Alternative Oakland: 5 Things to Do with Kids
Coffee was most definitely what I needed on this morning.
The day didn’t start out the best. I can’t even really remember what it was about now. Probably not wanting to wear a coat, putting on the wrong shoes, or refusing to sit in the car seat.
What a relief it was when we were finally in the car and on the road. I reached down to finally take a sip of my coffee, which I’d hurriedly made and dumped into a to-go cup on our way out the door.
Except there was no coffee in the cup holder. It was at that moment that I realized (3 blocks too late), that’d I’d sat my coffee on the roof of the car while wrestling Evelyn into the car seat. A quick stop to the side of the road confirmed what I’d already known…the coffee was gone. F.
Nothing to do now but book it to Oakland. It is the home of Blue Bottle Coffee, after all, and we were going to need a latte, stat.
Blue Bottle | Home of Third Wave Coffee
With Evelyn still sleeping when we arrived, I sent Matt into the Webster Street coffee shop to get us some to go. Blue Bottle is super religious about their coffee and doesn’t do any of the overloaded sugary crap (but no judgment from me, I love you too Starbucks). But what you do get it is the smoothest, purest latte I’ve ever had, next to the Intelligestia we had in Chicago. Sugaring it up would only ruin it.
This wasn’t our first time in Oakland. We’d made a trip (without Evelyn) last August to do a walking food tour of Jack London Square. But it turned out to be so lackluster that I didn’t even feel good writing about it. (sorry!)
For those who might think Oakland is a little sketchy, think again. Oakland is to San Francisco what Brooklyn was to Manhattan in the early 2000’s. A city undergoing massive gentrification as the cost of living in San Francisco has skyrocketted. Young techies and hipsters looking for more affordable housing have barged their way in and started changing the landscape rapidly.
Blue Bottle is just one example of such.[irp]
Temescal Alley | Shopping & Donuts
With coffees in hand, we drove up to the Temescal neighborhood next. We parked a couple blocks away from Temescal Alley & Alley 49, two side-by-side alleyways filled with a handful of unique shops.
From vintage books at Book/Shop to handcrafted jewelry by Marisa Mason, the two alleys are as cute as local shops get. We didn’t dare bring Evelyn inside any, and the few times we tried, we quickly regretted it. The girl is just not interested in being strollered right now, but can’t keep her hands to herself either. So Matt and I took turns going into any shops that interested us.
We finished our visit on Alley 49, where we grabbed a couple of sweet treats from Doughnut Dolly. The shop offers 4 different varieties on round doughnuts, piping in your desired filling by hand crank right in front of you. I went with mixed berry jelly – Matt with dark chocolate – and we destroyed the donuts within seconds. Which left Matt to go back inside and order a couple more (this time filled with a vanilla bean naughty cream and peanut butter cream, yum!) for the road.
Homeroom | A Restaurant Dedicated to Mac and Cheese
Soon it was time for lunch. I was initially skeptical of Homeroom‘s informal menu on their website, but saw it came recommended by several bloggers and decided we’d give it a try. What’s more kid-friendly than mac and cheese, I figured?
Turns out, this is the place to go in Oakland for the hangover hungries. By the time we were finishing up around 12:30, there was a steady line out the door. The bowls of mac could easily feed two (I went with their special crab mac, while Matt chose smoky bacon – choice indeed!), and we took half of our meals to go.[irp]
Cat Town | Yeah, That’s Right…
We drove over to Cat Town next. And it is exactly what it sounds like. A partner of Oakland Animal Services, Cat Town is a cat cafe (yes, like the ones in Japan where you pay to drink coffee and play with kitties), except the cafe part is currently under renovation. You can reserve your spot online to play with the cats for $10, or take the chance to walk-in for $5. Not knowing how the day would go, I chose to wing it (something I knew in my heart was a bad idea, but hey, I’m trying to be more spontaneous here!)
Of course when we arrived, the hour-long spots were full for the afternoon. Lesson learned: go with your instincts and reserve ahead!
While we didn’t get to go inside, we watched from the street as the lone kitty who wasn’t sleeping at the moment pranced around the Cat Town. Evelyn peered through the window with a “meow”. It broke my heart! I’d failed her as a mother by not making sure she could play with that kitty. ?
Lost & Found | A Beer Garden Fit for Kids!
Moving on with plan B, we headed further downtown to Lost & Found Beer Garden.
I’m always a bit nervous when it comes to taking Evelyn to such places. Sometimes you can get away with it, if it’s the right atmosphere, but you could also fail miserably showing up with your baby in a bar.
But with positive reviews and photos online of a casual outdoor patio, we decided to give it a go.
And holy moly was it a success! To our surprise, there were tons of kids already there! Apparently we weren’t the only parents attracted to the idea of an afternoon drink with built in distractions for kids. ?[irp]
We let Evelyn play around with the cornhole bags, though she did often steal them from the other kids, and it seemed we spent more time policing her behavior than actually playing. The bartenders were super knowledgable (something I admittedly am not when it comes to beer), and helped me pick a peach pale ale; a perfect warm weather drink for the seldom beer drinker that I am. The beer garden serves a full menu of bar snacks and small plates as well, though we were still so full from our mac and cheese lunch that we didn’t have room to try anything!
With nap time approaching, we wrapped up our day in Oakland. Quitting while we’re ahead is something we’ve gotten a lot better at since traveling with our toddler. If you’re heading to San Francisco and have a spare day, heading across the bay is certainly not a bad way to spend it.
What’s your favorite alternative city to visit?
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