With fall on the horizon, it is the perfect time to head to your local indie bookstore, pick up some new reads and hunker down with the short ones to explore new worlds. Fill their imaginations with dinosaurs, robots and dogs that talk—all waiting for us to discover in the pages of a book. Supporting our local independent bookstores shows our kids that we value their place in our community. Read on to find some of our faves where you are guaranteed to find top notch service and a cozy spot to read the day away.
Photo credit: Barney Moss via Flickr Creative Commons
Bookshop West Portal
Families dig outings to the West Portal hood with its retro feel and kid-friendly bookstore. Bookshop West Portal has a specialist that keeps current on everything kidlet. With built-in benches for lounging and a third of the store dedicated to children, this low-key bookshop is an SF favorite. Its open layout means you can browse for grown-up reads and still keep an eye on the kiddos. Bonus: The YA section is outstanding.
80 West Portal Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: 10 a.m.–9 p.m. every day
Insider Tip: Bring your kid to the 85-year-old Shaw’s for some Mitchell’s ice cream or old time candies. Then run it off at West Portal Playground.
Photo Credit: Green Apple Books
Green Apple Books
You’ll discover books jammed ceiling to floor at this 50-year-old literary institution. They stock both new and used children’s books in its small yet mighty kids’ sections at both locations. Plus, you can bring in yours and baby’s old books to trade—just make sure they are in decent condition (read: not covered in spit-up). Check out the bargain bins out front for some deep discounts. Their new location, the spacious Green Apple Books on the Park is conveniently located on 9th Ave. where the Golden Gate Park meets Inner Sunset. Check their Facebook page for their BYO-pajamas story nights.
506 Clement St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: 10 a.m.–10:30 p.m every day
Books on the Park
1231 9th Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: 10 a.m.– 10 p.m. every day
Insider Tip: Books on the Park is adjacent to the 55-acre SF Botanical Gardens—just the spot to meander pathways, little bridges and ponds. Every Saturday through October they have nature crafts and outdoor games.
Photo Credit: via Booksmith’s Facebook Page
Let your little chicks fly straight to the back of the store, where they will find hundreds of titles for babies all the way up to young adults. The Booksmith offers complimentary gift-wrap and one of the best selections of greeting cards in the city, so you can one-stop-shop for that last-minute birthday party gift.
1644 Haight St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Insider tip: Right next-door, Sparrow Bar & Kitchen’s modern American cuisine menu also has the usual munchkin options. It’s a splendid place with outdoor patio seating to get your grub on while enjoying the Haight with your child.
Photo Credit: Kevin Y. via Yelp
Stop into this charming corner Potrero Hill bookstore whose motto is “Explore the Ancient Art of Page Turning.” The size of a postage stamp, it still has an excellent children’s selection to explore. You will delight in the friendly and helpful staff and their hassle-free exchange policy. That plus free gift wrap makes this a double-win in case your preschooler has a birthday party to attend around the corner at Recess.
1400 18th St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: 10 a.m.–9 p.m. every day
Insider Tip: For spectacular views and space to run, drive up to McKinley Square’s playground. For little thrill seekers, surprise your reading buddies with a drive down Vermont—SF’s true crookedest street.
Photo credit: Swan S. via Yelp
Dog Eared Books
Book-hungry San Franciscans will be well-familiar with this indie bookstore with two locations on Valencia and Castro. Specializing in local and small press literature, you are sure to find many literary gems on the shelves here. In addition to books, the walls are filled with art from local artists for an even more visually stimulating environment. Make sure you check out the free box on your way out.
900 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
489 Castro St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m
Books, books, and more books. New books, used books, big books, small books. No Bay Area indie bookstore list is complete without mentioning the good ol’ Pegasus. In various incarnations for over 45 years, there are now three Pegasus locations, and we love them all. The Solano Ave. store probably has the biggest kid’s section, but each location has something for everyone.
1855 Solano Ave.
2349 Shattuck Ave.
5560 College Avenue
Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.–10:45 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–10 p.m. (All locations)
Insider Tip: At the Solano location, grab a waffle cone full of organic yumminess at iScream. Then head East on Solano, turn left at Alameda and take a sharp right onto Indian Rock Stairways Path (between the corner and second house)—you and your little steppers can follow the staircases past a few streets and up to Indian Rock Park for breathtaking Bay views.
