The Bay Area is flush with things to do, so get on out there. … Disneyland may be the most famous American theme park, but Children’s Fairyland (699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, 510-452-2259) is America’s original storybook theme park with storybook sets, kiddie rides, pint-sized farm animals, puppetry, and plays. This low-tech wonderland, where 1950s-era Magic Keys still unlock nursery rhymes and stories, remains a glitz-free children’s paradise. … For more family theme-park fun, consider Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (1001 Fairgrounds Dr., Vallejo, 707-643-6722), where you and the tots and teens can bond with sea, sky, and land animals or brave roller coasters or less-thrilling rides and more for a full day of activity. … For a fresh-air, animal-oriented outing, check out the Oakland Zoo (9777 Golf Links Rd., Oakland, 510-632-9525), home to 440-plus native and exotic animals, the new Valley Children’s Zoo, and an amazing sky ride with a stellar vantage point for seeing the East Bay. … With wow-worthy close-up views of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and other astronomical phenomena through three big telescopes, an evening at Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, 510-336-7300) is like an IMAX version of a night under the stars, perfect for budding scientists. See the night sky in a whole new way. … Grown-ups desperate for an outing that will stimulate not only Johnny’s brain but also Mom’s and Dad’s need look no further than Lawrence Hall of Science (Centennial Dr., Berkeley, 510-642-5132), a science and math mecca perched in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus with expansive bay vistas. … Who’s not a sucker for trains, merry-go-rounds, and animal farms? Kids are seemingly born loving ’em, and adults get a warm, fuzzy feeling just thinking about ’em, and Tilden Regional Park (Wildcat Canyon Rd. and Grizzly Peak Blvd., Berkeley, 510-843-2137) has all three (and more): historic steam trains, a just-restored Herschell-Spillman carousel, and the Little Farm. … Ever wondered how the early pioneers ran a cattle ranch? Modern day cowpunchers can see firsthand by visiting Borges Ranch (1035 Castle Rock Rd., Walnut Creek, 925-942-0225), the Frank Borges homestead that’s now a working ranch and historical site, complete with blacksmith shop, farm equipment, and livestock. … Learn more history at Ardenwood Historic Farm (34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont, 510-796-0633), once the largest farm estate in the East Bay, occupying today’s Fremont. With its beautiful Victorian mansion and garden, demonstrations of 1870s farming techniques, and opportunities for hands-on participation, it’s always fascinating. … For a calm way to start the day, wake at the crack of dawn, haul a kayak down to the Berkeley Marina (201 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-981-6740), paddle beyond the seawall, and watch the sun rise over Angel Island. … The California Academy of Sciences (55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 415-379-800) is a natural science nerd’s dream: aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum in one place with super-impressive new digs opening in fall 2008. … The ferry ride alone is worth the trip to Alcatraz Island (catch one every half-hour or so at Pier 33, San Francisco, AlcatrazCruises.com), the infamous federal pen that held the likes of Al Capone, the “Birdman” Robert Stroud, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. It’s a self-guide setup once you’re on the Rock, so leave time for exploring. … While you’re at it, don’t forget Angel Island (San Francisco Bay; arrive by ferry from Oakland/Alameda, Tiburon, or San Francisco), the Ellis Island of the West Coast. The garrison that once housed new immigrants and later internees and POWs poignantly remains, but today’s woodsy Angel Island is most associated with picnics, hikes, trail runs, bike rides, and other fun activities. … Nothing says San Francisco like the Golden Gate Bridge, the graceful, iconic red-hued suspension bridge and the longest in the world when it was built. The best way to enjoy the bridge is by foot or bike, but bring a windbreaker. … For gorgeous looks at the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, explore the wilds of the hilly Marin Headlands (Visitor Center, Fort Barry Chapel, Field and Bunker roads, Marin County, 415-331-1540), an urban park Eden with hiking trails, wild flowers, fauna, a lighthouse, military sites, and beaches. … Sure, Pier 39 (east of Fisherman’s Wharf at Beach Street and the Embarcadero, San Francisco, 415-705-5500) is the nexus of San Francisco’s tourism commercialism, but it’s perfect for snagging souvenirs. Here’s where to shop, eat, drink, play games, watch street performers, and see the sea lions against the backdrop of Angel Island, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. … Not far from Pier 39 lies the quaint and bustling Italian neighborhood of North Beach, home to the beat generation and a district populated with great restaurants, unique boutiques, and adult entertainment outlets. … And for a fascinating cultural tour, detour to San Francisco’s Chinatown, an always-mobbed neighborhood spilling over with Asian markets, trinket shops, temples, and restaurants.
