The Best Things In Life Are Free!
I originally started Bay Explorer when I was not working and I was taking my oldest daughter to different places in the Bay Area that were either free or I knew ways you could get in for low cost. My whole plight was- you don't have to spend a ton of money on children to show them you love them, you just have to spend time with them and be present. Pre-covid we still saved money on outings where we could but I have to say many of our weekends felt some type of mid to mildly expensive. I had kind of gotten away from my original purpose of why I started this page.
One thing lockdown has really reminded me of is that you don't have to spend a ton of money or any at all to have a good time with your children. You really just have to be present with them and spend the time with them. We haven't really locked ourselves away during this time as some families have. In the beginning we were only going on hikes and bike rides. Try getting your kids hyped for another hike every day- lmao! Ok so that played out after some months in. After we started feeling more comfortable I got back into my Bay Explorer thinking cap and realized that there is a plethora of things that we could do with our children that were free and outdoors. It made me remember my purpose in starting this page to show families of ALL socio-economic backgrounds you could have a good time in the Bay without spending any money at all
They say the best things in life are free so here are some free ideas about what to do with your kids in the Bay Area while on lockdown:
Take a Hike:
Here are some good places to hike with kids...
1) Roberts Redwoods- 10570 Skyline Blvd. Oakland. There are paths everywhere once you get up in the redwoods. Most of them are child friendly. I've taken my kids through so many of these hiking paths and only a few have been difficult. One of the easiest ones is the one through the redwood bowl section right before Chabot Space & Science Center turn off, parking available in the main lot.
2) Lake Chabot- 17600 Lake Chabot Blvd. Castro Valley. Lake Chabot has so many trails. You can park directly by the lake or on the street outside. There are even trails across the street from the lake. Or up the block from the lake is Fairmont Ridge. On leash dog friendly trails can be found at the lake & off leash trails above the lake or across the street from the lake. You can also bike around the lake, but some of it is very hilly and a bike with gears is recommended.
3) Fairmont Ridge- Fairmont Dr. Castro Valley. This hike is a little more hilly but can still be done by motivated little hikers. I've taken my 4 year old up but I wouldn't necessarily recommend much younger than that especially if they are not used to hiking. Wonderful views of Lake Chabot and the Bay.
4) Piedmont Community Center- 711 Highland Ave. Piedmont. This is the perfect short hike for little feet. The hiking portion is around the back of the community center in tall trees and is very shady on a hot day. This is an off leash dog friendly path. There are also great big rolling lawns to eat and sit on afterwards.
5) Muir Woods- 1 Muir Woods Rd. Mill Valley. This is not completely free but a great place to hike none the less. Parking is $10 (must make reservations online prior to going). Adults are $15 to get in & kids under 15 are FREE! Iconic historic Redwood sight.
6) Lake Temescal- 6500 Broadway Ave. Oakland. Perfect spot for a hike around the lake. Good for little feet. Has shady sections on a hot day. Also lawns to sit in the sun on.
7) Sibley Volcanic Preserve- Skyline Blvd. Just East of Grizzly Peak. If you have younger kids you can do the loop from the parking lot around the side and back. If you have older kids you can go into the park more and there are certainly many, many trails you can take up down and all around the park.
Go on a bike or scooter ride:
Life hack: We take our kids scooters everywhere we go! A mundane walk turns exciting. Throw them in the back of your car & leave them there- you'll thank me later!
1) Martin Luther King Shoreline- Doolittle Dr. & Swan Way, Oakland. This is maybe my favorite place to take the kids biking. The path is all flat and you can go a couple miles with out any hills interfering. By the water so you get a decent breeze on hot days as well.
2) Hayward Shoreline- 3050 West Winton way, Hayward. This is a great place to take your dog for a walk as well as take your kids scootering or biking. The main path is paved and then there are other paths that are not. So if you bring wheels know that youl'll be sticking to the main path by scooter and may have to off road it via bicycle.
