What to Do With Kids in the Elmwood (Berkeley) - 510 Families

What to Do With Kids in the Elmwood (Berkeley)

Thanks to Realtor, Caitlin Crawford, for sponsoring today’s guide to the Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley for families. She helped us put together this round-up of fantastic places to enjoy with your children including where to eat, where to play, and where to shop.

Caitlin lives with her husband Andy, seven-year-old Wes, and nine-year-old Elodie in their beloved Elmwood neighborhood. When she’s not guiding clients in selling or buying homes in the East Bay, she can often be found rooting around in the bargain bin at Berkeley Bowl or indulging in a morning bun from La Fournée.

Best things to do in the Elmwood with kids

Elmwood is a terrific neighborhood — only a short hop to the Cal campus and Rockridge — with a small theater, many restaurants, and a walkable vibe. If you only visit Elmwood to have a baby at Alta Bates, you’re missing out. We list where to eat with kids, where to play with kids, where to shop with kids, and where to get our favorite sweet treats in the Elmwood/Claremont neighborhoods. Also, we have the best trick-or-treating and a world-class staycation right in our backyard. Let’s go!

Where to play with kids in the Elmwood

Claremont Branch Library

Claremont Library has a great selection of kids’ books and DVDs and many cozy reading nooks.
Location: 2940 Benvenue Ave. at Ashby Avenue, Berkeley

Yama Kids Yoga

Yama Kids Yoga offers daily yoga classes for kids as young as two years old. Instructors use breath, poses, and meditations to teach the beginning principles of yoga, with time for singing, play, and yoga boogie. Yama Kids also throws a wonderful zoom birthday party.
Location: 2631 Ashby Ave A, Berkeley

Preschool Yoga at Yama Kids
Yama Kids Yoga class in progress (pre-covid pic) | Photo by Whitney Moss

Willard Park and Playground

Willard Park is a pleasant five-minute walk from Elmwood’s bustling College Avenue. It features a newly redesigned enclosed playground for the infant to toddler set and a huge open grassy field for running around, picnicking, and people- or dog-watching. On any given weekend, you’ll see jugglers, slack-liners, and other interesting characters. There are also tennis courts.
Location: 2730 Hillegass Ave, Berkeley

Willard Park playground in Berkeley
Recently upgraded Willard Park playground in Berkeley is enclosed by a fence to keep toddlers inside and a large grassy field with room to run | Photo: Heather Flett

Bateman Park Playgrounds

Bateman Mall Park and Bateman Park in Berkeley
Bateman Mall Park and Bateman Park in Berkeley

There are two little parks named Bateman within a two-minute walk of each other on either side of Alta Bates Hospital. Both are pretty hard to drive to if you don’t know where you’re going. Both have benches for sitting. I could easily see going to the wrong one if I were trying to meet a friend. Grab a picnic or snack from Whole Foods.

Bateman Mall Park Playground is a cute enclosed neighborhood park for toddlers and preschoolers with a large grassy area and a tot play area surrounded by trees. There is a small play structure including swings. Many toddler toys have been left behind for kids’ enjoyment. Recommended for ages 5 and under.
Location: 3027 Colby St. near Prince St., Berkeley

Bateman Park Playground is also a small playground to run off steam if your mom is having a baby. It features a tall twirly slide, see-saw, spinny ride, and lots of sand. Recommended for 8 and under.
Location: Webster and Regent Streets Berkeley

Rialto Cinemas Elmwood

This gem of a movie house shows the full range of first-run, indie, foreign, and specialty movies along with other cultural events.
Location: 2966 College Ave., Berkeley

Rialto Cinemas Elmwood
Rialto Cinemas Elmwood | Photo: via Sean R on foursquare

UC Berkeley campus (with little ones)

The UC Berkeley campus is the College from College Ave. and is just down the street from Elmwood’s busy shopping area. With limited car traffic and acres of open space to run free, it’s a great place to spend the afternoon with the family. [Six fun things to do with little kids at Cal]

Berkeley Playhouse and Julia Morgan Theater

The Julia Morgan Theater hosts professional musical theater performances in addition to kids’ theater classes, camps, and shows. Find like-minded classes for children such as East Bay Music Together and Berkeley Ballet.
Location: 2640 College Avenue, Berkeley

