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Theaters across the Bay Area are welcoming back their audiences with the return of live entertainment this holiday season. Take the kids to The Nutcracker, a Tony Award-winning adaptation of A Christmas Carol or a magical Cirque production. If you’re not ready for in-person events, cozy up at home for the Dog Man musical. There’s something for everyone, so check out our guide and enjoy the show!

photo: SFGMC

San Francisco

Note: All indoor events in San Francisco are currently subject to the city’s COVID-19 safety rules. All patrons over the age of 12 must produce proof of vaccination status and a matching photo ID. Children under 12 must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours of the start time of the performance. A PCR or rapid antigen test is acceptable. Everyone will need to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Holigays are Here…Again

Back on stage for this holiday tradition for the first time since 2019, the world-famous San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus will be belting out favourites including “Little Drummer Boy” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain”. Dec 24, tickets start from $35.

Castro Theater
429 Castro St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: cityboxoffice.com

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker

Celebrate the magic of the season with the triumphant return of The San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker, back for performances throughout December. Set at a Christmas Eve party right here in the city, the two-hour show is the perfect excuse to get dressed up and enjoy a festive family night out. Runtime: two hours including 20 minute intermission. Tickets start from $19. Dec. 12, 14-19, 21-24, 26-30.

 The War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave. (at Grove)
San Francisco, CA
Online: sfballet.org

ODC Dance’s The Velveteen Rabbit

Based on the classic children’s tale, The Velveteen Rabbit is back on stage for its 35th anniversary. Families can attend in-person or on-demand—all in-person tickets include on-demand access. Beautiful storytelling, whimsical costumes and genuine holiday cheer—all bring the story of a well-worn nursery rabbit to life. Runtime: 90 minutes with intermission. Tickets: $25-100. Dec. 4-5 and 11-12

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
700 Howard St. (at Third)
San Francisco, CA
Online: odcdance.org

Smuin's The Christmas Ballet

Set to songs of the season, everyone will be dancing to Smuin’s playful performance with vignettes ranging from ballet and tap to swing and jazz, inspired by holiday celebrations around the world. Runtime: two hours. $36 and up. Nov. 19-20, Walnut Creek. Dec. 2-5, Mountain View. Dec. 10-11Carmel-by-the-Sea. Dec. 16-26, San Francisco.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: smuinballet.org

Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets

For those with a short attention span, Foehringer's Dance Project|SF performs a Nutcracker choreographed with the kids in mind. It's just 50 minutes and recommended for anyone over age two. Live music and a few deviations from the classic will keep the whole family entertained. Weekends, Dec. 4-19. Tickets: $22.50-$44.50.

Cowell Theater
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA
Online: nutcrackersweets.org

A Christmas Carol

The classic Christmas tale gets the Broadway treatment in this multi-Tony Award winning show. Featuring 12 traditional Christmas carols and dazzling performances, this play is ideal for a multi-generation outing. Under fives are not allowed. Runtime: two hours, 15 minutes, including one intermission. Nov. 26-Dec. 26, tickets from $76.

1 Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: broadwaysf.com

The Magic Lamp 

An all-star team of theater icons is bringing panto to San Francisco this holiday season. Fun for the whole family, The Magic Lamp turns the classic children’s tale of Aladdin on its head with magnificent costumes, musical parodies, dance, magic, and over-the-top silliness. Select dates Dec. 1-31, tickets from $10.

Presidio Theater
99 Moraga Ave, San Francisco, CA 
Online: pesidiotheatre.org

photo: John Hefti

East Bay

Oakland Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker

COVID-19 note: The organizer is requiring proof of vaccination for this event.

One girl’s enchanted evening comes to life in contemporary choreographer Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker. Runtime: approximately two hours including intermission.  Dec. 18-19. $24 and up. 

Paramount Theatre
2025 Broadway
Oakland, CA
Onlineoaklandballet.org

Christmas in My Hometown

Back for its 16th year running, Vacaville Performing Arts Theater invites you to bring the whole family to their variety show, full of holiday cheer and tradition. The show puts a spotlight on Vacaville talent and is a great way to kick off the holiday season. Nov. 27, $18

Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre
Vacaville, CA
Online: vpat.com

Diablo Ballet's The Nutcracker Suite

Celebrate our return to the Lesher Center for the Arts this November with an expanded version of Julia Adam’s smash holiday hit, The Nutcracker Suite! All ticket holders are invited to a complimentary coffee reception with the Artistic team and dancers at Massimo Ristorante immediately following the Friday and Saturday evening performances. Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 is required for all guests age 12 and over, and face coverings are required to be worn by all guests age two and over when visiting the Lesher Center for the Arts. Nov. 12 -13

Lesher Center for the Arts
601 Civic Dr, Walnut Creek
Online: diabloballet.org

Valley Dance Theater's Nutcracker
Experience the magic of the Nutcracker—this annual Tri-Valley holiday event continues to enchant audiences of all ages, bringing Tchaikovsky’s well-known music and ballet to life with all of its elegance and beauty. Thrill to a stage filled with one magical Nutcracker, a swirl of lovely snowflakes, adorable mice, dancing soldiers and a glittering sugar plum fairy.
Dec. 11-2, 17-19

Bankhead Theater
2400 First Street, Livermore

Online: livermorearts.org

photo: Matt Bishop

Peninsula

A Magical Cirque Christmas

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

Experience magic and extraordinary acrobatic performances set to toe-tapping holiday music at this fun performance. Recommended for children eight and older. Run time: two hours, with an intermission. Dec. 30, tickets from $67.

255 S. Almaden Blvd.
San Jose, CA
Online: broadwaysanjose.com

New Ballet’s The San Jose Nutcracker

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

New Ballet is performing the holiday classic with a twist, incorporating familiar Santa Clara landmarks into their version of the Nutcracker. Rising star Rebecca Nugent steps into the shoes of Clara for the first time this year. Rebecca’s story is remarkable—she spent her childhood in an Ethiopian orphanage, before being adopted and brought to the U.S., where she began ballet lessons at the relatively late age of eight. After being spotted at class by New Ballet’s artistic director, Rebecca was offered a position, and has quickly risen to become the star of the show! Dec. 18-22. $25 and up.

California Theatre
345 S. First St.
San Jose, CA
Online: newballet.com

New Ballet’s My Very First Nutcracker

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

My Very First Nutcracker is a special one-hour classical ballet presentation suitable for the youngest audiences that features the first act of The San Jose Nutcracker, including a festive holiday party hosted by young Clara, her brother Fritz and their family in San Jose at the turn of the last century. Dec. 18-22. $17 and up. 