3) San Leandro Marina- 13801 Monarch Bay Dr. San Leandro. You can ride a bike or scooter all over the parks paved paths or the 1 mile loop that leads out into the Bay. You can also go towards where the dog park is to ride your bike and it connects you to the Bay trail. All flat and paved. The only warning I have to give is that it's by the water, on the way back the wind is coming at you & makes it 30 times harder to pedal.
4) Berkeley Marina- 201 University Ave. Berkeley. located in the very heart of the Bay there are many wide open paths to walk, roll, or bike on. On-leash dog friendly walks. You can literally sit on the dock of the Bay and watch the tide roll away lol.
5) Richmond shoreline- 201 Isabel St. Richmond. This address is for point Isabel in front of Richmond Costco where you can park at. Hop on the other side of the fence is the bike path. You can ride this all the way down to the Richmond Marina. There are a few spots to stop on the beach on the way out. Paved smooth path right on the water with gorgeous views of the Bay.
6) Ohlone Pathway- The Ohlone Pathway can be picked up starting at Ohlone Park or North Berkeley Bart. You can ride this path all the way down to Richmond under the Bart tracks. If you have kids you do need to mindful of traffic and stop lights etc. Good paved paths with designated bike & walking lanes.
7) Oyster Bay- North end of Neptune Dr. in San Leandro. This is right along the water and also connects with the Bay trail. Has more hills but is fun to go up and down them. The main part is paved. It is mainly on leash park for dogs, but you can take them off leash on the non-paved roads. You can also bike there but I recommend a bike with gears or mountain bike on those parts, some of it is rough.
Visit a garden:
Summer without swimming has been bumming us out big time! So something we've found enjoyable that we hadn't done much before is go to gardens.
1) Berkeley Rose Garden- 1200 Euclid Ave. Berkeley. Tiers and rows of roses, up and down stairs. Pretty views of the Bay. Connects to Codornices Park via underground tunnel. https://www.cityofberkeley.info/contentdisplay.aspx?id=12048
2) Gamble Gardens- 1431 Waverly St. Palo Alto. This place is so cute. We found it by accident and I'm in love! There's roses, a fountain area, rows of flowers, a gazebo etc. Kids rode their scooters and we sat on the grass for lunch. https://www.gamblegarden.org/
3) San Jose Municipal Rose Garden- Dana & Naglee Ave. in San Jose. These gardens are beautiful! We went yesterday and I couldn't believe we had never been before! It's on a huge block so much space to run, play, sit, spread out, and stop to smell the flowers. https://www.sanjose.org/listings/municipal-rose-garden
4) Oakland Morcom Rose Garden- 700 Jean St. This little hidden gardens are perfect for exercising or taking a light stroll. There are many steps and hills to get a good work out done. There are a few spots you can sit and enjoy the flowers and a small pond. https://www.visitoakland.com/listing/morcom-rose-garden/220/
5) Blake Gardens- 70 Rincon Rd. Kensington. This is a little hidden gem of a gardens tucked up in the Kensington Hills. Right now unfortunatley they are closed but I would expect them to open soon as they are just an outdoors area. Check their website for updates. http://blakegarden.ced.berkeley.edu/
6) SF Botanical Gardens- 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco in Golden Gate Park. Ok this one does cost $ but if you have a big family you can get everyone in for $20. Children 4 and under are free. Acres of different landscaped gardens. Lots of room for running, walking, and playing. https://www.sfbg.org/
7) UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens- 200 Centennial Dr. Berkeley. This one costs too but children under 6 are free! Recently reopened to the public. Also has acres of varying landscaped gardens. https://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/xefkr4e3ior857
Go to the beach:
1) Crown Memorial Beach- 8th st and Otis Drive in Alameda. The beach stretches all up and the Alameda shoreline. Closest swimmable beach this side of the East Bay. Sometimes the tide goes so far out that you can walk very far out into the Bay. The kids love when that happens. Also surprisingly sometimes the water is warmish.
