Explore: Jack London Square

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299Old Jack London Square got a face lift a few years ago, and has attracted some great restaurants. It’s also located right on the waterfront so there is plenty to see.

To Do: Planes, trains, automobiles, and big, big boats: this patch of Oakland’s waterfront is heaven for transportation buffs. Kids can get their kicks on a ferry boat, or get an eyeful of smaller ships skipping up the canal between Jack London Square and Alameda, but they’re likely to be drawn to the big ships docked along the shore. The Amtrak choo-choos go by every so often, and there are always planes taking off from SFO and Oakland International.

When your littles have had their fill, you can make a game out of following the wolf’s pawprints to local landmarks and brush up on Oakland waterfront history.

Or, if the weather’s gloomy, duck into the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) for one of their hands-on family extravaganzas or to check out their monthly exhibit of children’s art.

When to go: Skip on down to the plaza on a Sunday for the farmers’ market, grab an empanada or an agua fresca from one of the vendors and watch the birds pecking around. Check out their online calendar which will keep you abreast of this season’s farmers’ markets, artisans markets, and other events taking place in JLS. Consider taking your family to the Eat Real Festival in late September.

What to eat: As part of Oakland’s recent restaurant renaissance, the area’s recent openings include a Blue Bottle Coffee retail outlet and headquarters, and the ultra-hip and casual Chop Bar, which puts out amazing lunch sandwich standards (burgers, tortas, and banh mi) as well as a couple of kids’ menu items. If it’s brunch you want, head to Bocanova, which specializes in Pan-American cuisine–consider their Huevos rancheros, or grab a Churro with orange cinnamon chocolate sauce for your little one. When you need a sweet treat, hop in to Miette, newly opened in JLS.

Travel time: Oakland is 15 minutes from Berkley and downtown San Francisco, but if you are heading from Marin or the Peninsula, expect a journey of 30 minutes to an hour depending on traffic.

What to wear: As always dress in layers in case the wind picks up. Oakland is usually 10 degrees warmer than the city, so judge accordingly.

Cost: Inexpensive.

Bonus: Keep your eyes peeled for the opening of the Jack London Market, which promises to be a gourmet heaven. They plan a two-story market with stalls for all the best local artisanal goodness of the Bay Area.  More tasty shops will only make us fonder of this historic ‘hood.