Welcome to this week’s edition of “See the World”! We are visiting Oakland, California with my friend Leslie Harvey of Trips with Tykes. Hopefully you caught our article on Nashville last week and Mexico City the week before. If you missed any of the other destinations this year, you can find them here! Let’s see what Leslie has to recommend as the top 5 family friendly things to do in Oakland, California.
The city of Oakland, California is often overshadowed by its neighbor across the bay. San Francisco is a tough act with which to compete, but Oakland stands on its own two feet as a travel destination. With two iconic professional sports franchises, ample green and outdoor space, and a flourishing culinary scene all combined with better weather and cheaper prices, there are a lot of reasons for families to head east. Don’t miss these top 5 family friendly things to do in Oakland on your next Bay Area trip.
Unless you are a theme park fan, you might not know the significance of Children’s Fairyland. This local amusement park on the banks of Lake Merritt was founded in 1950 and is full of history. In fact, Fairyland was an inspiration for Walt Disney in building Disneyland. The park features a few basic rides and carousels, themed play areas, live animals, and a professional puppet theater all themed around Grimm’s classic fairy tales. The park feels like it is stuck in a bit of a time warp, but that simply adds to its charm.
Well-known for its elephant exhibit, the Oakland Zoo has been a family favorite in Northern California for many generations. The zoo is in the middle of a major expansion which promises to turn it into one of the top zoos in the country. The new area, known as the “California Trail” will feature a series of open range animal exhibits native to California on the surrounding hillsides. A large high speed gondola over this new region offers breathtaking views of the entire Bay Area.
Tilden Regional Park
Most people think of Oakland as an urban jungle, but not many realize just how many natural wonders there are to see within the city’s borders. Visitors can hike among the redwoods at Redwood Regional Park or see an extinct volcano at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.
The crown jewel of East Bay outdoor adventures for families is undoubtedly Tilden Regional Park. Set in the hills above Oakland and Berkeley, the park is full of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. The park is also home to the historic Redwood Valley Railway, a narrow gauge steam train that runs a one mile loop through the redwoods. Families should also pay a visit to the Tilden Park Merry Go Round, a 1912 antique listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tilden Little Farm, a petting zoo, is another stop popular for families with younger children. In the summer, Lake Anza within the park opens for swimming to beat the heat.
Oakland Museum of California
The state of California is so vast that it is hard to explore it all even on longer vacations. Luckily, families can take a close look at the entire state by making just one stop in downtown Oakland. The Oakland Museum of California has three galleries themed around the natural science, history, and art of the state, offering an in-depth look at the varied geographies, peoples, animals, and cultures that make California so fascinating. Learn about San Francisco’s Summer of Love in the history gallery or explore the majesty of Yosemite National Park in the natural science gallery. There is something geared toward every age level at this museum.
Oakland A’s Baseball
It is hard for families to attend professional sporting events these days without cashing out their retirement accounts. A fun and cheap day at the ball game is still alive and well, however, with the Oakland Athletics. The A’s are Major League Baseball’s wackiest and scrappiest franchise, famous for eeking out success against the odds with baseball’s smallest budget (as depicted in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball). A’s fans and players have a sense of humor and a love of the game that makes for a family-friendly good time every game.
Check out even more Oakland outings for families in Leslie’s 50 Things to do in Oakland with kids.
Leslie Harvey is the founder of Trips With Tykes, a family travel blog focused on the joys and challenges of travel with little ones. Leslie calls the San Francisco Bay Area home and is the mother of two kids, ages 8 and 4. She has a passion for all things air travel and is also a lifelong Disney geek.