Berkeley isn’t just a haven for college students and hippies—it’s got a ton of kid-friendly spots as well. Chill out with the kiddos at the Little Farm and the Steam Train in Tilden Park, in the kite-flying hills of the Berkeley Marina, or at the hands-on exhibitions at the Lawrence Hall of Science. In between the hills and the marina, there’s downtown, a nice excursion if you’re in the mood to mingle with the college set. Here are some suggestions for soaking up this part of town with the kids in tow:

Getting there: The downtown Berkeley BART station emerges conveniently on Shattuck Avenue, between Allston Way and Addison Street. It’s easy to walk from there to any of the places mentioned below. Those driving in may park at the Center Street Garage or brave the meters.

What to see: Attractions include Habitot, a children’s museum for parents with infants and toddlers. Highlights of the museum include a water play area, pretend grocery store, complete with miniature shopping carts and cash registers, and a Wiggle Wall. You can see what shows are on at the Marsh Arts Center on Allston Way, where the likes of The World’s Funniest Bubble Show often takes place, the Berkeley Rep, which includes youth programming, or Freight & Salvage. In addition to shelves stocked with good books, the Central Library hosts numerous programs and events for little ones, including storytimes and magic shows, several times a week. And on Saturdays, Downtown Berkeley’s farmers market features yummy treats, live music and cooking demos. Finish off your downtown Berkeley visit at the Games of Berkeley to find card games or magic kits to continue the fun at home.

Possible lunch spots: For breakfast, there’s La Note, with creative pancakes and cozy outdoor seating, or quick and easy Crepes a-Go Go. Jupiter offers a back patio for little movers and a big selection of beer for their parents, with pizza on the menu. Arinell is the quicker alternative for pizza, with cheap and delicious New York-style slices to eat on the campus lawn. Mel’s Diner is another kid favorite and Au Coquelet has a good selection of comforting café food. Slow is another great option, serving healthy, gourmet food, with garden seating in the back.

Bonus: Free outdoor movies for kids will be playing four Saturdays this August in the Bank of America parking lot on Center Street; keep an eye on the website below for details.


— Renee Macalino Rutledge

First photo courtesy of Habitot; second photo courtesy of La Note’s Facebook.