Thanks to Habitot Children's Museum, one of Berkeley's greatest places to play, for sponsoring this guide to fun for kids in Berkeley.
The staff at Habitot Children's Museum, who makes a habit of keeping a finger on the pulse of East Bay parents, kids, grandparents and caregivers, asked their museum visitors what their favorite things to do in Berkeley are. The responses inspired this list, which we are proud to share with you as part of our ongoing partnership with Habitot.
- Walk, stroll or bicycle around the 1-mile loop around Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina. There's lots of scenery and a three-bridge view – great for playing “I Spy” as you go. It's almost always windy at Cesar Chavez and you can practice your kite-flying skills year-round in prep for the annual Berkeley Kite Festival, which takes place every July.
- Explore a creek – there are at least five of them in Berkeley! The most accessible to the public are Codornices and Strawberry Creeks, the latter of which also runs through UC Berkeley campus. Easy hiking trails and bridges are along the creek in Codornices Park (plus a great slide and sandbox). Kids can get up close to the water in Strawberry Creek Park while parents hang out in the grassy field and enjoy a bite from Johnny B's cafe that faces the park. Live Oak Park surrounds its creek is a block away from the Gourmet Ghetto and the Thursday evening food truck extravaganza on Shattuck. Go for a picnic!
- Check out the wildlife indoors! Kid favorites are Your Basic Bird on College (parrots, cockatoos and finches!) and the East Bay Vivarium (turtles, snakes and frogs!) Don't bring balloons inside – it scares the animals.
- Design and invent something at Mothership Hackermoms in south Berkeley while your kids are well-tended with onsite childcare, $13 for 3 hours. Wanting to balance family, work and creativity? Hackermoms is the antitode!
- Drop-in on a class, or just play at the Rec Room Cafe in South Berkeley.
- Have a Friday night family date at the Westbrae Biergarten which now includes a changing variety of food trucks. While you relax with a brew and/or food in the enclosed outdoor seating area, your little ones will love the sand pit they recently installed. Editor's note: Best for toddlers. My 11-year old has told me he specifically does not want to go to the Biergarten.
- Spend a half-day with the animals of Tilden Park: you can feed the barnyard animals at the Little Farm and then take a short walk to Jewel Lake to see the turtles sunning on logs.
- Ride your trikes and bikes along the Ohlone Greeway – a wide, safe sidewalk that runs along or under the BART tracks, from Ohlone Park in north Berkeley station to the Albany border and beyond to the Richmond Greenway. Stop and get a pastry or coffee at Toot Sweets or a bagel at Berkeley Bagels at the Gilman intersection, midway along the route. Outdoor seating available.
- Cheer on Cal at a baseball game (spring) or soccer (home games start in August). Cal Women's Basketball is loads of fun. Check the Women's Hoops schedule for Kids Days!
- Walk or bike the Bay Trail from Emeryville, through Berkeley, to the Richmond Marina. This path offers great views along the water's edge the whole way. For more experienced bikers.
- Check out the family activities at the new and recently re-opened Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive – movie matinees, art lab for all ages, storybook workshops.
- Enjoy a Sunday afternoon dance party for kids with Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center. Their Soggy Sundays and Silly Sundays series bring kid entertainment to this historic indoor venue on San Pablo.
- Ride Berkeley's 100-year old Carousel in Tilden Park. Follow the Carousel's Facebook page to learn when it's getting gussied up for the holidays.
- Order a one-of-a-kind cinnamon roll at Cinnaholic where you choose your own toppings from a huge menu of options.
- There are “secret staircases” and hidden paths throughout the neighborhoods of the Berkeley hills. The Berkeley Path Wanderers Association has them mapped for you to explore.
- Join a Thursday morning Little Folkies song circle at Freight & Salvage. For older kids, there is a fiddle camp. Performances by the Bay Area Children's Theater and individual performers are frequently scheduled for the family audience.
- The best view of sunset is from Indian Rock off the Arlington just up from the Fountain. Steep stair steps are cut into the rock and there are lots of hidey holes to explore. Best for sure-footed school-age children and up. Watch for broken glass.
- UC Berkeley campus has more great things for kids to do than you can imagine: take a ride up the Campanile bell tower, open Mon.-Fri.: 10:00 am-3:45 pm, Sat.: 10:00 am-4:45 pm, Sun.: 10:00 am-1:30 pm and 3:00 pm-4:45 pm. and kids 3 and under are free. Bell tower tunes play at noon.
- Visit the dinosaurs at the Life Sciences Building on campus where a giant T-Rex is on display in the lobby.
- Ride the steam trains at the Redwood Valley Railroad company in Tilden Park. Buy a booklet of tickets upon arrival.
- Check out the bomba y pena workshops of dance, percussion and song for 4-8 year olds at La Pena (also offered at Habitot). That's just one of the many classes and workshops for kids, and performances for the whole family at this 40-year old Berkeley institution.
- Don't miss Berkeley's most unique playground, the Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina. A zip line, and the chance to build your own forts with real hammers and nails is the antidote to today's overly protected childhoods.
- Head down to the basement level of Ace Hardware on University Avenue. It's packed with unique treasures like miniature animals and people, vintage model kits, and delights for train lovers.
- Take advantage of the Strawberry Canyon Pool and Recreation Area and swim just for fun or sign up for lessons. This outdoor pool is open from May to November.
- Finally, Habitot Children's Museum is a play paradise for young children, 0-5. Hands-on exhibits like a rocket ship and pretend grocery store include costumes and lots of props. An indoor water table and river ramp, a drop-in Art Studio and a climbing/crawling Ant Wall mean messy fun (bring spare clothes if you like!) Classes, camps and birthday rentals offered, too!
Thank you, Habitot Children's Museum for sponsoring 510Families.com — and for being such a great place for East Bay families to have fun together.