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Rainy Day Bay Area Cafes to Nibble, Sip, and Play

They are your Bay Area neighborhood gems, your morning go-to’s, and for parents, the  place to escape to when stir-crazy kids start climbing the walls. Some are made especially for the crawlers and their caregivers, with toys that tempt as much as the coffee, while others are more laid back and inviting for families and singles alike. In the Bay, we’re lucky, host to a mecca of independent cafes dedicated to the bean and the goodies that make drinking it all the more enjoyable. Here are a few that parents love:

Grove Cafe
With locations in the Marina, Lower Pacific Heights, SoMa, and Hayes Valley, Grove Cafe makes it easy for the San Francisco stroller set to warm their tummies before or after a day on the town. Cozy with mismatched chairs, rustic wood furniture, and a fireplace, it’s a friendly place to warm cold fingers and when it’s nice out, there’s outdoor seating, too. And changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms make it easy to share diaper duty.

Zocalo Coffeehouse
This cozy little San Leandro spot is meant to celebrate the coffee house tradition as a local gathering place. And one thing about moms is we like to gather, giving our wee ones a budding community of their own in the process. Unlike other kid-friendly cafes, Zocalo doesn’t feel like one giant play room. The décor is earthy and, well, grown-up – with some nice parenting perks thrown in, like cushy sofas, indoor kid space, and of course, organically grown coffee roasted in-house.

Julie’s Coffee & Tea
Most coffee shops don’t have all the playroom gear, but that doesn’t mean you and the kids won’t enjoy a more simple excursion. Local neighborhood spots like Julie’s in Alameda make it easy to get out and take a break over a steaming mug accompanied by an organic lemon ginger scone with Devonshire cream. At Julie’s, kids love the warm and colorful décor indoors, complete with a sofa area, and the cozy garden out back. They even sell kid-sized tees for little Julie’s fans.

Farley’s
For “community in a cup,” head to Farley’s, with locations in San Francisco, Oakland, and Emeryville. Personable and welcoming of every personality, this is definitely a place where families are welcome. The kids will enjoy seeing the gallery, with cups from around the world, and perhaps, they can even have a special collection of their own displayed in the store’s front window. The coffee includes proprietary blends and kid-friendly events of the season include pet parades and pumpkin carving.

Rolling Dunes
Kids menus, high chairs and lots of open space make Rolling Dunes another great hangout for those rainy days when sitting inside nibbling on a sandwich and sipping a cup of tea sounds divine. The kids crepe plates are the perfect size for both kiddos and adults, so the only choice you’ll be faced with is whether to order something sweet or something savory.

Play Cafe
This Oakland spot is small enough to call a café, but big enough for all kinds of play, from wading through a ball-filled swimming hole to acting it out in the theater room. The café area is also spacious, with multiple tables and a full range of expresso drinks to go with your gourmet panini. Kid-friendly options like edamame or mac ‘n’ cheese come with a side of fruit or juice. Try coordinating your rainy day play date during a special event – there are lots of those going on at Play Cafe.

Depot Bookstore & Cafe
With an outdoor patio on the plaza and an adjoining bookstore complete with a nicely stocked kid’s corner, you can’t go wrong with the Depot Café in Mill Valley. The muffins are freshly baked in-house and your salad veggies come from local sources. It’s no wonder that Marin parents and kids flock here, where they can play right on the open square with nary a car nearby.

Cafe Marmalade
Cafe Marmalade is the epitome of community love in the little town of Ross. Just five years ago, locals volunteered their money and time to give the quaint café a fresh coat of paint, more light, and fluffy pillows to go with the new bench seating. (This year, owner Rana Madanat, a mother of three, won a 2010 Women’s Initiative Woman Entrepreneur Award.) There’s a garden in the back, and kids can get fresh squeezed orange juice while you rejuvenate with caffeine.

Mayfield Bakery
This Palo Alto bakery/cafe takes breads and pastries to the next level by offering a full breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and kids menu. The cafe seating is spacious, with lots of wood furnishings to give it that “rustic” look. The kids menu is perfect–with everything from grilled cheese to omlettes, your kiddo will be hard-pressed to find something he or she won’t like. A great hangout for rainy days (or any day, really) Mayfield Bakery is a tad on the expensive side, but well worth shelling out for the atmosphere.

Crepevine
Located all over the Bay Area, Crepevine is the place to eat if you’ve got kids. The staff is great about dealing with messes and the amount of food that you get is absurd for what you pay. They offer a kids menu, but chances are you’ll end up splitting your sweet or savory crepe with your kiddo. Feel free to bring the whole gang with you, as there’s usually no shortage of kids at these joints and the atmosphere is pretty upbeat.

Shays Cafe
The brainchild of an East-Coast sandwich fanatic and a West-Coast produce guru, Shays Cafe in Alameda offers fresh salads, homemade soups and gourmet sandwiches. It’s simple, no-frills, delicious and kids have space to play when they get the post-snack jitters. It’s a small spot so the vibe is usually pretty mellow, but don’t feel shy about bringing the kiddos along–this place is super kid friendly.

There are so many coffeehouses and so little space. Did we miss your neighborhood gem or favorite java spot? Send us a comment below!

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