My family’s travels take us to lots of exotic places, but plenty of the travel we do is close to home. Home for me is Alameda, California, a small town of about 70,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to joke that we are “an island off the coast of Oakland,” and that is technically true, as the largest part of Alameda is situated on an island in the bay separated from Oakland by a small shipping channel.
Many of my readers live in or at least visit the Bay Area often, so I decided a post on my hometown’s offerings was long overdue. If you find yourself in or around Alameda, California with kids, there is plenty to keep your family busy. Alameda has some impressive architectural specimens (particularly lots of historic Victorian buildings and homes), an important role in military history, and an eccentric spirit that can be found in many of our truly unique businesses and attractions. But remember: our cute little island is a well-kept secret and we like it that way, so just don’t spread the word too much!
Here are 50 things to do in Alameda, California with kids:
(Note: The majority of these activities don’t require reservations, appointments, or memberships. But check websites and/or Yelp to make your final plans. Also note that the last 15 events on the list are seasonal, so check for times and dates.)
1. Take in some World War II history aboard the USS Hornet.
2. Explore marine life with your little ones at Crab Cove Visitor Center.
3. On a warm day, pack a picnic and spend it in the sun and on the sand at Crown Beach. (If you don’t have beach gear, you can rent it as well as bikes from Pedal Beach at South Shore Center.)
4. Play classic pinball games dating back to as early as the 1930s at the truly unique Pacific Pinball Museum.
5. Watch a movie on the big screen at the restored historic Alameda Theatre (Don’t miss the kids summer movie series with discounted kids movies on Tuesdays & Wednesdays in the summer with proceeds benefiting local schools).
6. Let the kids run around and play at Rock Wall Wine Company while mom and dad can sample Alameda’s wine scene and some great San Francisco skyline views.
7. Indulge in ice cream at Tucker’s on Park Street.
8. Indulge in even more ice cream at Loard’s in South Shore Center.
9. Teach your kids play the same 1980s arcade games you did as a kid at High Scores Arcade.
10. Visit one of Alameda’s many parks and enjoy the kid-friendly playgrounds and other free amenities. (Our family’s favorite is Franklin Park, which has lots of toddler safe spaces to play.)
11. Take the whole family and a few of your friends on a family bike ride guided by the fine folks at Alameda Bicycle (seasonally on the first Sunday of the month from 10-noon). Visit them on second Sundays of the month for learn-to-ride on two wheels clinics for your kids.
12. Go on a bike trip of your own along the newly expanded Shoreline trail.
13. Take your little ones to Wee Play in the Veterans’ Building (Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays 10 am-1 pm)
14. Play and get creative with your kids at Alameda’s newest indoor play space, Twirl. Admission is $12 per child and is good all day.
15. Shop for some quality kid gear and toys at one of the several Park Street’s small businesses that cater to kids. Trips With Tykes recommends: Monkey Bars (which even has a quiet space to nurse!), Tot Tank, Toy Safari (your little ones will never want to leave once they spot the train table), and Lauren’s Closet.
16. Take a ride aboard the ferry to San Francisco.
17. Play themed mini-golf in Bay Area style at Subpar Miniature Golf.
18. Train your little speed demon in the art of slot car racing at Homeroom Racing Cafe (note: the slot cars have recently been moved to Subpar Golf, so you can do two activities there!)
19. Bowl a strike at Southshore Lanes.
20. Paint pottery together at Color Me Mine in South Shore Center. (Color Me Mine also hosts “Kids Night Out” approximately once a month for kids ages 5 and up so mom and dad can get a night out on their own.)
21. Join the Alameda Swimming Pool Association. Members have access to Lincoln and Franklin pools all spring, summer, and fall with complimentary lessons daily in the summer time.
22. Enjoy free story times and sing-a-longs at one of the several locations of the Alameda Free Library.
23. Take a toddler gymnastics class at Ruby’s Tumbling.
24. Go swimming during drop-in open swim hours at Aquatech Swim School.
25. Practice your swing at the Neptune Beach Pearl’s batting cages at South Shore Center.
26. Have fun with history! Learn all about Alameda’s unique history and architectural traditions at the Alameda Museum. Older kids may also appreciate learning about Alameda’s naval air history at the Alameda Naval Air Museum.
27. Inspire some creativity in your kiddo by taking a $2 kid art class at Michael’s at Alameda Landing.
28. Enroll your child in a Bladium soccer class or other sports class or camp. You can also sign them up for Kids Night Out, offered once per month.
29. On the first Sunday of every month, peruse the Alameda Point Antiques Faire.
30. Eat brunch with your kids at one of Alameda’s classic diners: Ole’s Waffle Shop, Jim’s, or Marti’s Place.
31. Visit the farmer’s market on Webster Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm.
32. Take one of the many inexpensive and fun kid classes offered by Alameda’s Recreation and Parks Department.
33. Exchange a book at one of Alameda’s Little Free Libraries.
34. Sample some new foods and go on a culinary adventure with your little foodies at the Saturday Off the Grid food trucks at South Shore Center.
35. Enjoy Easter games and treats at the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department’s Spring Egg Scramble.
36. Celebrate Earth Day with your kids with education, food and fun (jumpy houses!) at the annual Earth Day Festival in April at Washington Park.
37. Mother’s Day weekend in May each year means it’s time to take the kids to the Park Street Spring Festival, one of Alameda’s many street fairs.
38. Check out some amazing sand sculptures at the city’s annual Sand Castle Contest on Crown Beach (usually in early June).
39. June also brings the Neptune Beach Community Celebration back to Webster Street. Past entertainment has included bands, food galore, and a Ferris wheel.
40. Enjoy free music three Friday evenings at Crab Cove in the summer time at Concerts at the Cove.
41. Watch movies under the stars several Friday evenings during the summer with Alameda Recreation and Parks Department’s summer movies in the park.
42. Celebrate July 4 with the entire town! Alameda’s July 4 parade is truly the city’s most epic event. Set up your chairs along the extra-long parade route and watch for bands, floats, horses, classic cars and more.
43. In July, visit the Park Street Art & Wine Faire, which always has kid-friendly music acts, food, and carnival games.
44. Take in a summer baseball game with the Neptune Beach Pearl. The team is made up of college baseball players on summer break and tickets are free.
45. In the fall, Park Street hosts another kid-friendly street fair, the Alameda Classic Car show. Little ones who have a need for speed will be enthralled.
46. In late September and early October, Alameda’s German restaurant Speisekammer hosts an amazing family-friendly Oktoberfest celebration with music, food, dancing, and jumpy houses.
47. In October, Alameda’s Victorian houses make for some extra spooky Halloween haunts. Trick or treat with your kids along Grand Street or Bay Street or simply tour the decorations on your own all month. (Bonus points for donating to the Alameda Food Bank’s “Haunt Your House” annual canned food drive.)
48. Learn to ice skate in winter at the Little Ice Rink.
49. Around the holidays, visit Christmas Tree Lane (otherwise known as Thompson Avenue). The entire street is decorated with lights, music and activities during the month of December.
50. Watch the annual performance of The Nutcracker at Alameda High School in December – the whole town is bound to be there too!
And to all my Alameda friends – please share your other favorite kid-friendly activities in the comments. I know our city has way more than 50 things to offer for families, but I had to cut the list off somewhere.
Update 4/13/2015: Thanks to my Alameda readers who have provided some updated information I’ve incorporated into the post. I will endeavor to include additional updates as needed!
Update 7/7/2015: Removed a business that is now closed (Studio Grow), and replaced it with a new one that our family loves – Twirl!