California Theatre
345 S. First St.
San Jose, CA
Online: newballet.com

Bayer Ballet Company's Snow Queen 

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

When the Snow Queen's spell captures a young boy, his sister sets out on a quest to save him. A journey filled with whimsy and intrigue, friend and foe, this beautiful original youth ballet takes you on a magical journey where true love and enduring friendship overcome evil. No kids under age three allowed. Runtime: Approximately 2.5 hours with one 20-minute intermission. Dec. 18-19. $38 and up.

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St.
Mountain View, CA
Online: bayerballetacademy.com

Theatrework’s Silicon Valley’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up, non-vaccinated under 12s must present a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours. All audience members must wear a mask. Under fives are not permitted.

Enjoy the iconic tale of love, loss and redemption in small town America with this creative reimagining of the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life as a 1940s radio play. Five actors take on all the roles, plus sound effects. It’s a heartwarming holiday favorite told in a fresh and imaginative way. Dec. 1-26. $30 and up.

Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Rd.
Palo Alto, CA
Online: theatreworks.org

Gingerbread Man
Presented by Palo Alto's Children Theater, this short and sweet (35 min long) story-teller show is ideal for the littlest of theater goers (suggested ages two to six). Getting up and dancing to get wiggles out is encouraged which makes it the perfect introduction to theater for littles. Dec. 18 & 19.

1305 Middlefield Rd
Palo Alto, CA
Event info 

photo: Luther Burbank Center

North Bay

Virtual Performance of Dog Man: The Musical

Watch this free performance of Dog Man: The Musical from the comfort of your own living room. Dav Pilkey’s beloved Dog Man is brought to the stage with this energetic and fun performance for the whole family. Just register for your ticket with the Luther Burbank Theater for the Performing Arts and enjoy the show. Nov. 21-22, free. Run time: one hour.

Online: lutherburbankcenter.org

Marin Ballet’s Nutcracker

The Marin Ballet’s huge cast of over 200 dancers electrifies the stage in this lavish performance of a classic holiday tale. Dec. 11-12. $25 youth/seniors, $45/adults.

Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA
Online: marinballet.org

Broadway Holiday Spectacular

Experience an all-new holiday show in 2021 from Transcendence Theatre Company. This year, the Broadway Holiday Spectacular will be live on stage at Belos Cavalos, an enchanting equestrian estate in Kenwood. At this magnificent temperature-controlled location ‘under the big top,’ Broadway performers will fill the season with music, dancing, and holiday cheer in a show suitable for all ages. Dec. 3-12

Belos Cavalos
687 Campagna Ln
Kenwood, CA
Online: BroadwayHolidayShow.com

Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley

Austen (Or Bridgerton) fans will love the final installment of the Christmas at Pemberley Trilogy. The plays follow the younger sister of Mr. Darcy, the hero of Pride and Prejudice, as she navigates love under the watchful eye of her older brother. Nov. 18-Dec.19, tickets starting at $50.

Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Ave.
Mill Valley, CA
Online: marintheater.org

Cinderella and The Magic Flute at the Lark Theater
The Lark Theater presents two exciting performances from its Live from the Met in HD series: a recorded broadcast of magical children’s opera The Magic Flute and both live and recorded performances of the classic storybook, Cinderella. Both are holiday classics to treat your theater-loving family to! Dec. 11, 15; Jan. 1 & 5, $12-$30.

The Lark Theater
549 Magnolia Ave,
Larkspur, CA
More info for The Magic Flute and Cinderella

—Sarah McDonald, Kate Loweth, Mae Respicio & Erin Feher

featured photo by Keith Sutter

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Not too hot, not too cold: Autumn is the Goldilocks season in the Bay Area and right now is the best time for a family hike. Take your family on a local adventure this weekend to discover an ancient redwood grove, seek out fall colors and—if you dare—hunt for tarantulas. Whatever your level of enthusiasm for nature, we’ve got you covered. Happy trails!

photo: NPS

San Francisco

Batteries to Bluffs Trail
Locals know the best views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge can be found along this trail in the Presidio. Less than a mile long but packed full of scenic views and history, this easy-going hike is ideal for little legs. Don’t miss the concrete ruins of Sutro Baths, which offer a glimpse into San Francisco’s storied past.

The Presidio, San Francisco
Find directions and trail maps at presidio.gov
Onlinepresidio.gov

Lobos Creek Trail
Who says you can’t go hiking in an urban jungle like San Francisco? Take your little ones out to the Lobos Creek Trail and you’ll be surprised. This half-mile boardwalk is a great mini-hike with the half pints. Monterey pines, monkeyflowers, scattered dunes and a forest of cypress trees make this restored Presidio trail enjoyable during all seasons.

The Presidio, San Francisco
Find directions and trail maps at presidio.gov
Onlinepresidio.gov

Philosopher’s Way Trail
This 2.7-mile trek in San Francisco’s second biggest park has 14 “musing stations” with quotes to make you think while you walk. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the park’s reservoir in the northwest section and McNab Lake near the Sutter Playground. McLaren Park offers an exciting alternative to its busy counterpart, Golden Gate Park.

McLaren Park
1229 Mansell St., San Francisco, CA
Online: sfparkrec.org

photo: California State Parks

East Bay

Mitchell Canyon
Take the kids out to see the big spiders. In the fall, Mount Diablo is one of the top places to catch the tarantulas out and about during their mating season. Mitchell Canyon in Mount Diablo offers an easy hike from the staging area to Deer Flat and back. In the spring, this hike is popular for the wildflowers, and the autumn season is a great time to appreciate the oak savanna woodland and pine groves.

Mount Diablo State Park
Mitchell Canyon Rd., Clayton
Online: parks.ca.gov

Ardenwood Historic Farm
Step back in time to explore Ardenwood’s historic buildings and farming equipment before heading off on a trail through leafy orchards. This park is open year round and volunteers regularly offer activities demonstrating life on a still-operational 1890s farm. From April to mid-November on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, you can also ride a train through the park.

34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
Online: ebparks.org

Sycamore Grove
Livermore’s Sycamore Grove is home to one of the largest sycamore groves in the state. The park makes for a leisurely autumn walk on flat terrain. Walk 2.5 miles from the main entrance to Veteran’s Park, an open space park on the other end where the little ones can run loose. And keep your little hikers on the lookout for some of the critters that call Sycamore Grove their home. From frogs and dragonflies to ducks and muskrats.

1051 Wetmore Rd., Livermore
Online: larpd.org

Tilden Regional Park
Hiking is only part of what this awesome park has to offer. It also boasts pony rides, steam trains, a farm and a swimming area at Lake Anza (currently closed due to an algae bloom). And did we mention this park also has a merry-go-round? Tilden Park has it all and will surely be a hit with your little ones. Plus, most of the hiking trails near the park are short and flat, perfect for little legs and feet.

