Take it from a California local. San Francisco may get all the glory but the East Bay is the place to be for families. Cheaper prices, warmer weather, and more kid-friendly attractions is why many families like mine have chosen Oakland, Berkeley, and the surrounding Northern California towns to raise a family.
I call the little island town of Alameda home, but Oakland is basically my backyard too. It’s just a couple of miles away. Since my son goes to preschool in Oakland, we spend a lot of time as a family exploring the activities, restaurants, and sites in Oakland proper as part of our regular routine.
Whether you are a local like me or a visitor to the Bay Area looking to have fun as a family, here are 50 things to do in Oakland with kids.
Things to Do in Oakland with Kids
- Experience amusement park history at the classic theme park, Children’s Fairyland – notable for inspiring Disneyland.
- Hike among the peaceful redwoods at Redwood Regional Park.
- Come face-to-face with elephants, giraffes, flamingos, and more at the Oakland Zoo. (Plus ride the brand new gondola into the Oakland hills with views of the entire bay!)
- Blast into outer space or experience a planetarium show at Chabot Space and Science Center.
- Explore the nooks and crannies of Oakland’s Chinatown, stopping for a kid-friendly dim sum treat.
- Watch a movie at the historic Grand Lake Theater.
- Split an ice cream sundae as big as your head at Fentons Creamery, forever immortalized in the Pixar movie Up.
- Discover the natural and human history of the state of California, all without ever leaving downtown Oakland, at the Oakland Museum of California.
- Ride a Venetian-style gondola along the banks of Lake Merritt.
- Take the kids out to the ballgame with the eternally wacky and family-friendly Oakland A’s.
- Explore your child’s artistic side at MOCHA, the Museum of Children’s Art.
- Head over to Jack London Square and hop aboard a ferry for a quick bay cruise.
- Cool off in the pool or take on the giant waterslide at East Oakland Sports Center.
- Get your airplane geek on at the Oakland Aviation Museum.
- Pop in for a visit to create and explore at the Junior Center of Art and Science in Lakeside Park by Lake Merritt.
- Bike part of the Bay Trail, an ambitious network of biking and walking paths that will eventually encircle the entire bay.
- Stop in the Fortune Cookie Factory to watch fortune cookies being made.
- Chow down on more than a dozen varieties of macaroni and cheese at Homeroom.
- Enjoy a family-friendly weekend brunch at The Fat Lady in Jack London Square.
- Hop ’til your kids drop at Pump It Up’s drop in playtime.
- Play pirate at Union Point Park, a park near the estuary featuring a giant pirate ship play structure with slides and climbing walls.
- Go on a culinary adventure at one of several Off The Grid food truck events (Friday nights at the Oakland Museum of California and at lunch Wednesdays through Fridays in Downtown Oakland).
- Enjoy an urban escape and some unique play structures in Oakland’s FROG park.
- Hop aboard a steam train or a historic carousel at Tilden Regional Park.
- Tour the USS Potomac, FDR’s former “Floating White House,” for an engaging history lesson.
- Spend time at a summer street festival (Temescal district often holds one in June; Jack London is known for Pedalfest in July, and downtown hosts “Art & Soul” in August).
- Stand in line at Bakesale Betty (it’s worth it, I promise!) for the best chicken sandwich you’ve ever tasted.
- Play among the perfectly preserved historic Victorian mansions of Preservation Park.
- Ice skate at the Oakland Ice Center’s public skate hours.
- Hike in the hills at Joaquin Miller Park.
- Fish, sunbathe, or swim on the shores of Lake Temescal.
- Step back in history at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate (kids will especially enjoy its annual Easter Egg hunt and Father’s Day festival).
- Go on a gnome hunt! You can find hundreds of secret gnome installations (often on the base of telephone poles) in neighborhoods surrounding Lake Merritt.
- Explore the remnants of Oakland’s very own volcano at the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.
- Marvel at a circus-inspired show at the Kinetic Arts Center (or even sign your kid up for a class!)
- Stop by Jack London’s cabin for a quick literary lesson.
- Pick up a pizza at Zachary’s, the Bay Area’s most famous pie.
- Visit Oakland’s African American Museum and Library to learn about the history of African Americans in Northern California and the Bay Area.
- Tour the meticulously kept gardens and grounds of Oakland’s LDS Temple.
- Indulge in some of the Bay Area’s best soul food at Brown Sugar Kitchen.
- Play all day at Dimond Park.
- Explore the (totally free) Gardens at Lake Merritt.
- Take a stroll through the Frederick Law Olmsted designed Mountain View Cemetery (not as creepy as it sounds, I promise, and also the burial place of many notable Californians from Fred Korematsu to Charles Crocker to Trader Vic Bergeron).
- Dine at Drake’s Dealership (craft beer for parents plus pizza and room to roam for kids).
- Visit Oakland’s Asian Cultural Center.
- See a concert or a classic movie at one of Oakland’s many historic performing venues, the Paramount Theater.
- Root for best team in the NBA, Oakland’s Golden State Warriors! (If tickets at Oracle Arena are a little out of your budget, watching a game at a local kid-friendly sports bar is an experience too.)
- Stop and smell the roses in the Morcom Rose Garden.
- Encourage your kids to step outside their food comfort zone with a delicious noodle dish at Burma Superstar.
- Admire the San Francisco skyline while getting an up close look at the Port of Oakland’s shipping cranes from Port View Park.
Friday 29th of November 2019
This is an excellent list. Missed doing all these things with my little ones.
Wednesday 17th of October 2018
thanks so muchs
Friday 7th of September 2018
There is really nothing to do with kids in Oakland, ca.