Claremont Canyon hiking

Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve is tucked away in the Berkeley and Oakland hills behind the Claremont Hotel. Trails are hilly and the views rewarding, but watch out for poison oak. Pro tip: The kid who finds the most banana slugs can choose where we get our treat afterward.
Location: Trailhead is on Stonewall Rd, off Claremont Ave., Oakland
Find out how to get there and what wildflowers to expect >

Alta Bates new mothers support groups

Not exactly fun times, but a wonderful place to meet other moms of babies is at the Alta Bates new mothers drop-in support groups. The breastfeeding group is a true sanity saver! Most groups are operating online, but we are hopeful that this will change back to in-person.

Dailey Method on Ashby Ave.

During Covid times, the indoor workout classes are limited, but when fully operational, we love this spot. With a combination of ballet barre work, conditioning, and stretching, this popular workout spot offers onsite childcare for six weeks up to ten years old in the weekday morning classes. Drop-ins and people at all fitness levels are welcome. Visit their website to reserve a spot in a class and to reserve childcare. [See other places to get a workout with a baby in tow]
Location: 2631B Ashby Ave., Berkeley

Where to eat with kids in Elmwood

In the Wood

Great pub for casual family dinners out. While there is no designated kids menu, we love the pizza, fries, and burgers as well as salads and an array of sandwiches. Happy Hour specials daily. Gluten-free options and a lovely outdoor seating area off the main street.
Location: 2930 College Ave, Berkeley

Gordo Taqueria on College

Gordo's Taqueria burrito -- open wide
Nom nom. Gordo Taqueria is our weekly pick | Photo: Caitlin Crawford

Caitlin grew up on Gordo’s in San Francisco and now visits weekly with her children for burritos. Gordo’s is vegetarian-friendly. Pro tip: Grab a seat in the window for great people watching.
Location: 2989 College Ave, Berkeley

Baker and Commons

Hands down the best breakfast and lunch spot in the ‘Wood! A wonderful gathering spot for neighbors, it offers ample dining al fresco and is dog-friendly to boot. Kids will love ogling their mouth-watering display of baked goods, all made in-house.
Location: 2900 College Ave, Berkeley

The Italian Homemade Company

This family-friendly casual eatery has all the pasta and sauce combinations a picky child could want. The kids love watching the fresh pasta being made daily. Colorful seating options are available streetside on sunny days.
Location: 2905 College Ave, Berkeley

Summer Kitchen Bake Shop

Everybody’s go-to spot in Elmwood for fresh, creative take-out food. Pizzas and sandwiches are terrific. Pro tip: Weather permitting, you can bring your picnic to Willard Park.
Location: 2944 College Ave, Berkeley

Summer Kitchen on College Ave in Berkeley
Summer Kitchen on College Ave in Berkeley | Photos: Audrey Hall

La Méditeranée on College Ave.

Another great casual dining option is La Méditeranée with fresh fruit, pita, and hummus on the menu and patio seating for noisy families. Pro tip: Order a pair of combination plates to feed a young family.
Location: 2936 College Ave, Berkeley

Sweet treats in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood

Palm Açaí Cafe

Palm Cafe makes a great after-school snack stop with delicious and healthful kid-sized açaí bowls. We also love the amazing PB and Js and Avocado toasts. Gluten-free and vegan options are also available.
Location: 2979 College Ave, Berkeley

healthy acai bowl at Elmwood's Palm Cafe
Enjoying a sweet and healthy açaí bowl at Elmwood’s Palm Açaí Cafe | Photo: Caitlin Crawford

Dream Fluff Donuts on Ashby Ave.

There’s nothing fancy going on at this greasy spoon that’s been around since 1987, but the wide variety of donuts,  breakfast sweets, and delicious breakfast sandwiches keep us coming back. We walk here every Saturday morning for a chocolate donut with sprinkles, grab a table outside, and visit with neighbors and their pups.
Location: 2637 Ashby Ave, Berkeley

Elmwood District looking west on Ashby
Walking Elmwood District west on Ashby toward Yama Kids and Casa de Chocolates

Casa de Chocolates on Ashby Ave.