Canon Dr., Berkeley
Online: ebparks.org

Peninsula/South Bay

Sugarloaf Mountain
San Mateo's Sugarloaf Mountain offers you and your little ones a chance to hike a bunch of different trails in one area without having to worry about choosing trails based on length. Each trail averages between a mile to three miles and are marked for your hiking convenience. This beautiful open-space connects San Mateo and Belmont with lush green trees, biking trails and wildlife. Note: Laurelwood Park connects to Sugarloaf Mountain so you can treat your little ones to slides and swings before or after exploring Sugarloaf Mountain.

3471 Glendora Dr., San Mateo
Online: sanmateocity.gov

Waterdog Lake Park
This hidden gem is nestled between homes and condos in the hills of Belmont. Waterdog Lake Park provides easy terrain for your little hiking aficionados. One of the many perks of hiking Waterdog Lake Park are the views from the top of the canyon. On a clear autumn day you can take in an amazing view of the bay, see the San Mateo Bridge and see the rising hilltops that run through Hayward. The trails at Waterdog Lake reach a maximum of two miles.

2400 Lyall Way, Belmont
Online: belmont.gov

Castle Rock State Park
Majestic coast redwoods, lush Douglas-firs, and wild forests of madrone make the trails at this South Bay park come alive with beautiful nooks and crannies, including those filled with the intricate sandstone rock formations that inspired the park’s name. Holes in the rocks are big enough for the kids to climb through. This awe-inspiring destination will keep you and your little hikers entertained with over 32 miles of hiking and bicycle trails.

Castle Rock State Park, Highway 35
Online: parks.ca.gov

Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve
This preserve is often crowded on the weekends, busy with runners along the paved paths and hikers traversing along the trails. After a long COVID closure, Deer Hollow Farm has reopened to the public. It’s a mile from the parking lot and is a great spot to stop and explore. Check out the animals, vegetable garden, and the big red barn. When you get to the farm, have a snack and peek around. Most of the lower trails in the park all lead to central locations, so little hikers and their parents are free to explore without getting lost or tired.

Cristo Rey Dr., Cupertino
Online: openspace.org

Henry W. Coe State Park
Mild weather and thin crowds attract autumn hikers to the deep canyons and tall ridges of Henry Coe State Park. While the trails here are known for being steep, there are some easy walks as well including the one-mile Ponderosa Trail by the Coe Monument. October is a great time to see the colors change on the big leaf maples and California buckeye trees here.

East Dunne Ave., Morgan Hill
Online: parks.ca.gov

Marin

Muir Woods
The redwoods protected in this National Monument are some of the oldest in the Bay Area. A study in 2014 found the largest coastal redwood in this grove to be 777 years old—trees here were protected from logging by the burgeoning conservationist movement that led to the National Park System. The boardwalk trail through these beautiful giants is easy to navigate with a stroller and ideal for toddlers. Reservations are required, due to the small car park, so be sure to book ahead.

Muir Woods, Mill Valley
Online: nps.gov

Tomales Point
The grazing tule elk and refreshing sea breeze give autumn a new meaning at this Point Reyes destination. Quiet most of the year, Tomales Point is popular with hikers in the fall, when the weather is mild and the elk are out in droves amid clusters of cypress trees. Those giant antlers alone will fascinate the kiddos. One of the coolest parts to Tomales Point, all the hiking trails are perfect for our mini backpackers. Trails range anywhere from half a mile to 2 miles long.

Pierce Point Rd., Inverness
Online: nps.gov

King Mountain Loop Trail
Loop nearly two miles around the crown of King Mountain at this easy-as-pie excursion. Native plants and quiet oak-bay forests make this trail an autumn gem. This hiking trail will have you and the little ones in awe with the views and quiet sounds of nature. It's the perfect hiking destination to disconnect and explore the great outdoors.

Ridgecrest Rd., Larkspur
Online: marincountyparks.org

Note: Be on the lookout for poison oak, so keep the little ones from running into the trails before you get a chance to make a clean sweep of the area.

—Sarah McDonald & Renee Macalino Rutledge

featured photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash

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Taste the World at These Bay Area Food Halls

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Are you missing international travel? Skip the plane ride and take a trip to a Bay Area food hall to experience the tastiest dishes from around the world! With a wide range of options (and some from award-winning chefs), you can find something for everyone and relax in these casual, family-friendly spaces. Bring the kids and your appetite to one of these brand new locations or a re-opened favorite for some delicious fun this fall!

photo: Ferry Building

San Francisco

Ferry Building Marketplace
Located at the end of Market Street, the Ferry Building is not just an elegant, iconic San Francisco landmark; it’s also a showcase for the best food and drink in the Bay Area. General manager, Jane Connors, says there is something for everyone. “The Ferry Building feels like a Main Street and it harkens to families and visitors having this beautiful opportunity to explore and discover...it’s really the best of the Bay.”

On Fridays, the marketplace hosts Ferry Fridays so be sure to grab a bite to eat or a glass of wine and enjoy live music on the plaza with sweeping views of the Bay. Outdoor dining is available both on the patio out front and at the back of the plaza.

One Ferry Building, San Francisco
Online: ferrybuildingmarketplace.com

La Cocina Municipal Marketplace
Located in the Tenderloin neighborhood, La Cocina Municipal Marketplace represents everything we love most about San Francisco: diversity, inclusivity and delicious food from around the world. Launched in April 2021, La Cocina is the nation's first women-led food hall with its restaurants owned completely by women-of-color immigrants. Fluid Cooperative Cafe serves up a jolt of caffeine and is led by three trans activists who are aiming to provide an "inclusive, welcoming, and nurturing space for trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming youth and community members."

With Senegalese, Mexican, Salvadoran, Algerian and Californian Creole all under one roof, it’s a great way to encourage kids to try out new foods.

La Cocina Municipal Marketplace
101 Hyde Street, San Francisco
Online: lacocinamarketplace.com

photo: Public Market Emeryville

East Bay

Public Market Emeryville

Grab a bite to eat at one of the Bay Area’s oldest food halls, The Emeryville Public Market. Outdoor dining has been expanded on the sunny patio and takeout is also available from the 20 vendors operating from the space, which they share with other retailers, including a barbershop. During the pandemic, Public Market partnered with another local company, Pixar, to current movies on Saturdays in Christie Park, the fun ocean-themed playground right across the street. Raya and the Dragon will be shown on September 24. 

Public Market Emeryville
5959 Shellmound St, Emeryville
Online: publicmarketemeryville.com

Oakland Food Hall
Does family take-out night lead to arguments over what to eat? Check out Oakland Food Hall, a new “ghost kitchen” concept for the East Bay. Order online for pick-up or delivery from 30 different restaurants in one building. By offering take-out only, the restaurants save money on staff costs and you get an incredible range of options to choose from. Whether you are in the mood for Mediterranean, Jamaican, Indian or BBQ, or prefer Vegan or gluten-free, there is sure to be something that tickles your taste buds. 

