For a college town, Berkeley has a lot to offer parents of young children in the downtown area. You just have to know where to look. Here are nine useful nuggets, all just steps away from the BART station. Pick any three of these activities and you've got a full day of fun in Berkeley.
1. Habitot – A children's museum best for the under 4 crowd, Habitot is located down the stairs on Kittredge or on Shattuck. Pay by the visit or with an annual membership. A great investment for working parents whose caregivers will use the membership frequently.
2. Yogurtland – One of three yogurt places and two gelato shops within a three block radius, Yogurtland charges patrons by the weight of their self-serve yogurt-and-toppings creation. For a small child, create a small treat and pay a small price. Win win.
3. Berkeley YMCA – This members-only destination is popular with East Bay families because of the tremendous amount of programming for children. From the Kindergym, where kids under 8 can bounce themselves silly, to the affordable swimming lessons, joining will likely pay off quickly.
4. Games of Berkeley – This retail store caters to the college crowd with a large assortment of grown-up games, but there's enough for the little ones that it can be fun to browse.
5. Central Library – With an elevator to ride, a rocket ship to sit in, and plenty of books to borrow, the Downtown Berkeley library is the best free destination in town.
6. Miniature trains and cars at Ace Hardware. Plumbing supplies and light switches are certainly compelling to preschoolers (not even kidding!) but even more so is the wonderland of toys hiding in the Hobbies department of this old school hardware store at the top of University Avenue.
7. Pizza slices at Bobby G's – Find it on University, just one or two storefronts west of Shattuck. Fresh ingredients, good prices. Leave Papa John's for the college students.
8. Cancun Taqueria – Burrito enthusiasts will rejoice when they place their orders at Cancun. Uber-casual, this order-at-the-counter restaurant is kid-friendly for all ages.
9. Jupiter – Mommy needs a beer? The outdoor space at Jupiter can get pretty loud which means no one will hear your child whining. The beer menu is vast and the food is italian-ish, aka fancy pizzas and salads. A great place to meet a BART-riding spouse for an early dinner.
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[Photo Credit: Anna Azimi]