Photo credit: Jan via Flickr Creative Commons
Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books
This annex of the much adored toy shop, Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books is located four doors down from the toy store and is a bookstore built with little people in mind. While moms and dads won’t find much reading material for themselves here, they’ll definitely find plenty to read to the kids, including some nostalgic favorites. They are a proud source of Equal Reads Books, which highlights books for their excellence in diversity. Click here to read more about our visit to the store.
1417A Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Hours: Tues.–Fri., 10:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun.,9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; closed Mondays
Insider Tip: Exercise those little bodies with a brisk 7-minute walk up Vine St. to Shattuck Ave. to dream of a date night at Chez Panisse then grab yourselves some slices of pizza at the famous Cheese Board Bakery.
Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore
Handwritten reviews tucked inside books, artful displays and tiny succulents perfect for gifting are just a few of the charming touches you will find at Mrs. Dalloways’ on College Ave. Open since 2004, this quaint bookstore boasts over 150 in-store author events this year, many by children’s book authors. They give back to the community by hosting weekend fundraising events for over 25 local public and private schools.
2904 College Ave.
Hours: Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Mon., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m
Photo credit: StarsApart via Flickr creative commons
Towne Center Books
Located in a 1920s French Laundry in quaint Downtown Pleasanton, Towne Center Books’ passionate staff offers themed children’s events (i.e. Pancake & Books w/Santa) as well as parties for just released picture books. Don’t you love when you can browse for your own books while your child is finding hers? With over 7,000 titles, their children’s lit section is half of the store. This community gem also offers educational toys and your bookworm might delight in the hosted birthday parties. (Think: Pirate, Science and Princess themes.)
555 Main St.
Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m – 9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m. –10 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Insider Tip: Feel like raising a pinky? Head to English Rose around the corner and enjoy “Princess Penelope’s Fancy Afternoon Tea” while chatting about your newest Fancy Nancy purchase.
The Book Shop
With an impressive array of books both new and used, this is one of the few places where you can snap up gently used kids’ books (including board books!) and trade in your own. With a friendly staff and a host of recommended picks, this is one of those bookstores that is both well-organized but also a treasure-hunt. Going strong since 1960, it is a book lover’s dream.
1007 B. St.
Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Insider tip: Just up the street, indulge in crepes or cookies at Eko Coffee Bar or the frozen treats at Yogurt Hill. Plan a short 5-minute drive to see the Koi, turtles and pagodas at the free Hayward Japanese Gardens—a perfect place for little legs to run and explore.
Photo credit: Rakestraw Books’ Facebook page
Locally owned and independently operated in Danville since 1973, this bookstore has long been a place for creativity at its finest. The employees organize and conduct book clubs on the third Thursday of the month at 4:30 p.m. and run story time on Fridays at 9:30 a.m. Check their website for frequent author/illustrator events.
3 Railroad Ave.
Hours: Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.– 6 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m.– 5 p.m., Sun., 12–5 p.m.
Insider Tip: Want something cold and delicious after book browsing? Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt is in the same complex.
Photo courtesy of Bel and Bunna’s Books
Bel and Bunna’s Books
If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, Bel and Bunna’s may feel like home for you. The shop owner fashioned this neighborhood gem after the British bookstores of her childhood and really tries to make it a place where kids learn to love reading. In-store events fill the calendar including a parent-only event in December where grown-ups can shop for holiday literary selections for their wee ones. You can even host a birthday party here for little book lover. Read all about our visit here.
Bel and Bunna’s Books
3581c Mt Diablo Blvd.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m.-5 p.m.
Photo credit: Reading B. via Yelp
The Reading Bug
Be sure to visit this family owned San Carlos gem! This heartfelt shop holds book signings with notable children’s authors and amazing story times run by the owner. Designed to look more like an enchanted forest than a typical bookstore, this paradise of bookish events will thrill the kids and aims to help parents raise a reader. And be sure and check out some of the evening classes (for moms and dads) like yoga and Bollywood dance! Morning storytimes run daily. The owner, who is known for her lovely signing voice, runs the Wednesday story times which are geared especially for your book slurping babies and toddler, but all kids are welcome that day.