Oakland Food Hall
2353 East 12th Street, Oakland
Online: oaklandfoodhall.com

photo: State Street

Peninsula/South Bay

State Street Market
Los Altos is set to become every foodie's dream come true with the Bay Area’s newest food hall, the 20,000 square foot State Street Market. Opening on September 7th, an impressive slate of award-winning star chefs have been confirmed from Traci Des Jardins' (formerly of Jardiniere in San Francisco) Cal-Mexican restaurant El Alto, to Cal-Indian restaurant Little Blue Door by Srijith Gopinathan of Michelin-starred Taj Campton and Ettan, to Korean-Taiwanese counter Bao Bei from the Kims, formerly of Michelin-starred Maum in Palo Alto

Impervious to star power, kids will be excited to see local favorite Tin Pot Creamery slinging their delightful ice cream in the new space and cheese-lovers should head to Marin’s famous Cowgirl Creamery.

State Street Market
170 State Street, Los Altos
Online: statestreetmarket.com

San Pedro Square Market
Built around one of California’s oldest Spanish structures, the Peralta Adobe, San Pedro Square Market is the heart of San Jose’s downtown. Enjoy a coffee from Urban Ritual or lunch from local’s favorite Anchors Fish and Chips, then take a tour of the 1797 Adobe for a glimpse into San Jose’s Spanish past. With live music six nights a week, a cocktail on the plaza is ideal for date night then pick from Peruvian to sushi to tacos—it's all here!

San Pedro Square Market
87 N. San Pedro St, San Jose
Online: sanpedrosquaremarket.com

SoFA Market

SoFA is San Jose’s newest food hall, located in the city’s South First Arts (SoFA) district. Featured eateries include Hawaiian Poke Bowl, fast-casual Vietnamese restaurant Vietnoms, sushi specialist Umi Hand Roll and several more. The up-and-coming district is springing back to life with art walks, markets and street festivals, so keep an eye on our What to do this Weekend page for upcoming events.

SoFA Market
387 South 1st St, San Jose
Online: www.sofamarketsj.com

—Sarah McDonald

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Kids love museums but curious hands and irreplaceable art do not always mix well. This summer, take your budding Picassos to the Asian Art Museum’s newest exhibit, teamLab: Continuity, an interactive digital art experience the whole family will love. Immersive art is all the rage these days so read on to find out why and how kids blend in perfectly!

photo: Asian Art Museum

TeamLab: Continuity

Located in San Francisco’s Civic Center, The Asian Art Museum recently reopened after an extensive remodel and COVID-19 hiatus. Continuity is located in the brand new Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Pavilion, which at 8,500 square feet is the city’s largest art exhibition space.

My sidekicks, ages five and seven, were initially wary of the exhibit. Like most kids their age, they like to run around and touch things but know from previous experience this leads to frantic shushing in art galleries. However, the enthusiastic docents pointed out all the exhibit's cool features and encouraged the kids for some hands-on action. Before long, my kids were touching, giggling and dancing from room to room. Images of the natural world are projected onto the floor, ceilings and walls and change constantly as you walk which gives the feeling of being truly immersed in a painting.

photo: TeamLab

Multiple senses are involved in this truly interactive exhibit as a swipe near the wall changes the display of colorful cherry blossoms while a touch of the hand creates a new cloud of butterflies. Music, dancing light and even smell adds to the experience with the scent of rose petals creating a spa-like and relaxing environment. In one particular room, the creators presented an exciting vibe with streams of light zooming around the room that slightly disoriented my sense of balance. The upbeat tempo of the music accompanied by the flashing lights caused my kids to immediately launch into their own private dance party. 

photo: Sarah McDonald

Sketch Ocean

Although Continuity is the main draw, don’t miss Sketch Ocean, a smaller exhibit located near the museum’s entrance. This is another interactive art experience from teamLab, where colorful sea creatures created by visitors are projected onto the walls.

Pick a template, color, scan and watch as your drawing bursts into life on the wall and swims away to join other creations. The movement of the artworks are quite life-like and the result mimics a real aquarium. Look out for fish who have swum all the way from Tokyo, where teamLab has a sister exhibit.

Nosh 

Creating great art is hungry work, so make a stop at the museum’s cafe, Sunday at the Museum, for a Japanese-inspired sandwich (think Katsu chicken on milk bread with slaw!) or a house-made chocolate chip cookie. The cafe also serves boba tea from the Boba Guys and sparkling fruit drinks.

If you are looking for a fun way to fire up your kids’ imagination and enjoy modern art together minus the stress of keeping them quiet in an adult space, be sure to catch this exhibit while it is in town! 

TeamLab: Continuity and Sketch Ocean

July 23 to February 2022
Tickets: $20/adults weekdays, $25 weekends, free for children under 12
200 Larkin Street, San Francisco
Online: asianart.org

—Sarah McDonald

featured photo: Asian Art Museum

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When temperatures in the Bay soar, head for the cool alpine waters of Lake Tahoe. From kayaking in a transparent canoe to gliding up a mountain in a gondola, Lake Tahoe has a ton of truly unique activities for every family. Read on for our guide to the best of the lake!

Editor’s note: We’re making every effort to provide you with the most up-to-date information and doing our best to keep all of our stories and calendar current. Stay safe! 

photo: Nevada Department of Transportation

What's Happening on Tahoe's North Shore

Tahoe East Shore Trail in Incline Village
In the summer, parking at Tahoe’s most popular spots becomes practically impossible. Avoid the insanity by leaving your car at the hotel, rent bicycles and hit the trail! Tahoe’s East Shore Trail, a three-mile path between southern Incline Village and Sand Harbor State Park, is open to non-motorized bicycle and foot traffic. The path is a major step in a future multi-use trail circling Lake Tahoe to connect communities, parks, beaches, businesses and other destinations. The trail is aimed at enhancing safety and mobility by separating vehicle and foot traffic. 

Approximately 90 new parking spots with direct access to the path are available at three new parking lots located alongside State Route 28 in Incline Village near Ponderosa Ranch Road. 

Summer Events on Lake Tahoe
As California opens back up, summer events are returning to the lake. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is back with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at Sand Harbor, July 17 to August 22. Catch Grammy-winning Celtic harpist Ann Roos at Music in the Castle (reservations required and limited), July 24 at Vikingsholm Castle. Or check out the Brews Jazz & Funk Fest, August 14-15 at Squaw Valley, where you can sample beers from 15 different breweries while watching live music. Tickets must be purchased in advance but children under 12 are free.

Via Ferrata in Squaw Valley
Tahoe's Via Ferrata in Squaw Valley is where climbers ascend the towering granite cliff and enjoy the spectacular view of the valley far below. The Via Ferrata offers a unique way to explore a part of Squaw Valley rarely visited by vacationers. A Via Ferrata, which means “Iron Road” in Italian, is a protected hiking and climbing experience.