This artisan chocolate shop offers is a little bit fancy for your average kid offering hand-made chocolate infused with a Latin-American flavor. In addition to really excellent chocolate gifts, the frozen hot chocolate is practically legendary — and worthy of a stroller-pushing new mama any day of the week.
Location: 2629 Ashby Ave, Berkeley

La Fournée Bakery off Claremont Ave.

La Fournée Bakery Fournée has a wide offering of fresh pastries, bread, pizza, and baguette sandwiches. Audrey Hall loves to grab some pastries and a coffee from Peet’s and settle down on one of the many benches that line the nearby courtyard, calling it “one of the most peaceful spots to people-watch in Berkeley and there is plenty of room for kids to run around.”
Location: 2912 Domingo Ave Berkeley

Fournée Bakery with kids
Fournée Bakery is a magical pastry shop on College Avenue near the Claremont Hotel | Photo: Audrey Hall

Shopping with kids in the Elmwood/Claremont

Sweet Dreams Candy and Toys on College Ave.

Sweet Dreams is a terrific local toy store with everything you could hope to find for your little ones and their buddies for birthday time. Window shopping is always fun because of the incredibly creative decorations. A sister store on the same block has an old-school candy counter serving up classics. Pro tip: Free gift wrapping is on offer, just ask!

Sweet Dreams Toy Store: 2921 College Ave., Berkeley
Sweet Dreams Candy and Boutique: 2901 College Ave., Berkeley

Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore

Mrs. Dalloway’s is a fantastic bookstore with a varied and amazing selection of kids’ books. The knowledgeable staff is always available to offer up suggestions for new readers and bedtime books you’ll both enjoy.
Location: 2904 College Ave, Berkeley

Your Basic Bird

This small, locally-owned pet shop has an array of lovely birds and furry companion animals to visit and enjoy. It has been operated by Claudia and Bob since the 1980s. Pro tip: Check the windows for kittens available for adoption!
Location: 2940 College Ave, Berkeley

Pippa and Co.

Balloons and smiles outside of Pippa and Co.
Balloons and smiles outside of Pippa and Co. Elmwood | Photo: Caitlin Crawford

Chock-full of whimsical party decor and cheeky celebration accessories — especially for the little ladies in your life — Caitlin and her kids find Pippa and Co. a “tantalizing and happy feast for the eyes.” Her family loves it as the best place to pick up off-the-wall balloons for birthdays or just because.
Location: 2935 College Ave, Berkeley

Afikomen Judaica on Claremont Ave.

Afikomen, near Star Meats, has everything you need to celebrate Jewish holidays and life cycles from children’s toys to ritual items and so many books.
Location: 3042 Claremont Ave, Berkeley

Escapist Comics on Claremont Ave.

If your kids are into comic books, be sure to stop by The Escapist Comic Bookstore across from John Muir Elementary’s giant playground.
Location: 3090 Claremont Ave, Berkeley

Elmwood Bonus: Halloween on Russell Street

Arguably, Russell Street in Elmwood is Berkeley’s best trick-or-treating street. Caitlin loves that the neighbors go all out with decorating their homes and create one big street party. The Halloween party is especially nice for little ones and strollers because the street is closed off to cars from around 5 pm until 8:30 pm.

Pro tip: Don’t miss the corner house at Ashby and Piedmont for an amazing array of carved pumpkins.

Halloween on Russell Street is the BEST in Berkeley
Halloween on Russell Street is the BEST | Photo provided by Caitlin Crawford

Best Staycation in the Elmwood

When you have a day off from school and want to do something extra, extra special, hanging out at the Claremont Hotel feels like a total vacation. Whether you get a club membership, day pass, or book an overnight getaway, families have access to wonderful swimming pools, tennis courts, kids’ club activities, and holiday surprises.
Location: 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley
Website >

Caitlin Crawford, a realtor with the Grubb Company, loves making clients happy, home by home. She’s been helping families buy and sell houses throughout the entire East Bay since 2013.

realtor ad for caitlin crawford

Thanks to Realtor, Caitlin Crawford, for sponsoring today’s guide to the Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley for families. She helped us put together this round-up of fantastic places to enjoy with your children including where to eat, where to play, and where to shop.

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