A zip-line is just the tip of the iceberg at Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina (160 University Ave., Berkeley), open on weekends year-round. Kids can also check out saws, hammers and nails, tempera paints, and more from staff, and help add to the landscape of scrap-wood forts and towers, scavenged boats, cargo nets, and tires. Free for children with adult supervision; for $7, kids seven and up can be dropped off. … Dream Land for Kids at Aquatic Park (Bolivar Dr. at Bancroft Way, Berkeley, BPFD.org/adoptaparkgroups/aquaticplayground) is a player’s paradise, boasting peaked wooden towers with windows to peer through, slides, bridges, tunnels, a tire swing, play spider webs, picnic tables, a sand area, various swings, and a butterfly garden, all enclosed by a wooden fence so that the little ones can’t easily escape. … The forty-foot-long concrete slide that meanders down the hillside at Codornices Park (1201 Euclid Ave., Berkeley) exemplifies “old-school” playtime at its best. Going down it alone for the first time is practically a rite of passage for Berkeley youth, and sliding with your kids is a highlight of being a Berkeley parent. The park also offers up a playground, softball fields, a basketball court, and picnic tables. … There’s something about taking toddlers to a playground. Maybe it’s the way their eyes light up at the sight of a swing set, or the sounds of glee that emanate from the sandpit. Eastshore Park (550 El Embarcadero, Oakland, 510-238-PARK, OaklandNet.com/parks/parks), located on the east end of Lake Merritt, has it all — and also offers something that is priceless to any conscientious parent: diversity. … Temescal Park (6500 Broadway, Oakland, 510-544-2517, EBParks.org/parks/temescal.htm) may be on the small side, but it offers a true gem: a lake that’s perfect for lap swimming, flanked by a wide, sandy beach complete with snack bar. Wade past the little kids, plunge into the cool green depths, and chances are you’ll be the only human swimmer sharing the waters with a few unimpressed ducks. … For an instant vacation, head to Robert Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda (1252 McKay Ave., Alameda, 510-521-7090). This so-close-yet-so-far-away-feeling beach has all of the essentials for stress relief: picnic tables shaded by lush trees, a sandy coast perfect for throwing down a blanket, lovely views of the bay, biking trails, and a soul-soothing breeze. … Romantic cuddling on the smooching benches beneath the pergola at the Berkeley Rose Garden (corner of Euclid Ave. and Bayview Pl., Berkeley, 510-981-5150) would give even the most downtrodden relationship a boost. The 3.6-acre park in the Berkeley Hills has 3,000 rose bushes and 250 varieties of roses to see and sniff — romance at its most basic. … For some visitors to the Morcom Rose Garden (700 Jean St., Oakland), unwinding means kicking back on a bench with a novel, or a nap in mind, as the scent of thousands of rose petals drifts through the air. For others, unwinding is all about lacing up your running shoes and tackling the 102-step staircase — again and again. Whatever your pleasure, you’ll find it here. … An unexpected outdoor sculpture gallery greets hikers who wind through the bulb-shaped former landfill aptly known as the Albany Bulb (accessible via the dirt lot adjacent to Golden Gate Fields off Gilman St., Albany). Since 1999, the City of Albany has bulldozed twelve homeless encampments here, worked to enforce leash laws, and tried to remove the art installations. So far, both the natural (expansive views of the bay) and the man-made beauty stands, but who knows how long it will? … For a weekend camping trip that will take you light-years away from the day-to-day grind — yet requires only a short drive — grab your tent and head to Anthony Chabot Regional Park (EBParks.org/parks/anthony_chabot). The Chabot Family Campground, ensconced in a eucalyptus grove, is open year-round, overlooks Lake Chabot, and offers easy access to the 31-mile East Bay Skyline National Trail — as well as hot showers. Don’t forget the s’mores supplies! … The stunningly beautiful 360-degree panoramic view from Briones Peak in easily accessible Briones Regional Park (510-562-PARK) includes Mount Diablo and the Diablo Valley, the Sacramento River and delta, the East Bay Hills and Mount Tamalpais, and Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. The park’s lush terrain features rolling hills, high ridges, and forested canyons; listen for red-tailed hawks, northern flickers, and California quails. … Trail-laced Mount Diablo State Park (96 Mitchell Canyon Rd., Clayton, 925-837-2525) is the East Bay’s only state