Visitors have the option to purchase group or private tours that each last 2.5, 4 or 7 hours. Participants will take routes that include cable bridges, metal rungs to aid in climbing and more traditional rock scrambling sections. Every participant will be guided by professionally-trained mountain guides and will be secured to the rock using permanent steel anchors and cables. This activity is limited to ages 10 and up and we know the double-digit kids are going to LOVE it.

photo: Go Tahoe North

Other Favorite North Shore Activities

Squaw Valley Adventure Center
Back down at the base of the mountain Squaw Valley Adventure Center in the village is open for summer with some great kid-friendly entertainment. A climbing wall, ropes course, mini golf or let the little ones jump out the wiggles at the Sky Jump Bungee trampoline. Tots over 20 pounds can bounce and flip to a happy exhaustion for $12.

High Camp Fun
Take a ride on the aerial tram to the top of High Camp where you will find many activities to choose from. Swing and slide at the playground, take a dip at Squaw Valley’s Swimming Lagoon & Spa or even go for a spin around the roller rink. The free-form lagoon is heated to a comfortable 102 degrees and is surrounded by expansive decks, plenty of seating and a casual umbrella bar offering drinks and snacks. The club provides lockers as well as showers and changing rooms.

Editor’s note: the swimming lagoon and hot tub are currently closed for the 2021 season due to COVID-19.

Squaw Kids Adventure Camp
If you are looking for a camp experience while visiting Tahoe (and a kid-free day for yourself), check out the Squaw Kids Adventure Camp. Kids will swim, ride the tram, hike, bike, study navigation, engineer, cook, do yoga and many other fun activities. It’s offered Friday-Monday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. for kids between the ages of 5-13. The cost is $150/child, per day and includes a tram ticket and lunch! Save $20 when you book two days in advance and $200 if you book five sessions.

Paddle Out
The slopes are to winter what the lake is to summer. Calm, clear waters make for an unforgettable kayaking or stand up paddle board trip, and the folks at the Tahoe Adventure Company can set you up with everything you need. There are options for hourly rentals or guided tours from their launch point on the North Shore, and their skilled staff are there to assist with any skill or age level—they've suited up toddlers for rides on both kayaks and paddle boards!

Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park
Challenge yourself with an aerial adventure in the canopy at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park. Climb, swing and zip line through Tahoe’s forest on this two-hour course. There are three locations: Squaw Valley, Tahoe Vista and Tahoe City. Kids as young as five years old can participate in the beginners courses and family members who do not want to join in can enjoy the trails below. Courses start from $40.

photo: Resort at Squaw Creek, A Destination Hotel

Where to Stay on the North Shore

The Resort at Squaw Creek
Did someone say water slide? Squaw Creek's 120-foot long soaker dumps riders into a pool kept at a toasty 84 degrees year round. Their Mountain Buddies program keeps the kids moving (and off your hands) with full or half day options throughout the summer, and the rooms are comfy and spacious, and—listen up, hungry families—they have kitchens, complete with small stove, a pull-out drawer dishwasher, a microwave, a toaster, a refrigerator, a coffee maker and all of the pots, pans and essentials. Set your family up for the ultimate zen experience when you book a Chillax Together spa session where everyone age six and up gets to enjoy a 25-minute spa experience.

400 Squaw Creek Rd.
Olympic Valley, CA
530-583-6300
Onlinedestinationhotels.com

The Ritz-Carlton
In true Ritz style, the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe resort covers all the bases and makes any stay extra special. Last summer they added on the Lake Club which offers direct access to Lake Tahoe via a private boat pier, lake activities like kayaking, dining options and an outdoor fire pit to sit and enjoy the lake views.

Their indoor campout package takes glamping to the next level: Compact tents are set up in room and stocked with a down cushion, pillows, blankets, a lantern, teddy bear and even a s'mores set. Want an expert to handle your sweet treats? In the late afternoon, a s'mores-ologist mans the outdoor fire pit, melting up gooey gourmet creations for everyone who stops by. The Ritz Kids Summer program offers daily, summer-camp like activities, from hikes to crafts to lawn games. The heated pool and adjoining outdoor barbecue restaurant, The Backyard, is where you should plant yourselves on Friday nights, when early evening family concerts go down (not to mention happy hour). The Ritz is situated at Northstar, so your adventure can start as soon as you step out of the room (and be sure to come back in winter for ski-in, ski-out access).

13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Ct.
Truckee, CA
Onlineritzcarlton.com

photo: Augustine Agency

Where to Eat on the North Shore

With all the swimming, biking, boating and hiking you've got to fuel up! Grab a bite to eat at The Fireside Pizza Company which offers great family dining with a menu that goes beyond just pizza. This summer there's live music most weekends on the patio.

If you're looking for a lakefront kid-friendly dining experience, a quick trip into Tahoe City offers Jake's on the Lake and Sunnyside, both with decent kids' menus, plenty of people watching and stunning views to keep the little ones occupied.

For a fresh, regularly changing menu, try Spoon. Book ahead to save a spot at one of the outdoor tables under the pines and leave room for dessert! Although Spoon does not offer a children’s menu, they’re happy to bring out a starter or side instead. Just try not to get food envy if you order the Mac n’ Cheese for the kids and not yourself.

Also in Tahoe City, Rosie's Cafe is a popular family breakfast spot. If the bicycles hanging from the ceiling don't keep your kids entertained, the short stack and cinnamon french toast will (served until 2:30 pm daily).

If you're staying at (or swinging by) the Ritz Carlton, Manzanita has a gorgeous outdoor patio, a thoughtful kids menu—complete with crayons, of course—and lots of room for the kids to explore and climb within view of your table. Backyard Bar & BBQ is poolside, and most items are cooked over an open flame.

For more information on what to do and where to stay when you visit the North Shore, visit the North Lake Tahoe website

photo: Jamie Kingham / Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

What's Happening on Tahoe's South Shore

There are loads of new on-the-water activities for this summer on Tahoe's South Shore. From the marina at Camp Richardson, take a three-hour tour that includes a boat ride and tour of the historic Vikingsholm Castle. Cost: $99/adults. $69/kids 12 and under. 

See the lake like you never have before with Clearly Tahoe. Their tours in transparent kayaks offer unobstructed views into Tahoe’s deep blue depths. Choose from a day tour that ranges from 1.5- 4 hours, night tour with LED lights or eco-discovery tour in search of local wildlife. Kids age 5 and up are welcome on Clearly Tahoe's kayak tours and tours are $99/person and up depending on selection. 

Tour Emerald Bay or head out on a happy hour cruise on the Tahoe Serenity. Enjoy a guided tour aboard the 63-foot luxury yacht and take in the gorgeous sights from the water. Both cruises are good for all ages. Pro-tip: With Round Hill Pines located on the Lake’s southeast shore, the happy hour cruise offers the perfect advantage to catch a Tahoe sunset.

