New in town? 50 things Oakland and Berkeley parents need to know

New in Town? 50 Things East Bay Parents Need to Know

If you’re planning a move or you’ve just moved to Berkeley, Oakland, or some other part of the East Bay with kids, let us welcome you! Our community of readers has helped us put together a list of the top resources in the area for parents. offers lots of deep dives into East Bay family fun and more within our archives, but consider this your community-generated cheat sheet.

The Oakland Museum of California is the sponsor of this post. OMCA is a destination with something for everyone in your family. Kids of all ages love exploring the spacious garden, engaging with the interactive features in the galleries of California art, history, and natural sciences, and now even the littlest visitors under 5 have a place to play at OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace. Read on for other tips for families new to the Oakland area — or visit their website to learn about upcoming events.

Exhibit at Oakland Museum of California
In every section of OMCA’s gallery space, there are interactive features for children to learn and explore | Photo: Andrew Jorgensen of OMCA

East Bay Parks and Outdoor Destinations

Children’s Fairyland (Oakland)

Fairyland is a small-scale, vintage amusement park with rides and play areas located near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Best for kids ages 2-7. If you’ve never been, check out our first-timer’s guide to Children’s Fairyland.

The Oakland Zoo

An impressive Zoo for a medium-sized city, the Oakland Zoo has all the large animals you can name, plus a children’s zoo area and a ride area (closed for covid), and a gondola to travel through the sky over the Zoo.

Lake Chabot Regional Park (San Leandro)

San Leandro’s Lake Chabot Regional Park features hiking trails, fishing, boating, biking, horseshoe pits, jogging, and places to eat with all sorts of watercraft available to rent from single kayaks to patio boats for groups. The 315-acre Lake Chabot is stocked with trout and catfish.

OMCA Pick: Brooklyn Basin (Oakland)

With a flat, paved surface and a view of the Bay, our pals at OMCA give a shout-out to Brooklyn Basin as a favorite place to bring scooters and bicycles. Parents will find sausage, beer, and coffee at gourmet purveyors in the retail spots there.  See other picks for new bike riders and favorite spots for jogging strollers.

Tilden Park (Berkeley Hills)

Massive regional park, with access points from both the Oakland + Berkeley Hills and Orinda, featuring a carousel, working farm, Lake Anza (currently in no shape for swimming), short hikes, and a real steam train you can ride.

tilden park little farm cow and boy
Feed the cows with celery from home | Photo: Joe Dickerson

Central Park/Lake Elizabeth (Fremont)

Fremont’s 450-acre urban playground at Central Park offers a lake with pedal boats, a unique playground, skate park, and is adjacent to a seasonal waterpark.

Codornices Park (Berkeley Hills)

Large Berkeley Hills park for exploration and relaxation. Two playgrounds and basketball courts; grassy fields; extensive creeks; an under-the-street tunnel that connects to Rose Garden. It is the concrete slide, however, that makes Codornices Park a favorite memory of anyone who grew up in Berkeley.

Oakland Museum of California (Oakland)

Loads of paths, interesting spaces, and changing exhibits abound at the Lake Merritt-adjacent Oakland Museum of California. This destination is a favorite of East Bay families in the summer months when the Museum hosts Friday Nights at OMCA with Off the Grid food trucks, live performances by local artists, and craft activities for the family — no admission fee to wander around and enjoy the vibe. The indoor galleries are always stimulating and each hosts a plethora of interactive features which provide a great way to learn more about the area if you’re new to California! Plus, the indoor playspace for kids ages 2-5 (included in the price of admission) is engaging for a long time.

Child playing in playtent with stuffed animals
Indoor exploration at OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace. | Photo: OMCA

Adventure Playground (Berkeley Marina)

Like the sandlot your dad played in, Adventure Playground has homemade structures made out of plywood and nails that kids are encouraged to build onto. A uniquely Berkeley experience, Adventure Playground is staffed by folks who will show you the ropes when you arrive, so be sure to ask how to get started.