park, but this alone doesn’t explain its ecological allure. The 20,000-acre park offers a broad span of climates, habitats, and micro-ecosystems — and as a result, astounding biodiversity, with more than one hundred species of animals and 650 species of flowering plants, including renowned spring wildflower displays. … The rocky peaks and oak-studded grasslands of Sunol Loop and Little Yosemite Hike in Sunol Regional Wilderness (southeast end of Geary Rd., Sunol, 510-562-PARK, EBParks.org/parks/sunol.htm) are awe-inspiring, especially in spring when wildflowers blanket the rolling hills and the waterfalls gush with runoff. Though the 7,000-acre preserve is nestled between Pleasanton and Fremont, you may feel like you’re hundreds of miles away or that you stepped into some 19th-century time warp. … High in the Berkeley Hills, Tilden Park’s Inspiration Point trail gives humans and their canine companions eight miles (out and back) of paved walking pleasure. With spectacular views — the bay on one side and the San Pablo Reservoir on the other — and gently sloping hills all around, it’s the perfect place to get a breath of fresh air. … For a hardcore run or a hike that’ll give you muddy legs, a nice firm ass, and the potential for scraped knees from a downhill spill or two, head to Wildcat Canyon (Alvarado staging area, Berkeley). The park spans 2,428 verdant acres, and the six-mile path you’ll hop on here cuts through much of it, offering the chance to glimpse cows, the occasional coyote or turkey, and gorgeous views. … The fire trails off Claremont Avenue in Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve are easily accessible from Tanglewood Path at the end of Tanglewood Road. But we’ve gotta warn ya: strong calf muscles and lots of stamina are a must. Along the way you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of Alameda and the distant Peninsula; the downtowns of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley; the Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais and beyond; and the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. … If it’s fishing you’re after, one of the best local spots to try for smallmouth bass, bluegill, white sturgeon, and more is San Pablo Reservoir Recreation Area (off San Pablo Dam Rd. between Orinda and El Sobrante). Rent a motor boat or canoe, snag a fishing permit and basic equipment at the store, and then stretch your legs afterwards with a stroll on the five-mile trail that winds along the west side of the reservoir. … Granted, you’ll find yourself in good company if you’re pushing a baby stroller as you power-walk the three-mile path around the Lafayette Reservoir (925-284-9669, BAHiker.com/eastbayhikes/lafres.html). But anyone seeking a stroll or jog through classic California terrain is in for a treat. The 925-acre site also includes hiking trails, a playground, and plenty of grassy spots and picnic areas. Angling to fish? Feel free! … Shimmering Lake Merritt (600 Bellevue Ave., Oakland) is conveniently located smack-dab in the middle of downtown Oakland, offering perhaps the most accessible midweek jog or relaxed lunch spot in the East Bay. Trot along the flat, paved three-mile path, toss a Frisbee with a friend on one of the many grassy bankside expanses, or plop down on a bench for as diverse a people-watching experience as you’re likely to get anywhere. … A stroll around Alameda’s Bay Farm Island on the Shoreline Park Trail affords walkers stellar views of San Francisco, the chance to watch jets take off from Oakland International, and the opportunity to glimpse sexy windsurfers glide across the sparkling water. And should you decide to jog — and then conclude it was a bad idea — there are plenty of grassy spots to rest your weary body. … No trip to the Bay Area is complete without an excursion to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Rent a bike and ride past grazing bison on your way to Ocean Beach, cruise Stowe Lake in a pedal boat, marvel at the sight and scent of 10,000 plants at the Conservatory of Flowers, enjoy a meditative walk through the placid Japanese Tea Garden, get cultured at the de Young Museum … there’s little you can’t do here. Except stay forever, unfortunately. … An operating military base from 1776 until 1994, the Presidio now bears the distinction of being a national historical landmark — as well as a breath of fresh air for urban dwellers. Contained in the 1,480-acre park are eleven miles of hiking trails, paved roads for cycling, a golf course, a bowling alley, tennis courts, beaches, and the most beautiful views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge you’ll find anywhere.
