I told Lynn Johnson and Allison Kenny, Oakland mothers of grade-schooler Heaven, that I'd love to hear from both of them in response to my questions about their hyperlocal recommendations for Bay Area families. What does their family like to do together – and separately?
Allison and Lynn are married and they work together, running classes, special events, and camps for girls. Read on to learn about their family's favorite things to do in Oakland and beyond.
Where do you guys live? (And what's great about it?)
Lynn: Our neighborhood is one of those whose name is debatable. Some call it “Bushrod.” The realtors call it NoBe. I call it “North Oakland…right by the Berkeley border.” Despite the world-renowned Children’s Hospital that may be one of the best kid-friendly features in the country, my family is partial to Dover Park. It’s a small park with just an old-school play structure, but that’s not what makes it special. It is also the home of a community garden run by Phat Beets Produce, a food justice program that educates youth and empowers farmers of color. We order our weekly CSA box from them and love getting to hang out in the garden and see what they are up to.
Allison: I love Dover Park. It’s right up the street and the community garden is sweet. Mostly I love that kids of all colors play there- it feels like Oakland. Nick’s Pizza is the other thing I love in our neighborhood. Oh God, I love Nick’s Pizza. It’s queer owned- and post-Trump we’re serious about investing our money in folks whose rights need extra protecting. Plus, they best sourdough crust and our kiddo LOVES their chocolate chip cookies. She has to wrestle Lynn for one, though.
What's a place you'd never been before parenthood that you now frequent and appreciate?
Lynn: The South Berkeley branch of the Berkeley Public Library. Their staff is amazing and the Children’s room is always clean and well-stocked – a comfortable to place to hang out afterschool or on a Saturday.
What's your favorite family dinner out?
A: MUA. We’d always go there before our daughter came to us and were delighted to see how fun it is to bring our kid there. It’s always loud and fun (so she fits right in) and I think it has beautiful ambiance. I like going there when I need to feel like having a kid hasn’t totally taken over our lives (even though it has).
L: Bureau 510 in Emeryville. My daughter calls it “the piggy place” because they have a pig in their logo. They have a great happy hour menu which, as it turns out, is great for families! You can have small plates and cheap drinks and be done before 7…you can’t beat that.
What resource are you most likely to tell another newly-formed family about?
A: For a family like ours, I would make sure they know about PACT, an adoption alliance. Their articles, conferences and support groups for adoptive, multiracial families are an Oakland treasure.
What's your favorite mom alone time/treat yourself outing?
L: I love to go to Issues, it’s an amazing little magazine shop off of Piedmont Avenue. They have every kind of magazine you can think of from all over the world. Since I don’t go very often, when I do, I will throw down a bunch of money on a stack of magazines. Then, I take my magazines over to Cato’s (also on Piedmont Avenue), order a beer and read. It’s heaven.
Can you tell us about an amazing class your child has taken?
A: Go Girls! Camp. Sure, we founded it and have been running it for 10 years in the Bay Area. But it was not a given that our daughter would like it, right? For her, learning to trust us has meant resisting almost everything we offer this girl. But not Go Girls! Camp. She loves it. The teachers are loving and skilled. She gets tons of the social support she needs. And she gets to be super empowered to find her voice on and off stage. It’s the only camp she wants to go to and has us sign her up for winter break and all summer long. She also loves her gymnastics class at Head Over Heels. She gets access to serious skill-building in a professional environment but the teachers balance play with work.
L: My daughter absolutely loves Rebecca Stees and her Art Yowza camps in Alameda. Rebecca’s philosophy is to take the kids of their own heroes journey while they build creative confidence. The kids make really beautiful pieces with her, at the same time, they have plenty of time to just play and relax. And it all happens in her backyard which makes it sweet and cozy. It’s totally worth drive through the tube to take our daughter there!
Cactus or Picante?
L: Oh, Picante – hands down. I think that Picante is one of the best establishments of any kind, anywhere!
A: Picante. I heart Picante.
What's your favorite way to spend a Sunday morning?
A: Walk or ride bikes up to Philz Coffee on College Ave for green chili burritos and doughnuts. Sit with our daughter and read books, draw and drink my Philharmonic Philz Way with extra mint. We go there so much our kid's art is on the wall in the staff room.
L: First, we have our tea and coffee together while jazz music plays on the Sonos (it’s the one day a week where we don’t have to listen to Taylor Swift 😉 Then, we head on over to the Temescal Farmer’s Market for breakfast, a bit of shopping, and mainly to run into friends and hang out.
What's your favorite date night?
A: Brunch at Flora including mimosas. I won’t go out at night. LOL
L: Allison is right. I am usually in bed by 9pm.
Do you have a favorite toy store?
A: Honestly, I hate toy stores. They are so overwhelming to me and my kid. I walk by them and cringe, hoping she won’t see them. I do love Ruby’s Garden though. Probably because it’s mostly clothes. But we got a lot of her toys from there on our first Christmas together.
Is there another place you go to play, besides Dover Street Park?
L: Roberts Regional Recreation Area in Redwood Regional Park. Since it’s a bit of a drive, it’s like a special occasion park. But when we go, we make it a whole thing – bring a lunch, stake our picnic table, and make a day of it.
A: That random patch of play equipment by Forge in Jack London Square. It’s so helpful to let her play while we sit and finish our food or in between running errands.
Tell us about an interesting birthday party venue.
A: We went to a first grade party at The New Parkway Theater last year. It was so great. Her whole class was invited and parents stayed while they all watched a movie together on the big screen. So sweet.
L: I went to an adult birthday party at the New Parkway too. Just as sweet.
How much Oakland PRIDE do you have?
L: As a creative entrepreneur, a lesbian, a black woman, I could not be prouder to live in Oakland. I am a member of the Impact Hub Oakland – a co-working space committed to social justice and positive impact. Every time I step foot in those doors, either to work or for event, I am in awe of the energy, the diversity, the creativity, the beauty. To me, it is a microcosm of Oakland itself.
A: A lot. We love Friday nights at the Oakland Museum of California. We celebrated Lynn’s b-day there in October actually. We told folks last minute that we’d be there and to bring their families and find us. It was perfect. The food trucks, cultural activities and music make it feel like Oakland. We have never been to actual PRIDE event in Oakland, however. We always celebrate with a house party with friends and by making a rainbow cake to share.
Anything else you want to give a shout out to? Your own business qualifies!
L: Allison already mentioned this but, since it is our own business, it’s worth mentioning again. We are igniting a compassion revolution right here in the 510 by putting girls center stage. Go Girls! is a summer and school-break camp and after-school program that teaches elementary school age girls the skills to love themselves and each other through the arts. Our theme this summer is #I’MPROUD – all about celebrating our differences and how these differences can change the world for the better. You can register for summer camps in Oakland and Berkeley now at gogirlscamp.com
Thanks for joining us on 510Families.com, Lynn and Allison! I loved seeing Oakland through your eyes.