How to Enjoy a Campfire Without Camping - 510 Families
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How to Enjoy a Campfire Without Camping

Summertime is the prime season for camping. But, the activity doesn’t appeal to all families. For those who want to enjoy a glowing fire without the hassle of camping, East Bay Regional Park District offers family-friendly evening campfire programs throughout the summer—no camping reservations required.

child roasting marshmallow for smore
Roasting marshmallows before the campfire program | Photo: Maureen Burke

What to Expect at a Campfire Program

The campfire programs take place at various sites throughout the East Bay. Participating families can expect games, stories, songs, show and tell, and other engaging activities. Of course, there’s also a warm campfire.

Our family visited a campfire program at Dumbarton Quarry Campground on a Saturday evening. We arrived just before sunset and were welcomed by friendly EBRPD naturalists passing out supplies to make s’mores. We settled in by the fire and roasted marshmallows.

EBRPD campfire program
Summertime campfires without the hassle of full-on camping | Photo: Maureen Burke

As the sun set, a naturalist begin the programming that was all about animal trivia. Families sat in the amphitheater area, which had plenty of bench seating and was well lit. My kids, 6 and 3 years old, enjoyed munching on their fire-roasted treats while answering trivia questions like “do bats drink blood?” or “what are the names for a mountain lion?”. Eventually, they became antsy and decided to run around in the nearby grassy area. The naturalists were so patient and understanding that some kids needed to move around after eating sugary dessert. The trivia portion lasted about 30 minutes.

When the program ended, participants were invited to see and touch samples of animal skins, furs and replica skulls, plus ask questions. My oldest child spend a lot of time talking to the naturalist and touching all the samples.

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child touching snake skin
Participants were invited to explore animals skins and skull replicas | Photo: Maureen Burke

The Bottom Line on Campfire Programs

We all found the program’s content really fun and engaging. Each session has a different theme to keep things fresh. The space was well-maintained, inviting and spacious. Astonishingly clean bathrooms were nearby. Our family dropped in, but there were several other families who walked over from the nearby campsites. We had to pay for day-use parking ($5), but the session itself was free and didn’t require a reservation.

The thing my kids love most about camping is making and eating s’mores. So this event was extremely satisfying for them. Fair warning that I asked a naturalist if all the locations will be providing s’mores supplies and the answer was “likely yes”. Though not a guarantee, s’mores are a wonderful bonus.

My husband and I liked spending time outside and being near a fire. The fire was propane gas fueled, likely because of fire restrictions. But there was still that magical light from the flames.

One possible downside for families with young children is the timing. The program began at my kids’ normal bedtime. But it’s really not as fun to have a campfire during the daylight hours, so this was a special activity where we knew the bedtime routine would be pushed back.

As a camping enthusiast, I personally don’t think this replaces the campfire experience of a true camping trip. But, it was certainly a fun way to spend our evening and snack on a couple of s’mores. We’ll likely return for another visit.

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campfire with marshmallows
Spend time near the glowing campfire | Photo: Maureen Burke

Future EBRPD Campfire Programs

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Time Event
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm Family Nature Fun Hour - Crab Cove Campfire
Crab Cove Visitor Center, Alameda
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Time Event
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm Family Nature Fun Hour - Crab Cove Campfire
Crab Cove Visitor Center, Alameda

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Time Event
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Time Event
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Time Event
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Time Event
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Time Event
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Time Event
6:00 pm - 6:30 pm Campfire Storytime
Lafayette Library and Learning Center, Lafayette

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Time Event
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Time Event
6:00 pm - 6:30 pm Campfire Storytime
Lafayette Library and Learning Center, Lafayette

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Time Event
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Time Event
6:00 pm - 6:30 pm Campfire Storytime
Lafayette Library and Learning Center, Lafayette

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Time Event
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Campfire Event: Anthony Chabot
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm Family Campfire Program
Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay, Fremont

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Time Event
6:00 pm - 6:30 pm Campfire Storytime
Lafayette Library and Learning Center, Lafayette

 

 

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