Dog owners in the East Bay are blessed with places for their pups to play. … Fido can romp to his little heart’s content at the Walnut Creek Dog Park at Heather Farm Park (301 N. San Carlos Drive, Walnut Creek, 925-943-5858), a fenced off-leash park with segregated areas for oldsters and little guys to separate them from any rowdy youngsters or burlies. … It’s hard to say who loves Point Isabel Regional Shoreline Park (2701 Isabel St., Richmond, 510-559-8899) more — the park’s frolicking pooches or their humans. Dogs obviously appreciate the chance to get off-leash and run around, and their two-legged companions flock there to wander along winding paths with beautiful views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. … One of the most expansive off-leash urban parks in the area is Washington Dog Park (740 Central Ave., Alameda, 510-747-7529), where four-legged friends can dig holes, roll in the sand, play chase, or snooze in the shade. And there’s an adjacent fenced area for the under-thirty-pound set. … The country’s first dog park, Ohlone Dog Park (Grant St. and Hearst Ave., Berkeley) is filled with woodchips and picnic tables, perfect for an off-leash adventure. … If your dog is bored of the same old walks, try Linda Park Dog Run (Linda Ave. across from Beach School, Piedmont). Since it’s enclosed, it not only gives canines protection from those speedy-wheeled metal monsters that can threaten a dog’s very life, but also a place to relax and socialize.
The East Bay may be the one city where sports management is the star and you’ll be a short stroll away to see all of it. The Oakland Athletics (McAfee Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, 510-638-4627) earned their fame through the best-selling book Moneyball. The players featured have all scattered to wealthier teams, but that was the point of the best-seller anyway. General manager Billy Beane continues to wheel and deal, and you’ll certainly need a program to keep up with who’s who, but consider that your purchase may help the A’s hold onto another free agent in the making for another season or two. … When the A’s pack up in the fall, the Oakland Raiders (McAfee Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, 510-864-5000) move into the Coliseum and call it home. Owner Al Davis, the grand old man of the NFL, may have lost something off of his fastball, but still loves speed. The Raiders drafted for rapid results and while they’ve been on the outside looking in since their 2002 Super Bowl appearance, they still draw a devoted fan base to the Black Hole, a vortex of rabid rooters who dress for destruction every game day. … Not every mad genius plays outdoors. The Golden State Warriors (Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, 888-479-4667) and coach Don Nelson have created point-forwards, going small and three-point shooting centers. It all adds up to the most addictive basketball in the NBA. The Warriors fill the Oracle Arena with their run-and-gun style and have turned the keys of the offense over to a lad certain to be on the short list for the All-Star game, Monte Ellis. Last season the Warriors set a dubious record being the best team ever not to make the playoffs. This year’s team would settle for less and more. … Hoop success comes in the college variety as well. St. Mary’s College (McKeon Pavilion, 1928 Saint Mary’s Road, Moraga, 925-631-4689) features one of the top squads in the West Coast Conference. Reaching Down Under for super starter Patty Mills, the Gaels play some of the most elegant basketball on the planet. … The college game also brings talented women’s players to the bay. Cal-Berkeley (Haas Pavilion, 2223 Fulton St., Berkeley, 800-462-3277) earned its spot in the NCAA tournament last year led by some local ladies, including Devanai Hampton, Pac-10 player of the year. The Golden Bears will bring her and other top players back from last season’s 2nd-place finish. … Not surprisingly, the Berkeley campus is home to a very diverse number of sports. What might be more unexpected for those who figure that only eggheads need apply is that some of the more rough-and-tumble endeavors show the Golden Bears at their rugged best. Water polo (Spieker Aquatic Complex, Fulton and Kittredge streets, Berkeley, 800-462-3277) has