I was so happy to sit down with Annie Burke in a tea shop in Berkeley and talk about our sons, her love of the outdoors, and how terrific it is to give children unstructured time to play and explore. Annie lives in Berkeley with her husband and two kids, Alex (9) and Benny (6).
What is your neighborhood best known for?
We live a few blocks from Vine and Shattuck in North Berkeley. It's called the Gourmet Ghetto because of the foodie pioneers here: Peet’s, Chez Panisse, Cheeseboard, etc. I love being able to have breakfast at Saul’s, buy a book at Book's Inc, get my kids' haircuts at The Shop, buy my kids new shoes at Kid Dynamo, eat sushi at Epicurious Garden, and listen to the music at Cheeseboard while sitting in the parklet. Oh and the chocolate chip cookies at The Local Butcher are heavenly. It’s good living.
Ok yum, but what is a great kid-friendly feature of North Berkeley?
Codornices is an amazing park. It’s got everything: playground, basketball hoops, baseball field, a creek, a cool slide, trails to discover, meadows to run around in! Take the tunnel over to the Rose Garden and you’ve got so much more to explore. Codornices is a great place for kids of all ages. And there’s cool history with the New Deal and how the Rose Garden was built.
Has your child taken any particularly great classes?
My son Benny has really changed and grown through classes at Kuk Sool Won martial arts on Sacramento in Berkeley. It’s been amazing to watch him learn self-control and discipline all while he thinks he’s learning to be a ninja.
What is your favorite book store for families in the East Bay?
Mrs. Dalloway’s in the Elmwood is one of my favorite places to go. We buy a lot of birthday presents for friends there. The children’s section is fun and thoughtful – a great combination. I love how there are windows into the Elmwood Café and so while browsing the books you can overhear the bustle of the café. It’s a beautiful and inspiring place.
What's your favorite place to go alone with the kids?
I love going to the beach at Point Pinole and the Nook picnic spot in Tilden with my kids. Tilden is the don’t-want-to-drive-forever option, and the In-N-Out in Pinole can be the incentive we need to go to Point Pinole. Both are great for unstructured, deep-breath-taking time outside with my kids. Sometimes the kids go kicking and screaming, but as soon as get out of the car they’re happy.
Where do you go for date night?
A margarita at Comal is pretty delicious. And sitting outside in the back patio makes me feel like we’re somewhere glamorous like Paris.
Where do you like to go to treat yourself?
I love long runs up Strawberry Canyon. The Kabuki Spa in San Francisco is pretty great. And time alone at home to organize and purge is hugely satisfying.
Do you have a favorite Bay Area daytrip?
There are so many! Do I have to pick one? Point Reyes Station never disappoints. Especially with a trip to Bovine Bakery and Point Reyes Books.
We love going to Brentwood to the U-pick farms. Get there early in the day to beat the heat and the crowds.
In the summer, when the fog of the East Bay gets old, we go to the Davis Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. You can soak up the heat and get delicious produce.
The creek at Sunol Regional Wilderness is very fun to explore for the kids. The hike to Little Yosemite at Sunol is worth it.
In the winter, we love going to Morgan Territory which is on the southeast side of Mt Diablo. After the rains the green hills are stunning!
The barn dance at Pie Ranch on the San Mateo coast is so much fun. Our kids loved it! Go early to get a tour of the farm and volunteer if you’re able. Pie Ranch is a great organization doing really world-changing kinds of things. Should I stop there? I could keep going…
- Go outside with kids, really outside!
- Pushing through to Point Pinole
- The hills and tunnels of Black Diamond Mines
- Returning again and again to Sunol
Annie is the Deputy Director at the Bay Area Open Space Council where she leads Outdoor Voice and convenes the Bay Area community of people, organizations, and agencies who create and steward the region’s parks, trails, and farms. Since 2009 she’s led kid-friendly outings into kid-friendly East Bay Regional Parks with Outside Kids. And she really likes bookstores and chocolate.
[All photos provide by Annie Burke and used with permission]