Home prices are soaring on the Peninsula, and inventory is sparse. Enter real-estate hotspot Belmont. The baby boomers are moving on (read: cashing in), and leaving in their wake and influx of young families with young children. Belmont’s situated smack-dab between 101 and 280, in the middle of San Francisco and San Jose, with easy access to Hwy. 92, making it a commuter’s dream. Its average Great Schools elementary school rating of 9 make it a parent’s dream, too. Add in a small town, cozy feel and extremely friendly locals and you have a sought-after suburb on your hands.
Twin Pines Park
This park has a very enchanted feel throughout, starting with the gnarled, hollowed-out tree near the front entrance within which your kids can clamber, climb and peek through. Follow the path to find an enclosed playground with structures for both the littles and the bigs, plus a sandbox. Keep following the path to the bridge that spans over babbling Belmont Creek and leads to a pavilion, picnic area and smaller playground, all of which have a very “secret hideaway” feel. If you are feeling adventurous (and have your rain boots on-hand) explore down by the creek and splash around in the shallow stream. As if all of this isn’t entertaining enough, this park also hosts many seasonal festivals including the annual school district fundraiser, Save the Music, and the summertime Hungarian Heritage Festival.
1 Twin Pines Ln.
This newer park was built alongside the also-newer Belmont Library, so it’s a great place to get the wiggles out before and after heading in to the library for one of their fun weekly activities like Lego Club or Imagination Playground. Belameda Park is fully-enclosed and stays nice and clean year-round with two play structures, one for the little guys as well as one for the bigger ones, and also contains a small sandbox. Outside of the enclosed area, there is a swingset, picnic area and small meadow in which to run free, or plop down on a blanket to soak up some sun or have a picnic.
1100 Alameda De Las Pulgas
This ice skating rink has been open since 1966 and has a very nostalgic vibe. Join the ranks of skating greats like Brian Boitano – who has graced the ice with his blades – at one of the daily open-skate sessions. Or, send the kids off to daily or weekly Camp Freeze programs, where they’ll not only learn how to skate, but also get to ride the Zamboni, make snowmen, and take sled rides. How cool!
815 Old County Rd.
Hours: Open skate times vary, please visit website for details
Pump it Up
What do you get when you take four giant inflatable bouncers including slides, an obstacle course, a basketball “court,” add in a rock climbing wall and top it all off with a set of huge, foam building blocks? You get a ton of fun! Pump it Up offers camps during school breaks, drop-in play times, and of course, hosts hoppin’ birthday parties.
1309 Elmer St.
Hours: drop-in play times vary, please visit website for details
Photo: Heather Rodgers
Village Host Pizza
Order your pizza, pasta, burgers and fries, grab a number and a roll of quarter from the bar, then spend your time waiting to eat in the mini arcade. Your munchkins won’t even notice how hungry they are whilst playing on the vintage seated Ms. Pac Man game or trying their hand at The Claw. Sure, they may run through that first roll well before your pizza is thoroughly baked, but with flat screens tuned to sports for dad and a well-stocked salad bar for mom, you won’t think twice about handing over more coins.
1017 Alameda de Las Pulgas
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
This family run breakfast and lunch spot is delicious and quaint, with dad cooking up daily specials in the back, mom in the front-of-the-house, and daughter serving up the fresh, homemade food. Kids get the standard crayons and coloring sheets to bide their time, but it’s the food, not the dog-and-pony-show, that will keep you coming back. The kid’s menu boasts items like hand-breaded chicken tenders, hand-pattied burgers and homemade mac-n-cheese that puts the blue box stuff to shame.
2039 Ralston Ave.
Hours: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., closed Mon.
Lorenzo’s Sandwich Shop
If you have a kid that likes a sandwich, this is your spot! Another family run gem, the owners, Dave and Marta, have been making sandwiches here for almost 30 years. Their special ingredient, aside from genuine love of all-things-sandwich, is their house made garlic sauce. Be ready to munch off-site, as this is a take-out joint only (and also cash-only, fyi).
911 Villa Ave.
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Closed Sun.-Mon.
Coyote’s Mexican Cafe
This place is FAST and has all the usual suspects to please your little niño’s palate. Cheese quesadillas or platters overloaded with rice and beans are out in a flash, before your kids can even scarf down all the tortilla chips. The walls are adorned with bright, colorful art which kids love to check out, too. Two doors down is Yoppi Yogurt, so be prepared for “pleeeease, mom?”
1003 Alameda de Las Pulgas
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Nothing scary about this monster! You’ll find lots of families with kids here, and you’ll be impressed by the chop stick skills of even the smallest of patrons. The sushi here is fantastic, and there’s even a “family meal” option, which includes a generous sampling from the Monster’s menu items. And yes, there is a kid’s menu, raw fish not included (no offense, child-foodies)!
955 Ralston Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-2 p.m./5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Sunday
Whispers Cafe and Creperie
Is it a meal, or is it dessert? Your kids might be confused when the “Whisper” crepe comes out, which houses strawberries, bananas, Nutella, cinnamon and brown sugar – yum! No matter, because this cute cafe has a little bit of everything, from eggs and bacon and all the breakfast staples, to salads, burgers and steak and salmon for dinner. There’s an ample kid’s menu too, and, as we previously mentioned, there’s always those crepes.
390 El Camino Real
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-3 p.m./5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
And for actual dessert…
Photo: Emay’s Sweet Shop
Emay’s Sweet Shop
There is candy to please every type of sweet tooth here at Emay’s. Fine Belgian chocolates, macaroons, giant cylinders filled with Jelly Bellys, and every type of gummy item known to man, including gummy fried eggs and gummy sour spiders. Miss a chance to delight and frighten the kids all at once? Never!
1031 Alameda de Las Pulgas
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m.-7 p.m.
There’s probably nothing you haven’t seen before at this self-serve fro-yo joint, but why re-invent the wheel? Pulling the lever to dispense your own frozen goodness never gets old, and neither does piling on toppings from the buffet of sweets.
1005 Alameda de Las Pulgas
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
While the word “nursery” conjures up images of babies and/or plants, you don’t necessarily think “kidstuff.” But pop in to this nursery after lunch or dinner in bustling Carlmont Village, and you will see why it’s a kid’s delight. Meander through beautiful ornamental trees, peek through the live bamboo, and skip over the tiny bridges that run over Belmont Creek. There’s flowing water everywhere here (even a waterfall!) which is mesmerizing to young and old alike. And who knows, maybe you’ll come home with a centerpiece for your yard that doesn’t have three wheels and handlebars.
2029 Ralston Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wed. 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Belmont Farmer’s Market
This market is wildly popular, and you can tell by the influx of car and foot traffic in the area each Sunday. There’s usually live entertainment, and always a wide variety of local producers, including farms, dairies, bakeries, beekeepers, nurseries and a slew of other specialty booths. Grab some kettle corn for the kids while you shop for the week’s lunch box fillers.
Caltrain Parking Lot at El Camino Real and O’Neil St.
Hours: Sundays, 9 a.m.-1p.m.
Do you have a Belmont favorite? Let us know in the comments below.