won a handful of league and national championships, toured the White House, and sent alums to the Olympic games. The Berkeley squad boasted six All-Americans last year and carried a number one national ranking throughout much of the past two seasons. … If you’re looking for long-running success, ramble over and watch the Cal rugby team (Witter Rugby Field, Centennial Dr. and Stadium Rim Way, Berkeley, 800-462-3277). The Golden Bears are on some kind of monster roll, winning their fifth straight national title and 24th overall, crushing their nearest competitor 59-7 in the championship game. The ruggers finished the year 24-1, and it doesn’t take a UC Berkeley grad to figure that you can’t do much better than that. … Not all of the top sports in the East Bay are good or claim to be at least. The B.A.D. Girls (BayAreaDerbyGirls.com) are Bay Area roller derby queens. The San Francisco ShEvil Dead, the Oakland Outlaws, and the Richmond Wrecking Belles all play for a love of the sport and to spread a DIY message that sisters can do it for themselves. The B.A.D. Girls are part of a flat trick athletic collective. A nonprofit organization that handles the money and the body blows with equal facility, the B.A.D. Girls are always looking for new members as well, so if you have a mind for mayhem and a desire to strap ’em on for a few laps, skate on by.
Want to get high indoors? The folk at iFly (31310 Alvarado-Niles Rd., Union City, 510-489-IFLY) will get you the training, tutoring, and equipment you need to skydive indoors. iFly is the home of a vertical wind tunnel, which replicates the experience of an outdoor airplane jump. It’s a great place to start if you’ve always wanted to try skydiving but lack a handy plane. And if you’re an old pro, it’s a good way to learn some new tricks closer to terra firma. … If you like to be airborne but prefer to choose how long you want to stay above ground, maybe Trapeze Arts (1822 9th St., Oakland, 510-419-0700) will get you soaring. The West Oakland studio teaches and trains novices and experts alike. Start on a trampoline until you’re ready to climb the heights. Those who love the circus arts love the vibe of the warehouse space. They host individuals, birthday parties and bridal parties; good preparation for anyone preparing to take a great big leap. … Getting to the top is the point at Berkeley Ironworks (800 Potter Street, Berkeley, 510-981-9900). People who like to watch can enjoy people who like to climb at this East Bay gym, which features a 45-foot high wall, and numerous pathways and challenge levels to the peak. Instruction is available for all levels, all of which lead in the same direction, upward! Or check out its brethren, Great Western Power Co. (520 20th St., Oakland, 510-452-2022) or Diablo Rock Gym (1220 Diamond Way, Suite 140, Concord, 925-602-1000). … If your idea of getting around involves unicycles or stilts, maybe you should go to camp. Adults and kids are encouraged to turn summer into more than a time to get a tan at Camp Winnarainbow (Laytonville off of Highway 101, 510-525-4304). Wavy Gravy brings the tightropes, hula hoops, and juggling sticks for campers who play games, craft, and learn new skills. There’s improv, clowning, music, and more with the spirit of Woodstock leading the way. … The fun doesn’t need to stop when the calendar makes outdoor fun more problematic. You can hit the ice any time of the year at the Oakland Ice Center (519 18th St., Oakland, 510-268-9000). There’s public skating throughout all seasons, lessons for aspiring figure skaters, or a hockey game or two for those willing to strap on their skates. … For those who prefer water to ice, the East Bay has a number of sites to get you wet. Oakland All Craft (499 Embarcadero Ave., Oakland, 510-444-7115) sells canoes and kayaks for a fresh new way to experience the bay. Lessons are essential to what All Craft offers, so don’t be afraid! … The Lake Merritt Rowing Club (568 Bellevue Ave., Oakland) has been the headquarters for East Bay aquatic fans for forty years. You can take part in a crew or cruise the lake on your own for a morning workout, an evening class, or just to see the lights of Oakland from the prow or stern of your very own vessel. … For landlubbers who crave a physical challenge, the 