We are delighted to thank guest writer, Megan Briggs Magnant, for sharing ten things parents should know before moving into University Village.
University Village is a walkable neighborhood in Albany near the Gilman District for married students, domestic partners, and single parents with children. From free toys to expensive parking, here are my insider tips for parents living in the UV.
- The toys are a free-for-all…sort of.
University Village courtyards and playgrounds are where toys go to live forever…or something like that. There are tons of climbing structures, cars, scooters, bikes, balls, chalk, and lots of other random crap, pretty much everywhere. The general rule of thumb seems to be that it’s okay to use things that are in public spaces, as long as you leave them generally in the area where you found them. But be cool, and don’t ever take things out of people’s own patios. This goes both ways: if you don’t want other kids playing with your stuff, bring it inside when you’re done with it.
- It’s mostly safe, but be smart.
While kids’ toys seem to linger forever, other high-ticket items like strollers and bikes frequently go missing from the Village. And, despite the quaint vibes, this is still the Bay Area, so lock your doors and don’t leave anything valuable-looking in the car overnight.
- The Albany Public Library is delightful.
Storytime for toddlers, read to a dog friend, homework help, Lego clubs. Quick, go get your library card!
- The insulation is terrible.
The upstairs apartments are unbearably hot in the summer. The downstairs apartments are often very cold and dark in the winter. And downstairs neighbors can hear everything from their upstairs neighbors, as in most apartments. So be aware and be considerate. Talk to your neighbors before problems arise, and be creative in solving them. And maybe buy some fans for those heat waves.
- You can walk to pretty much anything
Just to name a few, plan to push your stroller to groceries at Sprouts or Whole Foods; kid-friendly restaurants such as The Habit Burger, Lama Beans, Picante, Sam’s Log Cabin, Royal Café, or Berkeley Bagels; parents’ night out at Juanita & Maude or the Ivy Room; endless treats at Happy Donuts, Rotha, Starbucks, Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery, or As You Wish Frozen Yogurt; family-friendly beer from Fieldwork, Gilman Brewing, or Westbrae Biergarten.
You can easily reach the bottom of Solano Avenue for the movies, treats, and shopping. A longer walk or short drive takes you further up Solano; to the El Cerrito Plaza, featuring Trader Joe’s, Daiso, Barnes & Noble, and so much more; or to the Albany Bulb for an easy hike; or to Fourth Street for even more shopping and treats. [See also best places to take kids in Albany]
- Playgrounds all over the place
The main University Village playground is great, but be sure to check out other nearby playgrounds, like Ocean View Park, the small unnamed tot lot near the bus stop on Monroe Street, the Opal Staniek Tot Lot, or the kindergarten playground at Cornell Elementary (after school). And when in doubt, just step outside to your grassy courtyard to see who else is playing or picnicking outside.
- Yes, the parking is really that expensive (and yes, they really do ticket and tow!)
And YES, you’ll need that dumb parking app to pay. There is, however, a work-around if you have a second car or need a caregiver to park while they’re at your house: you can buy a monthly parking pass from the Village office.
- There are some great resources for parents and families.
Positive parenting classes, support groups for new and expecting parents, free yoga and meditation, teen nacho nights. UV Recreation has wonderful classes for kids, including gymnastics, skateboarding, and soccer—all discounted for residents. Also, there’s a 20% discount from Albany Pizza if you mention University Village (pizza is definitely parenting-related, right?).
- The best-kept secret: Cooking workshops with Toby.
Toby Morris is a nutritionist who works for UC Berkeley, and once a month she hosts cooking workshops right in the Village—GO. You’ll have a blast, learn some new recipes, try some new foods, and meet some new friends. You can find more information each month on fliers posted around the village or email email@example.com to be added to her mailing list.
- You’ll make, and maybe lose, some of your best parent friends here
UV is inherently a transient community, which makes it so bittersweet: people are constantly moving in and out as they embark on educational journeys and as they triumphantly finish them. Reach out to your neighbors while you can, get those phone numbers, and hook your kids up on FaceTime after you move away.