As you embark on your holiday shopping, take a moment to check out some of the best independent toy stores in the Bay Area. Instead of fighting the crowds at the big box retailers for the same trendy toy of the moment everyone else is getting, consider supporting your local small businesses. Their selections are quirky, curated and often hard to find elsewhere. Plus, the customer service is usually top notch with staff happy to provide recommendations and in some cases even free gift wrapping. Share the wonders of a magical neighborhood toy store with your littles, and find the perfect gifts at the same time.
One of San Francisco’s most enduring and beloved toy stores, Jeffrey’s Toys made a brief move to the East Bay in 2015 after having to vacate the space they’d occupied for 50 years. This November, Jeffrey’s Toys made a happy return to San Francisco, just a few blocks from their old location. Right off of Maiden Lane, their new store contains their trademark wide-ranging selection of toys, from the dolls to books to classic board games to stuffed animals. The comic book corner is there as well! Jeffrey’s Toys has been a family-run business for over 60 years and was one of the inspirations for Pixar’s Toy Story. Go visit their new store as you do the rest of your holiday shopping in Union Square.
45 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
What happens when an artist and a fashion executive open a kids’ store in idyllic Noe Valley? You get Mapamundi Kids—a boutique bursting with coolness and creativity. The colorful, light-filled shop is stocked with books, toys, clothes and accessories for lucky kids and their design-minded parents. Owners Lorena and Esteban were both born in Argentina, but have lived in Noe Valley for more than ten years—giving them both global vision and local cred. Plus, Lorena is the founder and creative mind behind the beloved Petit Collage toy brand. As a result, the shelves are filled with beautiful things from around the world that can’t be found anywhere else.
1306 Castro St.
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Mon. – Fri. 10:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Sat. 9:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
It’s impossible to miss the colorful, vibrant storefronts of Tantrum. This pair of charming toy stores have an old-timey carnival vibe and offer a vintage-themed selection of specialty games, books, dolls, art and crafts, party supplies, clothes and more. You will want to spend hours browsing their brilliantly-curated selection, which includes local artists as well as boutique European brands. You might find yourself walking out with a toy from your childhood as well as something for your kids.
248 Clement St.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
858 Cole St.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
A Child's Delight
True to its name, A Child’s Delight is filled to the brim with old-school and educational toys and a little bit of everything else. After 17 years in business, they’re known for their personable customer service and for having lots of toys out for the kiddies to try out. Be prepared for a major melt down when trying to actually leave the premises—it ain’t gonna be easy! If you just don’t have the time to stop in, their website offers an extensive selection as well.
105 Town Center
Corte Madera, CA
Hours: Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m. & Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
3301 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m. & Sun. 11 a.m.–6: p.m.
Mr. Mopp's Toy Shop
Opened in 1962, this longtime institution is known and beloved all over the Bay Area. Many moms and dads can remember visiting with their own parents. Don’t miss out on creating memories of this one-of-a-kind store for your own littles. A Red Tri Totally Awesome Award Winner, Mr. Mopp’s is a truly magical place, filled to the brim with toys, stickers, books, every stuffed animal of the imagination and even party supplies. Be sure to check out Mr. Mopp's Children’s Books, their shop devoted to reading, just four doors down.
1405 MLK Jr. Way
Hours: Mon.–Fri. 10:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Located in Alameda, Toy Safari is a paradise for both the young and the young at heart. Besides offering the very latest and greatest, Toy Safari also buys and sells toys and collectibles. The back of the store is a stroll down nostalgia lane with displays of Transformers, Legos, troll dolls and other 90s favorites. You might be tempted to finally complete your collection of action figures, or bring in your old toys for appraisal from noon-5 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Family-run for over 25 years, this is a must-stop-by-and-shop kind of place.
1410 Park St.
Hours: Sun.–Thu. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Five Little Monkeys
With four cheery locations stocked full of the latest and greatest toys, as well as an impressive website that lets you shop their entire inventory from the comfort of your couch, Five Little Monkeys has become a Bay Area fixture. Owner Stephanie Sala is a UC Berkeley graduate and starting a kids’ store seemed to be her destiny: her father was a toy designer and her mother founded the children’s clothing company Sweet Potatoes. From puppets to dolls, dress and bikes, there is something for kids of every age. View all the locations here.
1240 Solano Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
1366 North Main St.
Walnut Creek, CA
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
The oldest independently-owned toystore in the East Bay, this spot has been lighting up little ones’ faces since 1969. Their wall of exotic plush toys will make the stuffed animal-lovers squeal, while the free gift wrap and free assembly will win moms and dads over instantly. Monclair Toyhouse prides itself on its extensive selection of classic and current toy, and the staff is always warm and welcoming.
6115 La Salle Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The mama of all indie toy stores, this super-duper legendary shop is a vivid memory for many parents who grew up on the Peninsula. Most likely the best selection in all of the Bay Area with 30,000 square feet of toys, this is toy heaven! The kiddos will go nuts for room after room of books, dolls, LEGO bricks, bikes, dress-up costumes, science toys and games. There’s also an extensive selection of model trains and radio control vehicles. If your kid is dreaming of a bike for Christmas, check out their separate bike shop Talbot’s Cyclery next door.
445 South B St.
San Mateo, CA
This toy store has been bringing joy to the little ones, winning awards and supporting the community of Menlo Park since 1999. From bath toys to school supplies, travel toys, collectibles and little critters, there isn’t much more a kiddo could wish for here. Be sure to check the store calendar for their storytime events. Cheeky Monkey is just two blocks away from the Menlo Park CalTrain station, so you can add a train ride into your toy shopping adventure. If you can’t make it into the store, check out their website, which also has an impressive selection.
640 Santa Cruz Ave.
Menlo Park, CA
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Wooden Horse
Owner Sloan used to run through the aisles of the original Wooden Horse in Old Town Los Gatos, wishing she could buy the whole store. Her wish came true when she and her husband decided to do just that and now they run their new location with love and care for every kiddie that crosses the threshhold. They even host free workshops for parents, teachers and students to learn about the value of play and great toys. Shop their extensive collection online or in store.
796 Blossom Hill Rd.
Los Gatos, CA
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
What is your favorite independently-owned toy store in the Bay Area? We want to know!