Our new contributor today is Hadley Koo, a Kensington mom of one 4-year old girl. We are thrilled to add her to our posse!
Colusa Circle in Kensington has expanded quite a bit over the last year and has actually become a small-scale hot spot for great food, activities, and a variety of services. Here are some tips on where to go and what to do.
The original Semifreddi's has it all for the breakfast and afternoon-snack crowd – different kinds of baguette, loaves, rolls, pastries and cookies. It's tiny and can get crowded but there is some outdoor seating as well as a few benches only a few steps away. Isn't there something really cool about getting something at the place where it all started?! (The other Semifreddi bake shop is on Claremont above College Avenue, and you see the product in Berkeley Bowl, Andronico's, Trader Joe's, and Safeway.)
Fresh & Local
Coming to Colusa Circle a Sunday morning is a must as Kensington's Farmers Market takes over from 10am-2pm, rain or shine. Stock up for the week on fruits, produce, jam, granola, seafood and more! I absolutely love the strawberries that several vendors carry (incl. Frog Hollow Farms) and also can't get enough of Gold Rush Kettle Corn. Kids are easily entertained by live music (lots of toddler dancing going on there) while you can enjoy some mean BBQ or burritos.
The market is a non-profit, community-based organization that believes sustainable community is just as important as sustainable agriculture. It's also a California Certified Farmers' Market, which means that their vendors are certifies by the state to ensure that they grow or make what they sell.
Food That Really Fills You Up
The Kensington Circus Pub has been around for a long time and it's definitely worth a visit with your kid(s) if you haven't tried it yet. It's a very, VERY kid-friendly pub (toys galore in a fairly big, carpeted corner, plus a chalk board), which means that some patrons without kids are not so fond of it. I believe they do come back, regardless, for the bangers ‘n mash and nice variety of beer. So far I've tried most of the menu and am a fan of the fish ‘n chips, onion rings and the sticky pudding. Rumor has it that they are thinking of opening up for breakfast sometime soon. Yay!
The newest addition to the Circle when it comes to food is Benchmark Pizzeria. While their pizza, salads and soft serve ice cream are known to be yummy, with their ingredients purchased from a combo of local, organic and sustainable farms and suppliers, the prices are a bit steep. So if you don't mind shelling out a bit more for quality, this might be a nice little gem to take note of. I did hear from a few sources though that Benchmark is actually not very kid-friendly in terms of accommodating certain needs such as crayons and paper or water cups other than tall glasses. It seems to me that it's a nice place for dinner (or Sunday for lunch before or after a stroll through the Farmers Market) if you either have an infant or a bigger kid who doesn't mind sitting still. This is why I won't take my daughter for a while and just enjoy our next date night there.
The Artist In All Of Us, now closed. Sorry!
The perfect place to indulge your kid's creative side is 4Cats Arts Studio. It seriously is a fantastic space whose owners are knowledgeable, caring and super-nice.
My daughter partook in their Abstract Expressionists Camp this past summer and had a blast. Not only did she get to paint to her heart's content and learn about new methods, but she also brought home both a Rothko-inspired and a Jackson Pollock-inspired master piece. They are hanging in her room now and she continues to beam with pride. Check out their fall classes and look around the studio. They also do themed birthday parties as well as adult and corporate events. Bathroom is super-clean and perfect for diaper changes. Even if you're just in the area and nature calls for your kid, see if 4Cats is open and it'd be surprising if they didn't just let you use their facility. Art is good in all respects!
Let ‘Em Loose
About a 10 minute walk away is Albany's Memorial Park, right next to Albany High. It's my go-to park not only because of its proximity but also because it offers a great variety of things to do so that your little one(s) can let out some steam – play areas for toddler and big kids, picnic tables, wide lawns for frisbee and soccer, and paths to practice bike riding. Kids also love to run to the Albany pool and peek inside through the huge window, accessible from Memorial Park, and watch tennis players on the courts. It's also great for birthday parties as there are some partly shaded areas with picnic tables and benches. As for the public bathrooms that do have changing tables – usually semi-clean, so not bad.
Way up in upper Kensington (off Arlington Blvd across from the Kensington library) is another gem for kids and adults. Blake Garden doesn't have any play structures but provides TONS of space and paths to explore nature. The garden environment presents an ideal place to tire out toddlers as there are hilly areas as well as flat land to run around. The Koi pond is also fun to look at and offers parents a serene place for a few moments of peace. Whenever I go with my daughter I see lots of people with strollers, so some of the paths are definitely easily accessible.