2) Chrissy Fields- 603 Mason St. San Francisco. Nice beach with long shoreline right under the Golden Gate Bridge.
3) Baker Beach- 1770 Gibson Rd. San Francisco. Located on the opposite side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Pretty views, dog friendly beach. If you go too close to the bridge you may get an eyeful, there is a nude section of the beach beware lol.
4) Ocean Beach- Point Lobos Ave. located along the Great Hwy in San Francisco. Miles of beach. Off leash dog friendly. Popular place for surfers and sand castle building. Some of the Great Hwy is closed for bikers and rollers so you may have to find parking on either side of the closures.
5) Black Sands Beach- Conzelman Rd, Sausalito. I recently went to this beach for the first time & it is beautiful & so difficult to get to lol. It says .2 miles to beach but what it doesn't say is that the whole .2 miles are steep stairs basically. I would take older kids who can walk that distance on their own. It was extremely hard with our crew of 2 two year olds, 3 other kids, and all the unnecessary stuff you bring to the beach. We really got our steps in that day!
6) Muir beach- Up there in the woods of Mill Valley. Often known to be overcast and cloudy can get crowded on a hot day. The beach is dog friendly. Has fire pits for bon fires. The parking lot and restrooms are both open at this time.
7) Albany beach- 1 Buchannan St. Albany. Small beach at the beginning of the Albany Bulb. This is also known as the dog beach so be aware this is what people use it for. Dogs and kids are always splashing in the water together over there.
1) Montalvo Center for the Arts- 15400 Montalvo rd. Saratoga. Really cute place to hang out. There are some hiking areas, lots of walking paths, we brought scooters, and just ran the kids energy out basically. http://www.montalvoarts.org/
2) Pulgas Water Temple- 80 Canada Rd. Redwood City. This is a pretty place to sit out in the sun. Not much else there except to take pictures. The lot is closed but the place is open which makes no sense. You have to park on the road and risk getting a ticket which we did.
3) Hidden Villas- 26870 Moody Road. Los Altos. I love this place and it has a long history of social justice and activism. The farm is closed right now but you can reserve a parking spot for $10 and go hike the shady paths around the farm. While walking the paths you can also say hi to the farm animals. We saw sheep, lambs, chickens, and goats- very exciting! https://www.hiddenvilla.org/
4) Lake Merritt- Lake Merritt is always a good time hanging out in the sun. Whether exercising, picnicking, hanging with the kids, or doing some shopping. Every Sunday a ton of vendors line up along the street and you can buy various items such as clothing, shirts, jewelry, plants, food, drinks, seamoss, honey etc. Everyone there vending is a Black owned business- so go support Black businesses and head over to the Lake.
5) Albany Bulb- Albany Bulb can be labeled in almost all of these categories; beach, hiking, art gallery. This place has it all! You can chill on the beach with your kids and dog or take a hike and look for art. There's art all over from labyrinths, to a big rope swing, to giant sculptures made out of trash. It''s like a fun scavenger hunt for the kids.
6) Cal Campus- Take you bike or scooter and roll around the campus. Find a spot in the shade to eat some lunch. Just have fun getting your steps in exploring the campus and listening to the campenelli chime.
7) Stanford- Also a good place to explore on foot, by scooter, bike or stroller. We had a good time scootering around taking in the sights. There are different gardens and things to see. As well as a nice little cafe selling yummy smoothies that is open for business.
With so much FREE outdoors open stuff to do in the Bay there is no reason to keep yourself and children cooped up inside. So get away from your TV, get outside, and get exploring!!! Remember fresh air, nature, and sunshine can help boost your immune system. Also remember the best things in life are FREE! Well the best things in life are not things but people, moments, & connections so make sure to make time to connect with your favorite people making magical moments in the outdoors.