785 Laurel St.
San Carlos, Ca
Hours: Tues., Thurs., Fri., & Sat., 10:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.; Wed., 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sun., 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Story times: 11 a.m. every day
Open to all but especially geared to Babies & Toddlers Wed., 11 a.m.
Stories and Free Crafts for ages 3+, Wed., 3 p.m.
Insider tip: You cannot go wrong with Cowabunga Ice Cream right next door. In addition, to work off some energy before heading back on the road, take a 10-minute walk to the delightful and leafy Burton Park which sports a splash pad, tot and school age play sections plus bocce courts. Hiller Aviation Museum is just a short flight over the freeway.
Photo credit: Bookasaurus’ Facebook page
This expansion bookstore from next door neighbor Leigh’s Favorite Books is devoted to only kids’ books – how cool is that? In addition to books they offer educational toys and games and they offer an awesome book buy-back program. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for their annual Parents’ Shopping Night in November where parents can shop, sip wine and take advantage of free gift wrapping just in time for holiday gifting.
125 S. Murphy Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
With its decades-long loyal followings by Beat Poets, musicians such as the Grateful Dead and Stanford professors, if there is an independent bookstore worthy of the title “Powerhouse” Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park is it. Established in 1955, Kepler’s fell on hard times in 2005, unable to compete with big-box stores and shut its doors. Following community protests and a huge outpouring of support, Kepler’s reopened a few short months thereafter and has remained a part of the community ever since. Kepler’s draws very popular author/illustrators to events in the store, at the park and around the community. Check their website for latest events.
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, Ca
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.– 10 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.– 8 p.m.
Insider tip: The fantastic Café Borrone right next to Kepler’s has lovely pastries among lunch and dinner options and outdoor seating next to a landmark fountain. Nearby Burgess Park offers a large and shady playground for strolling and picnicking with the bonus of watching the train roll by.
Photo Credit: Linden Tree via Facebook
Linden Tree Children’s Books
The Village of Los Altos’ Linden Tree Books is a 40-year-old area family favorite—devoted 90 percent to children! You will love this fully renovated store with in and outdoor seating areas and loads of books to sift through. Be sure to check their jam-packed event calendar—your little culture lover will be dazzled by author signings, music and magic shows every month. Mom and Dad can select from the solid adult section, with its plethora of cookbooks and fiction.
265 State St
Los Altos, Ca
Hours: Mon, Tue., Wed., & Fri. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Thur. & First Fridays; 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sat & Sun 9:30-5:30 p.m.
Insider tip: After your Linden Tree visit, pick up a cold treat at small batch Tin Pot Creamery. Then take a five-minute walk to gorgeous Shoup Park for play on its two playgrounds and exploration of the dry Adobe Creek bed that you can use to walk or run all the way to the wooden platform observation decks of Redwood Grove Nature Preserve.
Photo Credit: Hicklebee’s via Facebook
Ask any savvy Bay Area parent what the best bookshop in the South Bay is, and you’ll likely get a resounding answer: Hicklebee’s. Serving Silicon Valley since 1979, families attest to its exemplary staff, wide selection of books and killer author events (JK Rowling, Rosemary Wells, Judith Viorist). With bonus features like Book of the Month Clubs (you can give as a gift!) their motto is “Extraordinary books for the entire family.” Don’t miss the Hicklebee’s Museum—a collection of items that make stories come to life. These clever items include Charlotte’s web, Ruby’s dress, of Max and Ruby fame, and even an Indian Cupboard.
1378 Lincoln Ave.
San Jose, Ca
Hours: Mon. – Wed., 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thurs. – Sat., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun., noon–4 p.m.
