Orinda – just one BART stop past Rockridge, or a quick drive through the Caldecott Tunnel – is closer than you think. I like to think of Orinda as two stops – the first being Orinda Village, the second Orinda Theatre Square. The village and square are on opposite sides of the freeway and about a half a mile apart. You could definitely park at one, and walk to either, or drive to both, like we did.
Start your morning at Orinda Village – it's a one parking spot shop for a cafe, park, library, bookstore, and even a pizza joint if you make it until lunchtime. Here's a quick breakdown:
Orinda Community Park: Big and beautiful. There are two play structures – one for older kids, one for younger, separated by a huge grassy field. The park is mostly fenced in, has tennis courts, and a paved path around perfect for scooters or bikes. We found a few donated toys (always a plus with my boys!) and bathrooms. Lots of trees provide good shade – it does get hot here, like consistently 10 degrees hotter than Berkeley every day – so be prepared.
Cafe Teatro: If you need your coffee early, stop here first. It's just a few steps from the park (and the Orinda Library), has outdoor seating, cool sculptures to examine, breakfast things and caffeine. It's perfect.
Orinda Books: This bookstore is lovely. It's just across the street from the park and a must if you're in the area. The kids' section has tiny chairs for reading, plus a toy house, cars, and a lego table. I don't think I've ever spent so much time in a bookstore before – my kids were happily occupied. They have a weekly storytime every Thursday morning from 10am – 11am AND they gave us Eric Carle and Spot tattoos when we left. We will be back.
Village Pizza: I can't speak for this personally, but if your toddler is STARVING and can't make the 2 minute car ride to Orinda Theatre Square, then pizza is always an option.
Next stop, Orinda Theatre Square – toy store, food, treats, more coffee, and entertainment.
Sweet Dreams Toy Store: Games, toys, and your standard Thomas the Train and Calico Critter play tables. It's cute and local, so you should support them.
Coffee: Need more caffeine? Find Peet's and Starbucks here. Starbucks is across from the toy store and near the water fountain, so it was our pick. Water fountain = free entertainment.
Dining: Almost every restaurant in Orinda Theatre Square has outdoor patio seating. Take your pick from pizza, mediterranean, burgers (and beer), and lots more. Take a quick walk through to see what suits you.
Treats: Cupcakes or ice cream, you choose. We originally voted for cupcakes, but they were on holiday, so we settled for ice cream. I'm glad we did. Loard's was so cute. Bright pink and white, old time tables, and vintage photos. We devoured our chocolate scoops in the corner booth.
And don't forget the movies! It's the square's namesake after all. Lamorinda Theatre shows new movies with a nostalgic feel. Plus, they have free movie night every second Tuesday of the month, a free small popcorn if you sign up for their newsletter (that's like a 10 buck savings!), and Super Tuesday, where all films are $8.
Orinda, check it out. You'll be glad you did.
[All photos by Anna Azimi]