Craving a beach day with the kids, but feeling thwarted by fog and gloom, not to mention rough waves and scary undertows? Beach-loving families can have it all—meaning sand, sun and warm, safe, shallow water—at Alameda’s beloved Crab Cove and Crown Memorial State Beach.

When to go: Any day, foggy or sunny, as long as it’s warm enough for wading.

Travel time: Crown Memorial Beach is on the west shore of Alameda, about a 15 mile drive east of San Francisco.

What to see/do: The beach! Set up your umbrella and blanket on the 2.5-mile stretch of soft and sandy and let the little ones get to work on a castle, burying each other, checking out the sea birds that call the area home. Little least terns dive through the air for food, cormorants swim by, siphon holes from clams bubble up through the sand—it’s a nature lesson in the great outdoors!

And if you’ve had enough of the great outdoors, take a break from the sun, wind, or both—the Crab Cove Visitor Center is a must-see. It’s an interactive mini-museum full of info for kids and adults alike about the sea life that inhabits this corner of the San Francisco Bay. In addition to aquariums, microscopes, and shark’s teeth to touch, there are aquatic/estuary-themed puzzles and games, coloring projects, and more!

Still got energy to burn off? Ride a bike on the path stretching along beach, or fly a kite on the large grassy lawn. Happy, tired tots are a guarantee after a day here.

Need to know: Being a beach on the Bay, there are bits of broken glass about (most worn down to dull edges, but some sharp ones too), so water shoes are encouraged (as well as an extra bucket for grown-ups to collect any sharp bits they see to dispose of safely!).

Possible lunch spots: Forgot to pack something for your picnic? Alameda’s an island, they’ve got beach life spontaneity covered. There are two Italian delis within walking distance of the beach: Domenico’s (cash only), and Santoro’s. Either is a great pick for a sandwich –we’ll leave it to the loyal locals to debate the merits of each. But Santoro’s is closer to Foster’s Freeze… grab some soft serve! If you opt for pizza on the way home from the beach, Croll’s is the neighborhood pizza joint to hit, with a Slow Food–inspired menu and 30 craft beers in bottles for the grown-ups!

How to dress: Layers, both to keep warm if it cools off, and to protect skin from the sun. Swimsuits, hats, water shoes, sunglasses, and sunscreen are musts! Also, bring a change of clothes, as kids get dirty playing in the sand.

Cost of trip: Cheap.

Online: and

– Sarah Bossenbroek