Jump From the Park to The Marina at This Cool Hangout

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Emeryville is more than the place where some of your favorite animation flicks are made. And since public tours of the Pixar campus aren’t yet available, you can catch Brave and Toy Story 3 on DVD and explore this East Bay town’s real-life attractions. There’s enough going on here to thrill the kiddos and make an action-packed home video of your own.

Getting there: Bordered by Berkeley to the north and Oakland to the South, Emeryville is located at the foot of the Bay Bridge and directly accessible via I-80. Its centralized location means it’s easy to get to – except during rush hour. Come on the weekends or before the freeways get jammed, or if you’re an East Bay resident, find your way to Emeryville by taking San Pablo or Ashby Ave.

 What to wear: Bring layers if you’re heading for the park, the marina, or for shopping and movie hopping at Bay Street, which is outdoors. Emeryville is by the water and can get chilly in the autumn and winter evenings.

Things to do: You’ve got several options to get the kids moving. The new children’s play area at Doyle Hollis Park features decorative fountains and modern equipment, including tall climbing structures and a new “spin” on the classic merry-go-round. If you’ve got the roller skates in the trunk, head to the Emeryville Marina for a bayside view and unencumbered sidewalks for testing out the balancing skills.

Head Over Heels hosts drop-in hours several days of the week, when the kids can enjoy free play in the facility’s preschool gym floor, which includes a foam pit, trampolines, and tumble track. (There’s also a Parents’ Night Out at Head Over Heels on Fridays.) For something a bit more mellow, skip to storytime hour at Barnes and Noble on Bay Street. There’s a cozy reading nook with a train set and toys in the children’s section if you miss the hosted events.

In addition to housing shops and restaurants, Bay Street village hosts seasonal events, like a pumpkin patch in the fall and an ice rink in the winter, and all year long, the AMC theater shows the latest kids’ releases.

Possible lunch spots: Lanesplitter is great for pizza by the slice, with a side of salad. For a diner-style breakfast, lunch, or dinner with affordable, kids-friendly options, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café features tables decorated with vintage toys. Another option that parents seem to enjoy is Ikea’s restaurant with kid portions, kid care for a quick shopping run, and of course, meatballs. And don’t forget the Public Market for dozens of international choices under one roof.

Bonus: Looking for a new mommy-and-me class? Consider a dancing class at Luna Dance Institute.

Online: ci.emeryville.ca.us

What’s your favorite Emeryville attraction (besides IKEA)?

— Renee Macalino Rutledge

Photos provided by bgreenlee via Flickr, Head over Heels, and the Facebook page of Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe!