A Perfect Weekend in the East Bay
It’s not hard to have a fabulous weekend in the East Bay, what with the sunny weather, waterside activities, educational exhibits, amazing restaurants and miles of natural, green spaces. Did you know there are redwoods in Oakland? There are!
Make the most of it all with your family. Whether you’re just visiting the area or having a little staycation, there’s plenty to keep everyone busy from morning ‘til night.
Although it’s Saturday morning and sleeping in sounds great, the kids are already up and it’s time to get moving. If everyone’s starving, head to Bay Area staple Arizmendi Bakery (opens at 7 a.m.) for morning pastries and breads. The scones are usually crowd pleasers and, if they’re available, try the Chocolate Things. Grab pizza if you end up here closer to lunch time.
This bakery has multiple locations but if you visit the one at 3265 Lakeshore Ave. in Oakland, it’s an easy hop over to Lake Merritt. Relax on the grass with your baked goodies and avoid the cranky geese. Then take a stroll around the lake with an obligatory stop at the large playground.
Speaking of playgrounds, there are other good choices around if you decide to leave the lake: Oakland’s Frog Park (5500 Claremont Ave.) and Alameda’s Washington Park (740 Central Ave.) are two favorites.
But why leave the lakeside if you don’t have to? It’s easy to play the day away with a bird sanctuary, The Gardens at Lake Merritt and the Junior Center of Art and Science (open Sat. 10am-3pm) to explore. Families with younger children also flock to the famed Children’s Fairyland (699 Bellevue Ave.), a storybook-themed amusement park with gentle rides, farm animals, whimsical play areas and puppet shows.
Hungry for lunch? Or maybe you’ve spent the whole day at the lake and it’s time for dinner. Stick around: The Lake Chalet (1520 Lakeside Drive) is a renovated boathouse offering weekend brunch, lunch and dinner with fun drinks for grownups and terrific views from the back patio.
Jack London Square (Broadway and Embarcadero, Oakland) is another waterfront option filled with entertainment for all ages. In addition to restaurants and shops, vendors and food trucks scatter the area for various weekend events such as Second Saturday and the Sunday Farmers Market.
And you might stay all evening once you get to Plank. Sure, it’s a bowling alley, but it’s also a beer garden and sports bar with food, bocce ball, an arcade and a tiny outdoor playground. Stay as late as you like; the place doesn’t close until midnight.
Now it’s morning again and you’ve gotten a late start. Skip the traditional eggs and mimosa Sunday brunch and head to dim sum. East Bay locals love Alameda’s East Ocean Seafood Restaurant (1713 Webster), so try to get there around its 10 a.m. opening time to miss the crowds gathering outside into the afternoon. The family will delight in the passing carts filled with dumplings, sweets and other tasty bits.
Head back into Oakland for a hike in the redwoods. A stroll along the trails at Redwood Regional Park (7867 Redwood Road) will make you forget you’re in a city and feel like you are camping in the forest.
For an indoor activity, visit the nearby Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd.) for cool interactive exhibits, activities and a planetarium.
And, of course, there’s always the Oakland Zoo (9777 Golf Links Road), which not only has more than 700 animals and a new gondola ride but also hosts small rides and a train next door at Adventure Landing. One more iconic Oakland can’t-miss-spot: Fentons Creamery (4226 Piedmont Ave.) for ice cream and maybe lunch or dinner.
There’s plenty to do beyond Oakland. Berkeley and Orinda’s Tilden Park (2501 Grizzly Peak Blvd.) is a great place to spend the afternoon. Take a stroll on the trails to appreciate this park’s flora, fauna and vista views. Spot native plants in the botanic garden and feed the friendly animals at Little Farm. Round out the day with a ride on the vintage carousel.
If you still have energy for an evening activity and want to explore more of the East Bay, see what’s playing at Concord’s West-Wind Drive-In Theatre (1611 Solano Way). The whole family can see a movie without even getting out of the car.
Dhyana Levey is the Amusements Columnist and East Bay calendar editor at Bay Area Parent.