Adventure playground
Adding some paint to the plywood at Adventure Playground

More places to play in the East Bay

Fantastic East Bay indoor play spaces and destinations

East Bay public libraries

Nearly all of the libraries have storytimes for babies and toddlers. Readers especially like Central Berkeley and Lakeview Branch Oakland Library – Storytime with Ms. Miriam on Wednesdays at 10:15. “She is fabulous!” See our events calendar for many storytimes >

Lawrence Hall of Science

A hands-on science museum in the Berkeley Hills with a spectacular view and things to touch for kids of every age. Learn why families love the Lawrence Hall of Science here >

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Ok, this fab place is not really in the East Bay, but we dub it officially “worth the drive to Sausalito,” this children’s museum is great for every age. Free admission the first Wednesday of the month. Review here >

OMCA Pick: Pacific Pinball Museum

The team at the Oakland Museum of California recommends this old-school arcade in Alameda. Pay an admission fee and then play all the upright pinball machines you want — no quarters required. Learn more >

We have compiled a great list of the indoor play spaces in the East Bay here > 

Don’t miss our 25 places to take East Bay preschoolers >

Swimming in the East Bay

The East Bay is the sunny side of the Bay, right? The 510 rarely gets too hot, so you’ll want to learn about swimming pools nearby and ones that are a 30-minute drive into the warmer microclimates. And here are some options with youth swimming lessons. Oh, and waterparks, too!

The Beach

We also have easy access to lots of Bay Area beaches, but few are great for swimming. Your friends Back East don’t have to know how chilly it is on the coast. Most Bay Area kids learn to enjoy the beach in hoodies and galoshes. You’ll want to drive up to Stinson Beach at least once during your first summer in the Bay and to Alameda for a wave-free swimmable beach.

two kids at seashore berkeley marina
For a quiet beach near a playground, visit Shorebird Park at the Berkeley Marina | Photo: Joe Dickerson

Ways to Connect with Other Parents in the East Bay

It takes a village to raise these kids. Though our ability to meet in person has been thoroughly challenged with Covid-19 safety measures, we created a pretty comprehensive list of places moms can meet other moms here >

Join our Facebook group for {510} Families >

Childcare for East Bay kids

For new-in-town families, finding the right mix of childcare solutions is a vital part of settling in. Building a network of parent friends from daycare, schools, sports, and the neighborhood playground is a big step toward making the East Bay feel like home.


This non-profit in Oakland helps parents and caregivers find each other and maintain strong relationships. They also offer many parenting classes and workshops for FREE. Looking for a nanny? Start here.

Berkeley Parents Network

Weekly email newsletter for Berkeley/Oakland and surrounding areas of childcare jobs wanted and offered, plus every other parenting topic you could imagine from toilet training to co-parenting after divorce.

Finding the right school

The Bay Area may have different rules and norms around education than other places. Even the cities and towns within the (510) handle schooling differently. We have a small list of East Bay preschools with openings; it is searchable by keyword and has a map. 510families has created a private school guide to open houses and tours as well as charter school round-up.

Summer camps and seasonal camps in the East Bay

Each year, compiles a detailed list of amazing day camps and overnight camps. We also produce camp guides for winter break and spring break.

Good Things for Moms and Dads

Home Delivery of Food

If you like to have groceries or dinner delivered, you’re living in the right place. We have assembled a helpful guide to all the restaurants, apps, and services that will deliver to your home, including diapers.

Favorite Restaurants for Families

We have a list of restaurants we love for kids eating out in the East Bay that our readers helped us build with everything from grilled cheese to sashimi and, of course, pizza!

Classes for the Kids

You’ll discover everything from gymnastics and yoga to swimming and foreign language classes for ages 0 to 18 in our toddler class guide and our guide to after-school classes.

Activities for New Moms

Numerous local yoga studios offer a class for moms with babies. Wonderful accommodations are made for a great postpartum experience. And here are some other classes to take with babies >

Prenatal classes

Here’s a list of prenatal and birthing resources >

Your new East Bay family fun bucket list

Click the image below to get a high-quality downloadable version you can print.

free printable of East Bay activities

Shopping + Saving money in the East Bay

Discover and Go

This program is run through libraries and allows you to get free admission to many of the children’s museums in the area.

Farmers Markets

Area Farmers Markets have the season’s freshest food at the best prices; many have live music or storytimes during their hours.

Deals and Discounts page

We maintain this deals page to share half-price tickets on big shows and events, ie Disney on Ice.

East Bay Birthday Party Ideas

We’ve listed all the best indoor and outdoor birthday party places, alongside entertainment vendors and sweet treats in our East Bay Birthday Party Guide.

We’re so glad you’re joining us in the East Bay. We love it here. This list was compiled with help from our fantastic Facebook community. You should join us over there, too.

Pin this photo of Codornices Park to remember it later.

newcomers guide to the east bay

Thanks to the Oakland Museum of California for sponsoring this post. Children under 12 years of age, always receive free admission to OMCA, and youth ages 13–17, receive reduced ticket pricing. OMCA is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 am–5 pm.

Activities at Oakland Museum of California
Explore marine life via the surround video projections in this special space at the Oakland Museum of California. Photo courtesy OMCA

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