things to do in Berkeley with a 4 year old

August 19th, 2008

My father is hanging out with Will this week since school is out. So, I figured I’d share my list of places to take a 4 year old that both kids and adults might find entertaining.

In Berkeley:
– Go on a secret passage walk through the neighborhoods.
Berkeley is tied together by many foot paths that were carved during the days of trolley transportation. These paths are often the fastest way to traverse the hills by foot as they take a more direct, but sometimes steep, route up the face of the hills. They are definitely functional and well used by the bipedal neighbors (vs those that are attached to their cars), but at the same time seem secretive and mysterious. What better way to entertain the kid you are with and the kid in you than a secret journey and a picnic lunch.

– Hike Indian Rock.
This giant rock in the middle of a teensy park has spectacular views of the region, and is quite often used as a practice rock for climbers. It has some history, but frankly, when I went looking for it, I couldn’t verify that there really *were* indians using *that* rock as a mortar and pestle. Regardless, it is the perfect rock to play king of the mountain because who doesn’t want to be king of THAT view. There are secret passages to hide in. And even ancient steps to traverse.

– Visit Lawrence Hall of Science.
This is a reasonably sized science museum on Berkeley Campus. The views from the building are amazing, and the exhibits are just the right size for kids 3 to 99. The geeks out there will enjoy watching their kids climb through the giant DNA sculpture. Well, I do, anyway.

– Feed the animals at Tilden Park’s Little Farm
(or on the weekends ride a carousel or the steam trains!)
Bring your own celery or lettuce to feed the cows, chickens, geese, goats, and sheep. If you are adventurous, the area surrounding is a beautiful hike.

– Bring your cardboard and ride the concrete slide at Cordinices Park across from the Rose Gardens. The park is giant, so you might bring a soccer ball and some lunch as well. Or wheeled things for the path through the park.

– Have a picnic at the Rose Garden (On Euclid at Rose). I have yet to visit while the blooms are out, but my son and I are big fans of stopping to smell and compare the roses around our house, so I imagine we’d have a great afternoon sniffing.

– Visit Fairyland and experience what it must be like to live in a Mother Goose book whose pages have been smudged with kiddie love.

– (on a weekend) Put on your carpenters and head over to the Berkeley Adventure Playground in the Berkeley Marina where there is plenty to build, paint and saw to pieces. Our kids have loved slapping paint around and hammering since they were old enough to walk.

Habitot – near campus, this tiny indoor exploratorium is packed with make believe stations and walls the kids can get lost in. Really best for an accomplished climber with a good imagination (3+). There is a water table and a soft block room for the smaller siblings.

Oakland Zoo – This is not the place where the kid was eaten by the Tiger. This place is nice. It is small enough that the smaller tots aren’t overwhelmed and large enough that the big kids are interested. The management has done an excellent job of littering the zoo with interesting animal play structures that the kids love as much as the animals.

The Vivarium – Who doesn’t like to look at rare snakes, lizards and geckos? Or rather, what little boy doesn’t? According to Doug, this is the mother of all lizard shops.

Take the Bart to the City and check out: (The Bart trip alone is a blast! Add a bus trip or two to reach some of the more remote locations and voila!)
Golden Gate Park – Around Stowe Lake, there are paddle boats, canoes, and peddle carts for rent all for cheap. Stop in the Japanese tea garden for some pond jumping and landscaping that even a kiddie would enjoy. For a few bucks you can walk through the butterfly exhibit in the Conservatory of Flowers or perhaps see lily pads larger than your house (well, MY house)!

Zeum – Pronounced ZEE-Uhm, not zoom. An interactive art and technology museum located in Yerba Buena Gardens, just off the BART.

– Sutro Bath ruins – At the edge of the city, next to the Cliff House, stand the ruins of the Sutro Baths – a bathhouse from the early 1900s. You can see pictures of what once stood there in the Cliff House Gift shop or on the plaque that stands before it. A 4-year old won’t be interested in the pictures but will enjoy climbing on the ruins.

Exploratorium – perhaps a little too old for a 4-year old, but not for the 4-year olds in all of us. This is an interactive science museum on a grander scale than the Lawrence Hall of Science. Most days there are presentations that touch on the science behind interesting things like digestion or ice cream.

– China Town – Every kid likes the curio shops and interesting sights of China town.

– The curviest part of Lombard street –
Yes, even 4 year olds think this street is cool and worth the walk down. I’m not sure they’d find the drive interesting.

– The Gardens at Telegraph Hill and famed Parrots-
There are parrots living in the trees in the park-like gardens of the Telegraph Hill neighborhood. I find these gardens enchanting most likely because they seem so out of place in one of the more urban centers of the city. If you can locate yourself on the steps of Filbert between Sansome and Montgomery you might spy some famous cherry headed parrots flying overhead.