently delicious.  The Cheeseboard itself sells terrific baked goods and (of course) cheeses.  1504 Shattuck Avenue

Saul’s This large deli and restaurant is big, loud, and definitely child-friendly.  1475 Shattuck Avenue

Betty’s Oceanview Diner is great, but if the kids are really hungry, skip the wait and go next door to Betty’s-To-Go.  Pick up a delicious lunch in just a few minutes (I love their pizza) and sit on a bench outdoors.  1807 4th Street

Vik’s Chaat If your child likes Indian food, get thee to Vik’s Chaat – this big and colorful establishment is the perfect speed for dining with kids.  There is also a small Indian grocery on the premises.  2390 4th Street

Tokyo Fish This is not an eating establishment, but there is a great selection of Japanese snacks near the register, and it’s fun to browse the groceries.  1220 San Pablo Avenue


Mr. Mopps Children’s Books and Toys This place has been around forever!  Well, since 1962 anyway.  The store is large and packed, and has a train table for the kids in the book room.  1405 MLK Jr. Way

The Ark A beautiful toy and book shop featuring a well-edited selection of high-quality toys. Small play areas upstairs and down. 1812 4th Street

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