These days a low-key change of scene without the hassle of plane tickets and hotel bookings (and the risk of cancellations!) is the way to go—thankfully there are plenty of opportunities in the Bay Area for just that. The East Bay boasts historic sites, hiking trails to explore and local small businesses that serve fabulous food! You don’t have to go far to have a good time. Scroll through our list of indoor and outdoor fun, and you’ll find something for everyone in the family!
Editor’s note: This information was accurate at the time of publication but because things are rapidly changing with rising COVID cases, we urge you to check websites or call ahead before heading out.
Pack a picnic and drive up the hills above Berkeley to Tilden park where there are plenty of hiking trails. Visit the scenic Botanic Gardens or take a carousel ride on the Tilden Park Merry Go Round, where you can also purchase popcorn and cotton candy at the counter. Later, drop by the Tilden Nature Area where kids can observe and interact with farm animals at the Little Farm. Pet the rabbits and take along some lettuce and celery to feed the cows and sheep.
For some indoor fun, spend a day at the Lawrence Hall of Sciences where children can learn about animals at the Animal Discovery Zone and watch science films at the 3D theater, among other activities. If you would rather spend time outdoors in nature, visit the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley that spans 34 acres. Look up their website to sign up for family programs, many of which are virtual due to the pandemic.
There’s no shortage of eateries in Berkeley. Savor fruit tarts and slices of rose cardamom pistachio cake at Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, and gumbo and beignets at Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen. For pizza, make a stop at the Cheeseboard Collective that usually has a line around the block. They offer a different pizza and salad menu daily, so look up their website to know what to expect.
Fremont and Sunol
In Fremont, take a walk down Main Street in Niles. Browse through charming antique stores and visit the Niles Essanay Silent Movie Museum for the silent era memorabilia. Cross the street to the Niles Depot Museum, which is open to the public on select days. Later, when you’re ready for a bite and a break, stop at Nature’s Organic Ice Cream to try unique ice cream flavors such as Falooda, or their unmatched Butterscotch Toffee. Or, if you prefer something more elaborate, drop into Tyme for Tea to enjoy a Victorian tea service with the young ones.
At the Sunol Regional Wilderness Preserve, park by the visitor’s center for a short hike to Little Yosemite waterfall, and stop by the Old Green Barn Visitor’s Center to see Native American artifacts. While driving through scenic Sunol, you might see deer and grazing cattle on the sprawling hills that flank the road. The Niles Canyon Railway offers Steam and Diesel train rides that leave the Sunol Depot for a round trip through the Niles Canyon. Since availability can change month to month, make sure to look up their website, and if possible, book tickets online.
If you have time to spare, stop by the Ardenwood Historic Farm. Be sure to study the Naturalist Program website beforehand for a variety of activities such as animal feedings. Between April and mid-November, guided tours of the historic Patterson House and rides on the farm’s train are also available.
Train rides and long walks can work up quite an appetite! On a cold day, hot soup and dumplings from Bing’s Dumplings will hit the spot. And while in Fremont, don’t miss the Bolani and Kabobs at De Afghanan Cuisine.
For space enthusiasts, the Chabot Space and Science Center is the place to visit! On Friday and Saturday nights, the center offers free telescope viewings, weather permitting. The center also has a planetarium, and offers a NASA experience with hands-on activities.
If you’re in the mood for something playful, spend the day at the Children’s Fairyland that has rides for kids, detailed storybook sets such as Peter Rabbit’s Garden, story time and fun puppet shows. Look up the website for show schedules.
In addition to fantastic animal exhibits, such as the California Trail with grizzly bears and gray wolves, the Oakland Zoo offers plenty of space to stretch your legs and accomplish those step goals! The gondola ride at the zoo is a bonus that offers spectacular views. This year, the Oakland Zoo is celebrating its centennial with plenty of events. Purchase tickets online to attend Glowfari, the zoo's annual lantern festival, or the halloween scavenger hunt in October (tickets go on sale September 2022!).
When in Oakland a visit to the landmark Fenton’s Creamery is a must! Established in 1894, Fenton’s has plenty of indoor and outdoor space, and offers a menu with kid favorites such as mac-and-cheese, and old fashioned sundaes and handcrafted ice creams.
feature photo by Ajay Anthony