We want to introduce Rachel, Arizona-transplant and Oakland mama of one daughter with a baby due any minute for sharing her favorite East Bay family picks with our readers.
What's your favorite playground?
These days, Shorebird Park at the Berkeley Marina is our favorite! Even on chilly days, this playground seems to reside in a warm pocket of weather with just the right amount of breeze. My daughter loves the boat-themed play structures, the ample and relatively clean sand, as well as the open, wooden stage for her break-out performance whims. The only downside is that we inevitably forget to dump the sand out of our shoes (and empty kiddo pockets, which are most likely stuffed with shells and rocks), so we drive bits of the marina around town with us for weeks. Worth it!
What's your favorite date night?
My husband and I are movie snobs/enthusiasts and our favorite date is a movie at California Theater on Kittredge. They always seem to be showing the movie we want to see and something about the theater's enthusiasm gets the best of us. Before every movie, a staff member comes out to introduce the show! Something about this little touch really adds to our movie-going experience. Plus, we always know that we're sharing the movie-viewing experience with other enthusiasts since this theater seems to attract that kind of crowd. It doesn't hurt that it's near one of our favorite restaurants, Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen. Yep, that's the perfect date night for us!
What's your favorite discovery you want to tell every new mom or new parent about?
Can I talk about movies again? Movie-loving, new parents can rejoice – your movie consumption does not have to come to a screeching halt. It can merely crawl to a slower pace. Word on the street is that you can (or should I say, are welcome to) bring your infant to a movie at Rialto Cinemas in El Cerrito on special nights! We did not have this luxury when our daughter was born and we lived in another state. Rumor has it that the food is somewhat decent too. I have yet to confirm these rumors; we have at least another month to go before we have an infant to tote around again!
Where's your favorite spot for a kid birthday party?
Oddly enough, we've attended dozens of birthday parties in the three years we've lived here, yet none of them have taken place at a special venue… unless you count a playground! We recently had a lovely time at one that took place at Kensington Park – it's lush, shady and the views are spectacular! Happy kiddos and parents! (But I'm honestly partial to in-home birthday parties.)
What is a great kid-friendly feature of your neighborhood?
Besides Stanford and Doyle-Hollis parks, Golden Gate Library is lovely. The children's librarian is enthusiastic about her job and the MOCHA teachers who visit every week also clearly love their job and are great about remembering faces and names. Makes for such a great neighborhood experience.
What's the most amazing class your child has taken?
It's in progress, actually! I've been scouting around for a great music class for my daughter and discovered Viola's Notes. It's music and movement and this session is centered around Africa and the Middle East. Viola truly understands childhood development and effective strategies for imparting passion and enthusiasm for music and culture on the kids who attend. The class is very interactive and she always seems to have a new surprise (prop) to pull out of her bag at each class.
What's your favorite way to spend a Saturday morning?
We love traipsing over to Doyle Street Cafe, a neighborhood gem with a laid-back atmosphere, excellent wait staff and delicious breakfast. We typically couple this with a stop at Stanford Park, another secret gem that many unsuspecting locals do not realize is there: an auto body shop blocks it from view. It happens to have the perfect shade:sun ratio and is ideal for our daughter to take a spin on her balance bike. Perfect start to any weekend!
What's your favorite family dinner out?
Zachary's. We're not so much a family of foodies, so everyone walks in and out of this experience happy! (We love the one on Solano and this is typically coupled with a visit to Pegasus Books.)
Cactus or Picante?
You must mean Cancun or La Mission, right? (Confession: this AZ native family hasn't made it to all the taquerias around Berkeley. It's a touchy subject for us – we are too easily disappointed by certain versions of bay area Mexican food.)
How Berkeley can you be?
No matter what your definition, there are no limits to levels of Berkeley you can be! My favorite commentary on Berkeley culture is the alleged bumper sticker (which I've read about, but have never seen) that states:
The fact that I recently asked a woman to stop feeding crackers to the aggressive squirrels at the marina is in direct correlation to the amount of time we've now lived here. It's been three years, for anyone wondering. I'm a little nervous to imagine what another three years will do to me.
What's your favorite toy store?
I like places that kind of keep it simple. The bigger toy stores make me dizzy because I want to buy all of the toys. (I mean… for my daughter…) I am fond of Hannah's Children's Resale. I won't get too lost playing with all the toys there. I mean… my daughter won't. They offer a nice selection of educational and off-beat toys.
How do you like to treat yourself when you get some time alone?
Shopping alone or getting a pedicure. Solemates on Shattuck made for the best pedicure experience I've had out here.
In addition to sharing her fine picks, we also want to thank Rachel for helping us manage our website. See all of Rachel's posts here!