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Bay Explorers

My vision is to inspire families of all backgrounds to explore, be present, and have fun with their children in the Bay Area.

It's festival season- woo hoo!

It's my favorite time of the year again- festival season! Every year starting at the end of May you can begin to find a festival happening almost every weekend somewhere around the Bay Area. Below is a comprehensive list of some the season's best festivals, some that have already happened, and some that are on the way! You can click the link on each of their names to be connected to their page. My personal favorite top ten...

1. Malcolm X Jazz Festival- I have said it many times before but this is my favorite event of the year! I literally mark it on my calendar and look forward to it for months. This event takes place the Saturday closest to his birthday (May 19th) every year. It is always held in San Antonio Park in Oakland and put on by Eastside Art Alliance. The whole day is good music, good food, and good vibes. Everyone comes to have a positive time and you can feel the spirit of all of those attending. Plus all my favorite local vendors come together to sell their wares in one place. Children are welcomed and nurtured through positive interactions. I have been going to this event since I was in high school and am so happy now to be taking my children with me.

2. San Leandro Cherry Festival- The first Saturday of June in downtown San Leandro. This is a fun local event that San Leandro puts on every year. Many blocks are shut down in the downtown area and host everything from live music to kids rides. Last year the music even featured Jon B! There are vendors, San Leandro community programs, art, and food lining the streets. Best of all there is a kids corner with rides, games, and bounce houses.

3. Eastlake Music Festival: This festival happens Memorial Day weekend and is a free concert on the lovely Lake Merritt. This was the first year that I have attended and I was really glad that I did. The festival was alive with family fun and community. My girls enjoyed dancing to the music, jumping in a bounce house, and chasing bubbles with other kids on the lawn. There was vendors, food, and lots of music! We all had a good time in the sunshine.

4. Temescal Street Fair: Coming up this Sunday June 11th. Many blocks of Telegraph are shut down and filled with vendors, food, music, dancing, kids rides, art, jewelry, and more. I love how much children activities are provided. There are many rides, slides, and bounce houses to occupy little bodies. Last year we walked up on a magic show as well as a children's acrobatics show which all of the kids enjoyed. Not only are there food vendors on the street but all of the many restaurants on Telegraph are open for business- so there are plenty of food options to choose from!

5. Carnaval: Carnaval is an exciting time of the year in the Mission district of San Francisco! Held on the last weekend of May, Carnaval is an event not to be missed. The Carnaval parade is a colorful melee of dancers, drummers, musicians, and floats. Sure to excite any child. The parade stretches for many blocks so if it is too crowded where you see it, try walking a few blocks over and see if you can get a clearer view. After the fun of the parade head down a few blocks to find vendors galore! Blocks and blocks and blocks of people selling their food, goods, food, crafts, food, clothes, food- did I mention food. There are literally blocks on end of vendors- we walked til we couldn't walk anymore.

6. Berkeley Kite Festival: The Berkeley Kite Festival is a one of a kind uniquely Berkeley affair. Lasting two days the last weekend of July every year this event has gotten really popular over the years since I was young. As the name suggests your children will be thrilled by all the kites everywhere- big kites, little kites, colorful kites, animal kites, twirling, whirling, crazy kites, kites with tails, and kites with sails. So many kites and plenty of chances for you and your child to fly one as well, whether you bring your own from home, get to hold a professionals, or try your hand at the small free kites. There is lots more to do there as well for children including a petting zoo, pony rides, ball rolling, bungee jumps, face painting, and inflatable everything. There are inflatable slides, bounce houses, and obstacle courses galore! But this is where it starts to get expensive. But it is free and to get the most out of that bring a big blanket and park your patootie on the grass for some hours of oogling at the kites flying high and doing tricks.

7. Art & Soul Festival: This is happening the weekend of August 19th-20th this year. The Art and Soul festival is as synonymous with Oakland as the Kite Festival is to Berkeley. It is an annual event you can count on to keep coming back year after year. I went to my first Art and Soul event when I was in high school. Back then it was a free event with one stage wrapped around a few corners of downtown Oakland. Today it is a much bigger event! There are now four stages with live music, a giant kids zone complete with rides and bounce houses, a BBQ competition, too many food vendors to choose from, adult beverages, and literally blocks and blocks of craft vendors. Oh did I mention you now have to pay just to get in the gates? A lot has changed over the years but the heART and soul of it have not. The event still brings out Oakland's most talented artists both on the stage and in the stands. You can find any type of novelty you are looking for. The Kids Zone has so much stuff going on, your kids will be entertained all day, or two days. The event is for the whole weekend so if you miss out on things on Saturday you can go back for another round on Sunday. It can get a little expensive with tickets, food, kid rides, and a vendor that catches your eye- so just know that going in to the situation. No matter how much money you end up spending, it is an afternoon worth spending with your friends and family.

8. Life is Living Festival: This very unique Youth Speaks Festival is so Oakland in every way! It is a free fun day event filled with everything for kids, teens, and adults! The event takes place at a park so even if kids get bored, which they won't, they can just go run and play on all of the playground. The festival is an all day music concert with multiple stages and so much talent. Many local acts showcase their rap and signing skills over multiple microphones. There are rows of unique Bay Area vendors selling their finely crafted wares. A whole stage is dedicated to African dance on one side of the park. The dancers put on a show as well as give lessons to the audience. We sat all day in the sun on our picnic blanket enjoying the music. There are tons of kids in attendance so there is always someone to play with. Last year there was a very sweet crown making booth for children so they know they are kings and queens. This is a wonderful family friendly community event and I can not wait for it to come again.

9. One World Festival: The One World Festival is a great chance to enjoy the festivities of 4th of July without having red, white, and blue shoved down your throat! This is a wonderful event put on every year by the city of El Cerrito at the lovely Cerrito Vista Park to celebrate in all the cultures of the world with a fun day of activities! The main stage always has dancing, singers, and bands playing from all different cultural backgrounds. There is a large row of jumpy tents, obstacle courses, and inflatable slides. Much to my surprise there are also very real children's rides that get set up for the day here. It's crazy because we always used to go play at this park but I had never been to the festival until two years ago. When I saw it set up with all the rides, jumpers, vendors, stage, and such I almost couldn't believe my eyes and that it all fit in what seemed a modest baseball field. But it does and it is absolutely wonderful for young children! There were rides both my daughters could have fun on (age difference 6 years). If you walk down the parks stairs to the street below you will find more vendors, kids activities, and the food court with lots of choices. Me and my older daughter always spend some time hula hooping- there is a whole booth set up with free ones to play with and you can purchase them too if you like. Also this is held at a park so if you run out of tickets or waiting in line patience your kids can go play at the park (see Cerrito Vista Park). All in all my family has a great time every time we have gone and yours will too!

10. Umoja Festival: The Umoja Festival is an African festival at the end of the summer (happening August 26th this year) that is a unique gem of a festival and a good day. The Umoja Festival has a little bit of something for everyone in the family. There is an all day soccer tournament including a kids game that is going on all day. A few aisles of unique craft vendors selling their various items. You can find handmade jewelry, hats, sunglasses, clothes, purses, art pieces, etc. Lots of food booths to choose from mainly selling various African cuisine. Best of all there is pretty much an all day concert going on, so the stage is always lit with great acts. The festival takes place at a park so there is plenty of room to stretch out and bring blankets to lay on the grass. There is a decent sized kids structure area where all the kids eventually congregate together and play freely with each other- which is so sweet to see. The festival has really good vibes and is a nice day in the park for the whole family.

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