18,000-square-foot Berkeley Skate Park (5th and Harrison streets, Berkeley, 510-526-5415) may have what you’re looking for. You can arrange for private lessons, attend skateboard camp, or bring a birthday party. … Are indoor sports more your speed? Get rolling at Albany Bowl (540 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-526-8818), where you can partake in casual fun or league bowling for those more serious. And don’t miss the bowl’s weekly Monday night Roc-N-Bowl, where you can enjoy cheap games and pumping rock ‘n’ roll from 10 p.m. till 2 a.m. … Pool players looking for action don’t have far to go. The Broken Rack (6005 Shellmound St., Emeryville, 510-652-9808) has nineteen tables to fill the needs of billiards aficionados. Get your inner hustler on and take part in tournament pool or just kick back with a drink and live the fantasy that you can run the table all night long. … If you want to really bluff your way to an evening’s fun, the Oaks Card Club (4097 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville, 510-653-4456) may fit the bill. Open 24-7, the Oaks has Texas Hold-em and 21st-century blackjack. Large-screen TVs will keep you posted on ball games around the world, but you better keep your eyes on your cards if you want to walk out a winner.
Nothing says adventure like a road trip, and the greater East Bay is full of easy-to-get-to day trips. … For tony waterfront shopping and haute cuisine in a stylish Mediterranean setting, head to Sausalito (Marin County). The sailboats, water, sidewalk cafes, and art galleries will make you feel transported to the Old World. … Tiburon (Marin County) is another local gem worth visiting. Affluent like its nearby neighbor, Sausalito, Tiburon is decidedly more homespun, though it’s still full of exclusive boutiques, fine restaurants, and scenic vistas. A commuter community and tourist destination most days, on weekends in-the-know cyclists take a Tiburon break from their Tiburon-Mill Valley-Corte Madera loop ride for sustenance and refueling. … Point Richmond (southwestern Richmond) was once the heart of East Bay shipbuilding and remains the home of Rosie the Riveter. But the industrial past is just one facet of the Point; today a hilly, quaint, and picturesque community of restored Victorians, quirky independent businesses, watering holes, public beaches, and marinas. … More off the beaten track are the neighboring towns of Crockett and Port Costa (Carquinez Strait). The former is a sliver of a small town with the architecturally interesting C&H Sugar refinery its defining landmark, and the latter is an even smaller burg with a rocking biker bar, the Warehouse, which leather-clad motorcycle mamas and papas predictably swarm on Sundays. … For outdoor enthusiasts, easily accessible San Pablo Dam Reservoir (between Orinda and El Sobrante off San Pablo Dam Rd.) is an outdoorsman’s paradise, drawing fishermen for its smallmouth bass, white sturgeon, bluegill, crappie, trout, and catfish. Non-fishermen can boat, picnic, hike, bike, and generally chill, but there’s no swimming because the reservoir is a water supply source. … Coyote Hills Regional Park (Fremont) includes nearly one thousand acres of scenic wetlands and grassy hills, so this park attracts bikers, hikers, runners, and picnickers. But natural-history lovers can poke around the Visitor Center or a Native American archaeological site with a tule house and sweat lodge, while nature lovers can tour a bird and butterfly nectar garden or keep eyes peeled for wildlife. … The East Bay’s iconic monolithic peak is Mount Diablo (Contra Costa County), a 3,849-foot high mountain that anchors a sweeping 20,000-acre state park with major miles of trails. Visitors can drive to the top, but once a year the road is closed so that bicyclists can claim two-wheel bragging rights. … Love wine but don’t have the dough or the time to go all the way to Napa? You don’t have to, thanks to the Urban Wine Road (EastBayVintners.com), a growing cadre of East Bay urban wineries stretching from Emeryville to Oakland to Alameda. These talented vintners — Lost Canyon, Dache, JC Cellars, Rosenblum, Periscope Cellars, Urban Cellars, and Andrew Lane Wines — invite wine lovers into their tasting rooms. Now you can sip new varietals in your own backyard.