Photo credit: Books Inc. Mountain View
With origins dating back to the Gold Rush, Books Inc. declares it is the oldest bookseller in the West. To be fair, there are eleven different locations of this glorious indie-chain, including four in San Francisco, and two in the East Bay. We’re putting it under the South Bay heading but there are also Peninsula (Burlingame and the SF airport) stores. All locations are clean, well-organized and feature an in-store children’s lit expert. They’ve got a kids’ blog, several age-appropriate book groups and even a baby book registry! Check the website for the nearest location and join one of the many book clubs they host, or just pop in to peruse some of the finest selections of books in the Bay.
1375 Burlingame Ave.
Hours: Mon.–Sat, 9 a.m.– 8 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.– 7 p.m.
Children’s story time: Sun., 11 a.m.
301 Castro St.
Mountain View, Ca
Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Children’s story times: 1st & 3rd Wed. 10:30 a.m.
855 El Camino Real #74
Palo Alto, Ca
Hours: Sun.–Thurs, 9 a.m.– 8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.– 9 p.m.
Children’s story time: Sat., 2 p.m.
Photo by Kate Loweth
Books that are old to others and new to you line the shelves of this bookstore with locations on The Alameda and in downtown Campbell. Sell and trade your old books here, or buy some new reads. The Campbell location always has a table out front with many fun kid favorites to lure in the little literature lovers.
1066 The Alameda
San Jose, Ca
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 pm.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 pm.; Sun., noon-7 p.m.
275 E. Campbell Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Insider tip: Greenlee’s Bakery with their famous cinnamon swirl bread is right across the street from the San Jose location. Or head to Campbell on Sunday to enjoy the farmer’s market that takes over the downtown while you swing by to see what’s new at Recycle.
Photo credit: Joanna T. via Yelp
The Bay Area’s liveliest bookstore is the premier location for author events, with the likes of Elizabeth Gilbert, Isabelle Allende, Hillary Clinton and Michael Chabon gracing its reading room or Ferry Building locations. The main store shares space with a cafe and the back includes children’s books, toys, and an entire used book room. Book Passage’s store in the snazzy Ferry Building in San Francisco may have a small footprint, but boasts floor-to-ceiling books with a great little kids’ section. It’s a perfect place to snag San Francisco-centric gift books like Count to Sleep San Francisco and Smarty Marty’s Got Game. Plus you can watch ferries, tankers and sail boats come and go, so it’s an epic win for the family.
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, Ca
Hours: Mon– Fri., 8 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.–8:30 p.m.
Book Passage Ferry Building
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
Hours: Mon.– Fri. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Located in the 4th Street shopping district of downtown San Rafael, Copperfield’s carries an expansive selection of books for kids and teens. They host an abundant schedule of children’s story times, children’s book author visits and special nights for teachers—check their website for current event times. The also store houses a Taylor Maid Organic Coffee Bar, because nothing goes better with a book than a cup of joe. (Other locations include Petaluma, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, and Napa).
850 4th St.
San Rafael, Ca
Hours: Sun. -Thurs., 10 a.m. -7 p.m.: Fri. -Sat., 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Photo Credit: Diesel Bookstore via Facebook
Diesel, A Bookstore
This bookstore is quickly becoming a favorite among Marin County parents, and it also has locations in Brentwood and Oakland. The North Bay shop is nestled within the Marin Country Mart, making it ideal for a morning stroll, an after-school stop or a post-dinner browse, and the store hosts all kinds of fun events like Kid’s Pajama Parties.
Marin Country Mart
2419 Larkspur Landing Circle
Hours: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Insider tip: While you’re at Marin Country Mart, indulge at Three Twins Organic Ice Cream or pop over to the gourmet Rustic Bakery for a Meyer lemon croissant for you and a cinnamon puff or baby kouign amann for your little foodie.
Depot Book Store and Cafe
All aboard to get your board books! How fun is it that this popular bookstore is located in an old train depot? This adorable downtown Mill Valley shop is small yet offers an amazing kids’ selection. You’ll enjoy the impressive array of both international and local magazines, and a cafe to boot!
87 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, Ca
Hours: 8 a.m.– 7 p.m. every day
What’s your favorite Bay Area indie bookstore? Let us know in the comments below!
—Kate Loweth, Bronwyn O’Malley, Amber Guetebier & Gabrielle Cullen