Looking for the perfect East Bay spot to take the family for a summer weekend of tasty eats and fun for all ages? Look no further than Concord! Whether you zip on up 680 from the South Bay, or head across the bridge from SF, Concord is worth the drive. Want to make a weekend of your visit? We’ve got the perfect staycation spot for you. Read on for all our recs!
1. Splash Down at Hurricane Harbor
When the heat is on, the crowds flock to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor and it's easy to see why. With tube slides, a lazy river, a wave pool and extreme waterslides for the daredevils, there's something for the whole family here. Little ones will love hanging out at Splashwater Island where they can go down slides their own size and wait for the massive bucket to dump water on the people below.
The wave pool has free life jackets that are required for kids under a certain height. This is helpful as the pool can get crowded and overwhelming for little ones.
Tips for your Visit: Hurricane Harbor gets crowded, especially on summer weekends. Plan to arrive early or you'll be stuck in long lines to get into the parking lot. As soon as you arrive, stake out chairs and a spot for your crew as a home base. There are lockers for your valuables so pick a spot near those if you plan to need access to them throughout the day.
The ground gets hot as the day goes on. Consider water shoes for your little ones so they don't have to worry about where they left their sandals.
You aren't allowed to bring in coolers, food or drinks inside so the lines for concessions can be super long. Consider bringing lunch and leaving it in your car. Then head out there when you are hungry and get your hand stamped on the way out so you can reenter.
2. Find Your Thrills at Pixieland
This adorable amusement park in Concord is perfect for a morning adventure especially if you have little ones in your crew. Admission is free and you just pay when you want to purchase tickets for the rides. They have a kiddie coaster, frog hopper, carousel, mini cars, a train and more. Purchase snacks here and make a day of it!
3. Hang Out in Todos Santos Plaza
Todos Santos Plaza is the epicenter for downtown Concord and offers a great big grassy area for kids to run around as well as a climbing structure. Tuesdays bring a mid-day farmer's market (year round!) and in the summer you can find the Music and Market series on Thursday evenings. There's plenty of free parking around the plaza as well as two free city garages.
If the weather has you looking for some indoor fun, just a short walk away is Q-Zar Laser Tag and arcade. Nine bucks will get you one session of laser tag and a nice break for the parents!
Downtown Concord has loads of spots to grab a bite to eat and Skipolini's Pizza is particularly kid-friendly. They've got family-sized pizzas and outdoor seating for days when the sun is out. Pregnant mama alert: Skipolini's is home to the birth-inducing Prego Pizza and you can read all of this pizza's success stories here.
We love E.J. Phair Brewing Company for both adults and kids. The burger are legit, the ambiance is perfect for loud kids and they even have outdoor seating for those perfect summer days.
One of the cutest ice cream shops is right down the street—Loard's of Concord. Grab a scoop of mint chip or buy a box of Bottle Caps for later. They sell all sorts of soda pop and nostalgic candies as well as ice cream pints to go. Or get your scoop between two cookies at CREAM, right across the street from Skipolini's.
4. Visit The Veranda
This brand-new shopping center is the prime location for tons of kid fun in Concord. They have an awesome play structure where your kids will want to hang out located right next to the LUXE Dine-in IMAX Theater. There's also a faux lawn area here with games like cornhole and ping pong available for use (make a note: in the winter you can ice skate here!).
Be warned, if you take the kids to the playground at The Veranda, they will never want to leave. This vertical maze resembles lily pads and encourages climbing, teamwork and decision-making skills. Bonus: there's tons of parental seating surrounding it.
Puesto is the ideal destination for family dining at The Veranda. Specializing in tacos and other Mexican favorites, you'll definitely want to start you meal off with the chicharrónes and guacamole. The kids menu items come with a choice of tacos with a side of rice and beans, and a glass of agua fresca (we recommend mango-limón). Choose outdoor seating by the always-entertaining water feature or inside by the kitchen where kids can watch the chefs hard at work.
If you still have room after your meal at Puesto, head to PopBar for gelato on a stick. Choose your flavor from dozens of options, dunk it in some chocolate and top it with sprinkles, nuts and waffle cone.
Located right next to The Veranda is the Willows Shopping Center where you can find our favorite Neapolitan pizza joint, MidiCi. Kids will love sitting by the pizza oven to watch the action and parents will love that the food is cooked lightning fast for hungry eaters. You can walk over to The Veranda after your meal to let the kids run around and tire themselves out.
5. Picnic in Markham Nature Area
You'll feel like you've left the city when you head to Markham Nature Area. Here the kids will love looking for critters in the creek and hiking through the park. Download the map of the Markham Tree Walk for a self-guided tour of the 45 different species of trees there. How many can you find? There are 2 1/2 miles of trails here for exploring.
Nearby Parma Deli is definitely the spot to grab your picnic fixin's before a day at the park. The sandwich choices are plentiful and their size is massive, definitely worth sharing. Try the paninis if you'd like a melty option or the BLT that's loaded with bacon.
6. Climb Mount Diablo
For a view like no other, head over to Mount Diablo, just a short drive from Concord. Head up the mountain to the tippy top to check out the visitors center and learn all about the area's Native American history. The word on the street is that if you visit Mount Diablo the day after a winter rain storm you'll be able to see for hundreds of miles. Typical days offer a still-remarkable bird's-eye view above the clouds.
There are many hiking trails to choose from at Mount Diablo, many starting at the Summit Visitors Center. If you enter or exit the park at the South Entrance, be sure to stop and visit Rock City where you can climb through caves and check out Native American grinding rocks.
Worked up an appetite from all the hiking? The perfect spot to stop for a burger and milkshake is Mona's Burgers. Opt for the truffle burger topped with truffle goat cheese, mushrooms and arugula or the Hawaiian with grilled teriyaki pineapple, smoked ham and jack cheese. A basket of sweet potato fries is enough for the whole family to share and massive milkshakes are still massive even when you split them with a friend. Parents will love the friendly waitstaff and the chalk wall that keeps the kiddos entertained.
7. Make it a Staycation at the Hilton Concord
The Hilton Concord is definitely the spot to set up your home away from home in Concord. Massive rooms and suites means that you all have plenty of space to spread out. Bring you swimsuit to enjoy the pool and hot tub or spend your nights enjoying the fire pits in the courtyard.
Visit the in-hotel restaurant Plate and Vine for a meal or a glass of wine. Book your room to include breakfast and you can enjoy the buffet spread that has something for everyone.
The Hilton Concord offers free shuttle service across the street to The Veranda as well as to the BART station. To avoid the massive parking lot lines, take the shuttle to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, which is right around the corner.
For more information on what to do and where to eat when you visit Concord, check out the Visit Concord website.
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—story and photos by Kate Loweth
Editor’s note: this visit was paid for by Visit Concord but all opinions belong to the writer.