Snorkel, Dive or Boat over Shipwrecks in Emerald Bay
Underwater adventurers will be stoked to discover Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail, an underwater exploration of shipwrecks scattered across the bottom of Emerald Bay. Scuba divers can descend to these pristinely preserved watercraft, each with its own unique history and explore the scuttled vessels in one of the most majestic settings in the nation. Scattered over four dive sites, the sunken vessels include a wooden barge used to haul cordwood and ferry cars across the lake and a 1915 boat owned by the proprietor of the now-defunct Emerald Bay Resort.

The shipwreck dives require Scuba experience and a tolerance for cold water, but the adventure represents a truly unique way to experience Tahoe’s beauty, history and lake environment. Snorkelers and boaters may be able to view some of the shallower shipwrecks when the conditions are favorable. 

Kayak to a Teahouse
Unfortunately, no tea is served now but your little explorers will love paddling out to the ruins at Fannette Island in a kayak. Rent a stand-up paddle board or kayak from Kayak Tahoe from their beach location next to the pier at Emerald Bay. Children can ride in a double kayak from the age of three with an adult, or take out their own from 15. It is a ten-minute cruise out but give yourself more time to get back, as the wind can make progress slow.

Gondola Ride
From mid-June, Heavenly’s gondolas open for the summer season. Enjoy the panoramic views as you float up the mountain.. before boarding the gravity-powered mountain coaster to race back down. Ride solo or with a passenger—thrill-seeking kids can ride from as young as three. A gondola plus coaster ticket is $85 for adults, $58 for children aged up to 12 and $73 for teens between 13 and 18.

Tahoe Trout Farm
Catching your own fish for the grill is a Tahoe tradition and kids can hook their own at Tahoe Trout Farm. This family-owned farm, which has two ponds stocked with rainbow trout, will supply bait and tackle at no extra cost. Families are charged per fish, depending on length and the farm will clean and pack your catch for you.

photo: Lakeland Village at Heavenly

Where to Stay on the South Shore

Lakeland Village Resort at Heavenly
If you are looking for South Shore spot to set up camp, definitely add the Lakeland Village to your list. Their set up is particularly family-friendly as they offer townhouse units with five bedrooms that sleep up to 14. These include a full kitchen so that you don't have to schlep the kids out for every meal. Invite your BFFs and reserve a unit for the ultimate in summer fun and then head on down to the quarter-mile long private beach for some lake activities.

3535 Lake Tahoe Boulevard
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Online:skiheavenly.com

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel
Located in the heart of South Lake Tahoe’s tourist zone, this all-suite hotel offers easy access to South Lake Tahoe’s outdoor and indoor amenities—mountains, the beach, towering pine forests, the area’s newest shopping and nightlife. The rooms here are perfectly set up for families—every hotel reservation includes a comfortable two-room suite, free breakfast buffet and a nightly happy hour. 

4130 Lake Tahoe Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Online: tahoeresorthotel.com

photo: iStock

Where to Eat on the South Shore

Long-time favorite Sprouts Café was founded and is run by a Tahoe native family. Up on the walls you can watch the kids grow through the yearly staff portrait. It is almost a Tahoe rite of passage to work at the popular restaurant slinging smoothies and healthy fare. In the middle of town near Lakeview Commons, Sprouts is a great place to pick up lunch for an impromptu beach picnic.

For the sweet tooth: Crazy Good Bakery and Café already had a following for small batch gourmet doughnuts and pies at local farmers markets when they opened a brick and mortar location in fall 2018. Local sweet lovers were soon flocking in. The café decor reflects owner Christine Andersen-Smith’s love of antiques and vintage items. The bakery also has fresh baked bagels that are boiled before baking, scones, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, quiches and more. 

Glazed and Confuzed Tahoe Donut is a family-owned bakery slinging small-batch donuts, located in South Lake’s Bijou Shopping Center. Their eclectic creations like the Oh-Oh-O-REO and the Vincent Van Dough are to die for. 

The South Lake Tahoe Beer Trailincludes nine different local craft breweries or taprooms all within less than six miles. The hopping locales are certainly kid-friendly, especially South Lake Brewing Company and Lake Tahoe AleWorxs.

Make the most of your South Lake Tahoe vacation by visiting mid-week. You'll find less traffic, more beach space, decreased wait times for dining, value-added accommodations and more.

For more information on what to do and where to stay on the South Shore, visit the Tahoe South website

—Sarah McDonald & Kate Loweth

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Stay cool on your days out with a sweet treat from one of these amazing Bay Area ice cream spots. From cones shaped like a fish, fresh flavors made-to-order or a delicious non-dairy alternative, there is something for everyone. Get the real scoop this summer with our guide to the best ice creams in the Bay!

San Francisco

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQRqwurFSz2/?utm_medium=copy_link

The Baked Bear

This Fisherman's Wharf ice cream shop is dishing up our favorite scoops sandwiched between two deliciously-fresh cookies and we are down for it. With cookie options like snickerdoodle, funfetti and red velvet, you may just have a hard time deciding. Get your sandwich pressed for that warm-from-the-oven goodness. 

2824 Jones St.
303 Columbus Ave. 
San Francisco, CA
Online: thebakedbear.com

Polly Ann Ice Cream

Polly Ann’s has been a celebrated fixture in the Outer Sunset for over 60 years. Overwhelmed by all the choices? Spin the flavor wheel and leave it up to fate. You may just get lucky and win a free cone! Get your scoop and head on down to Ocean Beach for some ice cream, sand and surf with the kids.

3138 Noriega St.
San Francisco, CA
Online:pollyann.com

Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery, a San Francisco institution, is just steps away from another SF destination-must, Dolores Park; ice cream after a romp in the kids’ playground makes for a grand outing. There’s almost always a line out the door, so if your brood is getting impatient, try the soft-serve line: it’s usually shorter, and you can score ice cream sandwiches and popsicles from there as well.

3639 18th St. and 550 Divisidero St.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinebiritecreamery.com

photo: Gott’s Roadside

Gott’s Roadside

Looking for a dairy and nut-free (but still delicious) ice cream? Gott’s has your back with their oat milk-based soft serve from their Ferry Building location. Choose from a chocolate, vanilla or chocolate-vanilla swirl.

Ferry Building Marketplace, 1 Ferry Building #6 , San Francisco, CA
Online:gotts.com

Humphry Slocombe

Head to Humphry Slocombe for the ultimate in wacky and unexpected flavors. Although they’re most famous for their exotic inventions like chèvre fig and Szechaun strawberry, you’ll still be able to find more kid friendly delights like Wexler’s root beer and malted milk chocolate.

2790A Harrison St. and 1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA

2335 Broadway
Oakland, CA
Onlinehumphryslocombe.com

Ice Cream Bar

Ice Cream Bar is the coolest and not just because of the ice cream. It’s a full service 1930s-style soda fountain, down to the servers in bow ties and paper hats. The bar at the back of the shop serves genuine old fashioned concoctions like tinctures and phosphates.

