Berkeley is a quaint college town across the bay from San Francisco with a culture of its own. Here are some of our top things to do in Berkeley with kids:
Things to do in Berkeley with Kids – Tilden Park:
Golden Gate Park’s counterpart in the East Bay, just up the hill from the campus of world-famous UC Berkeley is TIlden Regional Park, a veritable oasis of nature enjoyed by students and residents of the Bay Area alike. Similar to Golden Gate, Tilden Park offers several wonderful facilities for the whole family to enjoy, and is one of the top things to do in Berkeley with kids. Lush, green patches off windy, hilly streets welcome you wherever you turn at Tilden (especially if you happen to be around the golf course) but here are some of our favorites:
The Steam Train
A scenic ride on this mini steam train is a sure thriller for all Thomas fans and otherwise with whistles and tunnels and passer-bys to wave to. Kids under 2 ride free and tickets are $3/piece or $12 for 5. The only thing that tops the steam train in my son’s view is ice-cream. So you know it’s good!
Tilden’s Herschell-Spillman merry-go-round celebrated its 100th birthday this year. An artist will appreciate the hand-crafted animals you can choose from: horses, zebras, camels, lions and of course carriages for the little ones. When you are done, grab a cotton candy or popcorn at the concession stand nearby and squat on the greens or one of the picnic tables. For information call (510) 524-6773.
Things to do in Berkeley with Kids: Fourth Street Shopping and Dining
As a town, Berkeley has an artsy, student, alternative air that can offer real treats to view, sample, and buy. One of the easiest neighborhoods to navigate in Berkeley, amidst the fairly offbeat options is the Fourth Street corridor, which contains both familiar and local names in terms of food, shopping and general sight-seeing.
If you are looking for furniture or homewares, the street is lined with many favorites such as Restoration Hardware, Z Gallerie, CB2 and a Crate and Barrel Outlet (If you don’t know it already, Crate and Barrel’s kids’ store Land of Nod is a hot favorite with Karam ie. me). All of these stores can ship to wherever in the country (and in some places, world) you live. Uniquely Bay Area stores The Gardener and Castle in the Air are also worth a look. (For the latter, I would leave the kids outside to avoid a literal bull-in-china shop scenario).
But enough about you, now it’s on to the kids. For the ones who really deserve to be rewarded, look no further than The Ark. Its location in San Francisco (24th street) is not as spacious as the two-storey one in Berkeley, offering several opportunities for touching, playing and general gawking. Like all things Northern California, the Ark shuns mainstream brands (you won’t find much of Mickey and Dora here) and opts for natural, wooden and classic toys. There is also a large range of books, sporty games, and puzzles on the second floor.
When you are done with all that wonder, backtrack to The Pasta Shop where you can sample some of Berkeley’s best gourmet brands and pick up a takeaway lasagne for the kids. If you are staying in an apartment, you can even pick up some fresh pasta to cook later on. Alternatively, grab a kids’ meal and a taco at Tacubaya next door (conveniently located next to a wine store).
Another West coast local is This Little Piggy Wears Cotton, with ridiculously cute (and expensive) apparel and specialty accessories for kids up to the age of 14. Definitely stop by before you head out. As you walk down Fourth street, you will find many more opportunities for window (or real) shopping.
A general note on Berkeley is that it has its dodgy parts. Make sure not to get too adventurous and to stay on the main streets (Fourth Street, University Avenue and areas around the University). Otherwise, Berkeley is a haven of originality and creativity.