Parents’ Guide to Oakland’s Jack London Square

I’m happy to introduce our newest contributor, Mandy, an Oakland mom to a busy toddler daughter that calls Jack London Square home. She was happy to share her favorite neighborhood spots and promises, “JLS is kid-friendly, and families live here too!” — thanks Mandy!

The old Warehouse District is definitely an up and coming family-friendly area especially if you make transportation part of the fun. You can get here by BART; the Lake Merritt station is a few blocks away. We also love the FREE B shuttle which drives up and down Broadway and to Grand Ave (Did you hear that? Music to a SAHM’s ears, “f-r-e-e.”) The San Francisco Bay Ferry is a theme park type ride in itself for kids and adults. Heading to the city or Alameda? Take our ferry, The JLS ferry goes directly under the Bay Bridge for a special treat.

Do you have a train enthusiast? Visit the Amtrak station, venture up the elevator, stand above the tracks on the walking bridge and watch in amazement the trains go under your feet. Cover those little potato chip ears, its LOUD.

Cyclists, if you don’t own a bike, you can rent one right here in Jack London Square at Bay Area Bikes. Thinking about buying a bike? The hip and colorful Public Bikes just set up shop here for sales and service.

Small neighborhood, big views

JLS is so much more than just the Eat Real Festival. It’s a place full of little jewels for you and you family. Walk along the water on the cool walking/bike trail suitable for trikes and strollers. Families can spot rowers, paddlers and sailboat trainees from the Jack London Aquatic Center moving through the estuary. On a clear day you can even see the city, what a breathtaking view! Of course, you can also watch the ferry, trains, and buses too.

There are plenty of grassy places to stop. Bring a ball, lay a blanket out or blow bubbles (our favorite!). There are also 3 very cool decorative water fountains for the children to explore. There is a replica of Jack London’s cabin and a bronze wolf my 1 year old loves to ride in the square.

For Caffeine connoisseurs, foodies & sleep-deprived parents
JLS has moved beyond its Warehouse District roots and has evolved into a coffee-roasting mecca. Take your kiddies to the sweet Peerless Coffee shop to look at adorable holiday decorations and grab beans for home. Blue Bottle has some outdoor seating and your children can watch the neighborhood pets commune. The office building across the street has a small Koi pond with LARGE fish that are sure to entertain. Another coffee and snack option is World Ground. Grab a cheesy Panini or an everything bagel and sit at the large picnic style tables while reading books to your tot.

Our favorite family-friendly dining option is Chop Bar. Not only was it featured in 7×7 for a to-die-for burger, it has outdoor seating for messy rambunctious kiddos. It lacks a kid’s menu but parents will happily finish off the creamy Mac and Cheese from the sides menu. Our little one often bellies up to the outdoor counter in a highchair and enjoys watching the world pass by.

You want your kids to walk into a real Willy Wonka Factory? Take them to Miette for an award winning gingerbread cup cake or handcrafted crème fresh ice cream sandwich. YES they offer workshops for kids and adults! Or just go to the old faithful, Ben and Jerry’s across from Yoshi’s Jazz Club.

6 more reasons to love Jack London Square for families

  1. Our wonderful Farmers Market is open every Sunday YEAR ROUND! There is frequently a jump house, hula hoops or face painting to make it more fun for kiddies. You can order a fresh 4 cheese pizza or scrumptious tacos from Cholita Linda, yum! Free Yoga is offered at 930am.
  2. We now have a shiny new modern playground for big kids with many tables and chairs to sit and supervise.
  3. Sound Waves is a free concert series on Thursday evenings from 5-7pm. My daughter, my husband and I recently rocked out to the Shotgun Wedding Quartet and enjoyed a little picnic on the grass, under the palm trees with the Oakland Port cranes as our back drop.
  4. Frequnt free outdoor movie nights and too many other excellent events to list, so check the event calendar for Jack London Square.
  5. Cheap movies. We also have the Regal Jack London movie theater that offers $5 movies Tuesday and Sundays.
  6. Need to make quick food or toy purchase? We have regular stores here too like Cost Plus, Bed Bath and Beyond, and BevMo.

So loft living with kids in Jack London Square ain’t so bad I must say.

Because of the ferry to San Francisco and Alameda, many major buslines drop off right at Jack London. So, if you’re not ready to trade in your neighborhood for a loft, you can visit very easily.