815 Cole St.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinetheicecreambarsf.com

Mitchells Ice Cream

This long-running Outer Mission favorite has been serving delicious specialty ice cream, sorbet and sundaes for over 50 years. They serve up all the classics, as well as their signature tropical flavors; we love Ube-Macapuno, purple yam blended with young coconut. They also sell pre-packed half gallons if you want to stockpile a supply at home—or make the kids really happy.

688 San Jose Ave.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinemitchellsicecream.com

Ghiradelli Chocolate

If you are hanging near Fisherman’s Wharf, there are two places to score classic scoops complete with a killer view. Dating back to 1864, the Original Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory in the Clock Tower Building serves up World Famous Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundaes, plus it has a bustling chocolate shop and original chocolate manufacturing equipment on display. At a second location in the West Plaza, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace also serves legendary sundaes and features a live chocolate master creating handcrafted chocolates.

900 North Point St.
San Francisco, CA
Onlineghirardelli.com

Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous

The most tongue-twistingly named ice cream shop in San Francisco, this Dogpatch shop is worth the visit even if you keep mispronouncing the name. Their flavors are smooth, clean and inventive without being over the top: try Pink Squirrel (a mix of almond and chocolate flavors) or candied violet, while the kiddies will love the milk and cookies flavor.

699 22nd St.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinefacebook.com

photo: San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery

San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery

This Inner Sunset spot is run by two brothers with a passion for ice cream and the neighborhood. Their wildy creative, house-made flavor combinations include strawberry balsamic, honey berry breakfast and peanut butter chocolate fudge. Hometown Creamery currently is the only ice cream shop in San Francisco that makes their ice creams completely from scratch in-house.

1290 9th Ave.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinesfhometowncreamery.com

Smitten

What started as a svelte shipping container serving up no more than three flavors a day has turned into a local household name, in no small part to the high-tech show that comes with a visit: Proprietor Robyn Sue Fisher developed the Brrr machine, which uses liquid nitrogen to make ice cream in 60 seconds. The original Hayes Valley location still serves a limited menu, but their newer, bigger outposts offer more choices. Bonus: they also ship nationwide! 

432 Octavia St.
2404 California St.
904 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA

5800 College Ave.
Oakland, CA

3055 Olin Ave. Suite 1055
San Jose, CA
Onlinesmittenicecream.com

Swensen’s Ice Cream

This wonderfully retro-style ice cream parlor in Russian Hill is known for its rich, creamy, flavorful ice cream. Parking is tricky, so plan accordingly. Give the kids an extra thrill and hop on the Hyde Street cable car (or the 45 bus from Union Street) and let someone else take the wheel. But don’t spend all your quarters—this place is cash only.

1999 Hyde St.
San Francsico, CA
Onlineswensens.com

photo: Salt and Straw

Salt and Straw

The Portland favorite made it down to the Bay Area and we are thrilled! They specialize in unique, interesting flavors, like brown butter rice gelato and olive oil with lemon custard, but the most popular items are sea salt caramel ribbon and toasted strawberry tres leches. Bonus: you can order in advance for local pickup. You can also have your pints delivered or shipped nationwide! 

2201 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA

586 Hayes St.
San Francisco, CA

250 University Ave.
Palo Alto, CA

1309 Burlingame Ave.
Burlingame, CA

Westfield Valley Fair
2855 Stevens Creek Blvd.
San Jose, CA
Online: saltandstraw.com

Twirl and Dip

Twirl and Dip is the sweetest food truck in Golden Gate Park. Stationed near the California Academy of Sciences, their signature offering is an organic vanilla bean soft serve dipped in TCHO dark chocolate and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt that has grownups and kids alike queuing up for a cone.

335 Martin Luther King Jr Dr. (near California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park)San Francisco, CA
Onlinetwirlanddip.com

Garden Creamery

Super unique and decadent flavors with a punch. Huge ice cream selection made from the best local ingredients and one of the most extensive vegan menus in the city. 

COVID-19 Update: You can pre-order on Thursday at 7 p.m. for pick up on Friday or Saturday. 

3566 20th St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: gardencreamery.com

East Bay

Fenton’s Creamery

This spot is seriously old-school—the original Fenton’s opened in 1894, when they delivered fresh milk by horse-drawn wagon. They seem to have ignored the crazy flavor fad—dark chocolate raspberry swirl or green tea is as wild as it gets—but they have truly mastered the more than 30 classic flavors they still mix up by hand. Movie trivia: Fenton’s classic ice cream parlor was even featured in Pixar’s Up.

4226 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA
Online: fentonscreamery.com

Curbside Creamery

This sweet little creamery in the Temescal neighborhood serves up scoops, ice cream sandwiches and fresh-made waffle cones. For treats on the go, track down their cooler-equipped trike on the weekends at the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, Bites at the Lake and Bites off Broadway.

COVID-19 Update: You can pre-order for pickup or have your ice cream delivered via Caviar. 

482 49th St.
Oakland, CA
Online: curbsideoakland.com

YERSEN Gelato Cakes

Blink and you'll miss this tiny shop in a Danville shopping center. Gelato fans rave about all the amazing flavors that are made in house by the owner himself. Need to impress someone for their next birthday? Yersen's Gelato Cakes are almost too good to eat (we said ALMOST).

9000 Crow Canyon Rd
Ste N
Danville, CA
Online: yersengelato.com

 

Little Giant Ice Cream

Little Giant has made a giant impression on the Oakland ice cream scene—their ice cream is sweet, smooth and made on-site. Kids will love peeking into the back kitchen where the ice cream is made. Chances are they’ll also love the robot-themed décor with vintage robots hung on the walls.

COVID-19 Update: Pre-order for pickup or delivery. 

1951 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA
Onlinelittlegianticecream.com

Tucker’s Supercreamed Ice Cream

Tucker’s is THE place for ice cream in Alameda—they set up shop in 1941 and have been here ever since. They serve over 30 flavors of ice cream, sorbet and sherbet in their charming, old-fashioned parlor, all extra-whipped in order to live up to that “supercreamed” title.

1349 Park St.
Alameda, CA
Onlinetuckersicecream.com

Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery

Ice cream that's 100% vegan, dairy and gluten free? Mr Dewie's Cashew Creamery has done it with their cashew milk-based gelato. The brothers who founded Mr Dewie's were inspired to create the concoction when they found out they were both lactose intolerant. If you're a cashew fan, go for their roasted cashew flavor, otherwise they have a full menu of classic and updated flavors from chocolate orange chip to green tea. 

