UPDATE: Play Cafe in Oakland is no longer in business.
We are fans of the indoor playspace concept in our family, but amazingly had not checked out Play Cafe in Oakland until last week. My husband was out of town for 4 nights, so it seemed the perfect time to go on a little adventure to check out a new spot, and we were not disappointed.
Play Cafe is located just one exit away from the Oakland Zoo on Keller Avenue. Admission is $8 for kids, free for parents.
From what I know, Play Cafe is unique in the playspace world in that it is set up as a cafe area (with 12 tables and 6 available high chairs) with the kids' stuff all along one side of that area.
Because it is a cafe, you are not allowed to bring in any food of your own, no exceptions. They have snacks available for purchase as well as entire meals on a fairly large menu — my panini was delicious!
I experimented with sitting in different locations in the cafe area, and if you position yourself strategically you can have eyes on almost all play zones at one time which is a big bonus. A couple of the parents who were there were doing work on laptops, as Play Cafe has free wi-fi (just ask them for the password). There was also a basket of magazines sitting out for parents to grab from.
Posted signs remind that the staff are not supervising children, and parents are responsible for that, but it is also clearly meant to be a place in which kids can safely play in eye and earshot of working/relaxing parents which I appreciated.
I really liked the attention to detail in the play areas — the vintage signs hanging in the kitchen area and the fact that it is set up as The Malt Shoppe made me smile.
I was also very impressed with the dress up area in the “theater” — there were so many choices of outfits and costumes and dresses that would be appealing to both genders, unlike other play spaces we have visited that only have dresses available.
There is a separate room for babies only (with a glass door that closes to really keep the big kids out) which remained vacant when we were there, other than one mom who pulled out a jumper for her daughter to use in the cafe area. I can vouch for the cleanliness of that room on the day we were there, as two staff members spent a significant amount of time disinfecting every toy and pulling everything out of the room and mopping the floor.
The bathrooms were also incredibly clean and have changing tables, of course. My daughter actually commented on the smell in the bathroom as “stinky” but I told her it was just clear that they had recently cleaned it really, really well with some kind of cleaning product. Every other area seemed very clean as well, and staff members were washing off tables in the cafe as soon as they were vacated.
By far, my daughter's favorite area was the ball pit.
There is also a “train room” which is a small alcove with train tables set up in it — this was the one space I couldn't get a view into at all if I sat where I could see every other space.
We will definitely be returning to Play Cafe!