Brandi and her 4-year old daughter, Ayva moved to Oakland last September from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to be with her fiance. She blogs at Mama Knows It All and works as the community manager for Collective Bias, which has an office in Oakland.
What's special about your pocket of the East Bay?
We live in the Grand Lake neighborhood, and it's known for the lake of course! I think everyone in Oakland ends up at Lake Merritt at one point or another. It's great for walking with girlfriends; there are a couple of playgrounds around where we take my daughter; and it's just nice to drive past a lake every day!
What's different about being a parent in Oakland that you think is notable to your friends back home?
Play dates! In Oakland people seem to be more interested in getting together as families. Playdates are not only a time for the kiddos to get together and have fun.
Where do you like to take Ayva for 1:1 time?
I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this with all of the awesome Mom and Pop businesses in the East Bay, but the truth is, every Saturday, Ayva and I head to Panera and Target in Emeryville. We get up early, and she dances and twirls around Panera while we eat our bagels.
What's your favorite date night?
My fiancee, Terrence and I, really love going to Mua. It's our go-to whenever we have some alone time. They have great cocktails, and we LOVE their french fries. In the bar area, the lights are low, so it feels very romantic and kind of urban and chic. We feel like real adults when we go there!
Tell us about a cool kid birthday party you've been to.
My daughter's classmate had a party at home, but they had a puppeteer from Children's Fairyland come in to perform a show. The kids were so engaged, and it was entertaining even for the adults. It was such a sweet way to spend a Saturday morning.
What's another Saturday morning fave?
After Ayva and I hit up Panera and Target, we head home to pick up Terrence and we go out on an adventure. We seriously say, “Okay, let's go on an adventure!” Some of the places we have ended up at include the Farmer's Market by Lake Merritt, Tilden Park, Redwood Regional Park, and the beach in Alameda.
What gem in Oakland are you most likely to tell a new-in-town parent about?
Children's Fairyland. It's a lot of fun for little children, and you can go there several days a week and they won't get tired of it. We have had several playdates after morning preschool. We just stay for a couple of hours, and when we get home, Ayva's ready for a nap! Oh, and purchase a family membership. It's totally worth it.
Tell us about a family dinner out.
We have been lucky to have had really great experiences at every restaurant that we've gone to with our little one. We always eat dinner kind of early, before the crowds, but it seems that restaurants just value families here. One of our favorite family dinners out was at Boot and Shoe Service on Grand Avenue. Ayva and Terrence took me there for my birthday, and the pizza, even though it was “fancy” pizza, was well received by the entire family!
What is a great kid-friendly feature of your neighborhood?
The Lakeview branch of the Oakland Public Library has fantastic events for kids. The location is perfect, too, because there is a playground right in front, and it's walking distance to Lakeshore and Grand Avenue. Ayva and I usually walk over on Friday afternoons to get yogurt, books, and play a bit!
What's your favorite kid-centric store?
Silver Moon Kids on Lakeshore is a such a cool store! They have new kids clothing and consignment goods, and they always have sales. I love that I can get some of our favorite Tea Collection items without paying for shipping. They also have the most adorable, creative storefront ever. There is always a huge stuffed giraffe, but sometimes she's wearing a tutu, other times a cape…you have to go past just for the storefront!
What's your favorite way to spend alone time?
In the evenings, I head over to the Bay Street shops in Emeryville for a little bit of “me time”. I shop, sit at the bookstore and write, or catch a movie. Oh, and I always, ALWAYS get a coconut chocolate chip cookie from the Teacake Bake Shop.
Can you tell us about an amazing class your child has been a part of?
My daughter attends ballet at Shawl-Anderson in Berkeley. The classes are super affordable, and there are so many options to choose from even for little dancers. They are a real dance center, so even though Ayva is young, she was a bit mature for her first class, and the teachers evaluated her and let her move up to a more advanced class.
What's your favorite Bay Area day trip?
We like to go to Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley for an “in the area” day trip. We go to the Little Farm, or just roll down the hills in the park. There is a steam train there, and a carousel, and it's a great place for a picnic. We are all about inexpensive outings (especially with planning a wedding!), so we love that we can stay in the area and have a ton of diverse experiences!
Thanks for the tips, Brandi! For someone new to the area, it does sound like you know it all!