1116 Solano Ave.
Albany, CA

5959 Shellmound St.(inside the Emeryville Public Market)
Emeryville, CA

4184 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611
Onlinemrdewies.com

Uji Time Dessert

Impress your little ice cream lovers with this Japanese soft ice cream treat. Their eyes will triple size when they get to hold their taiyaki, an oversized cone made out of pancake batter, shaped like a fish (symbol of good luck in Japanese culture). Taiyaki means "baked sea bream" and it is perhaps the cutest Bay Area trend when it comes to noshing soft-serve in style.

2575 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley, CA

22 Peace Plaza Suite 440 (inside the Japantown East Mall)
San Francisco, CA

2705 Stoneridge Drive, Unit H, Pleasanton

106S. B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401
Onlineujitimedessert.square.site

Cookiebar Creamery

Cookies and ice cream together sound like every little kid's dream come true. Add in some decidedly kid-tempting ice cream flavors like Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and this is a must-stop if you're in the neighborhood with the littles. You can get just ice cream, just cookies, or get them together as an ice cream sandwich—we know what our choice would be.

647 Central Ave.
Alameda, CA

517 8th St.
Oakland, CA
Online: cookiebarcreamery.com

Yogurtland

Yogurtland is now available on all major platforms (Doordash, Grubhub, Postmates, Ubereats) along with in-store pickup offering a peachy treat right at your doorstep—even contactless. Bonus: they just debuted their new Plant-Based Piña Colada flavor and it's just the vacation-substitute we all need right now. 

Online: yogurt-land.com

Peninsula

It’s-It Ice Cream

It’s-It ice cream sandwiches are a bit of Bay Area history: they used to be sold only at San Francisco’s iconic Playland-at-the-Beach before the park was demolished. Fortunately, It’s-It lives on. Yes, you can find It’s-It in grocery stores around the Bay Area, but it’s worth a stop by their factory store, as they carry some hard-to-find, rare flavors like pumpkin and strawberry.

865 Burlway Rd.
Burlingame, CA
Onlineitsiticecream.com

Palo Alto Creamery

Palo Alto locals used to flock here for the 15-cent milkshakes. Sure, that was 1923, but besides the price, not too much has changed since then. Come here for the ultimate old-timey diner experience, with breakfast served all day, burgers, fries and ice cream sundaes, of course.

566 Emerson St.
Palo Alto, CA
Onlinepaloaltocreamery.com

Rick’s Rather Rich Ice Cream

This ice cream shop is tucked away in an unassuming shopping center, but offers up a “rather rich” experience. They carry 48 flavors of ice cream, all hand-made in small batches, as well as their version of a popsicle, called "frozen ice." Take a hint from Rich’s store motto: “Eat Ice Cream for Daily Happiness”.

3946 Middlefield Rd.
Palo Alto, CA
Onlinericksicecream.com

Scoop Microcreamery

Scoop is indeed a micro-sized store, but it’s hard to miss when you’re walking down University Avenue—there’s always the amazing scent of fresh waffle cones wafting out the door. Scoop’s ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen, although not to order; available flavors are displayed already made in the case.

203 University Ave.
Palo Alto, CA
Onlinescoopmicrocreamery.com

Tin Pot Creamery

This sweet spot was started by a former dessert chef at Facebook, and today its “likes” are off the charts. No wonder, with it’s fabulously rich, smooth ice cream and a constantly rotating menu of flavors like Orange Dreamsicle and Roasted Banana Fudge Ripple. Tin Pot has kept tech-connected by partnering with Postmates and Door Dash, so you can get ice cream delivered to your front door. They've now expanded to four locations in the South Bay and Peninsula.

855 El Camino Real, #121
Palo Alto, CA

170 State Street Los Altos, CA

1875 South Bascom Ave. #370
Campbell, CA

3081 South Delaware St. Suite B
San Mateo, CA
Online: tinpotcreamery.com

 

South Bay

Campbell Creamery

With something for everyone, stop by and sample Campbell Creamery’s menu of ever-changing flavors. Kids will love a scoop of the bright blue Cookie Monster, while adults might want to check out the delicious frozen custard or frozen yogurt.

267 E Campbell Ave Ste A, Campbell, CA
Online: campbellcreameryca.com

Cauldron Ice Cream

This Orange County favorite has made its way north to San Jose and we couldn't be more thrilled. The puffle cone topped with liquid nitrogen-churned ice cream shaped like a flower is an Instagram favorite and a kid favorite, too. Choose from traditional flavors like double chocolate or opt for Earl Grey lavender for a more exotic flavor.

1088 E Brokaw Rd
Ste 60
San Jose, CA
Online: cauldronicecream.com

Dolce Spazio

If you’re dreaming of the Italian Riviera, visit Dolce Spazio for traditional gelato—a dense, creamy dessert in a variety of rich flavors. Relax in the shady courtyard with your family and enjoy the laid-back Los Gatos vibe.

221 North Santa Cruz Avenue, Los Gatos, CA
Online: dolcesapazio.com

Icicles Cream Roll

Skip the scoop and rock the roll instead! Locals are lining up around the block to try this hand-made Thai treat at Icicles Cream Roll. Cream, milk, eggs and sugar—that’s all you’ll get at Icicles where top-notch ingredients are the only way to roll.

1275 Lincoln Ave. Suite 1
San Jose, CA

Other locations in San Mateo, San Francisco, Newark, Cupertino, Pleasanton and Mountain View
Online: iciclescreamroll.com

CREAM

Fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies with a scoop of your favorite ice cream sandwiched in the middle is what makes CREAM a Bay Area favorite. You can also get your ice cream in a taco (YES!) or go for a float on a hot, hot day. Cakes, pints and other baked goodies are the perfect option to take home with you. 

COVID-19 Update: Grab pints or the ice cream sandwich kit for delivery.

1275 Lincoln Ave. Suite 1
San Jose, CA 95125

Other locations: Palo Alto, Concord, Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Alameda and Berkeley
Online: creamnation.com

Marin

Pizzeria Picco

Sure, this is a pizza joint (and a fantastic one at that), but those in the know come for the Strauss soft serve ice cream. The first choice is simple: chocolate, vanilla or swirl. But then things get interesting. Try topping it with olive oil and sea salt, or getting it dipped in a Scharffenberger chocolate “magic shell.” Our go-to combo? Chocolate soft serve topped with warm caramel and sea salt. What pizza??

316 Magnolia Ave.
Larkspur, CA
Online: pizzeriapicco.com

Posie Ice Cream

Started by Kyle Caporicci, a local dad and former pastry chef, Posie offers an artisanal array of ice cream and even to-go pints. All of the ingredients are locally sourced, and you’ll often spot Kyle at local farmer's markets gathering whatever’s in season. As a bonus, Posie also has dairy-free options and all of their cones are gluten-free, so ordering for your whole family is easy.

250 B Magnolia Ave.
Larkspur, CA
Online: posie.com

—Sarah McDonald & Anita Chu

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