Kid-friendly suburbs - moving from San Francisco

We live in San Francisco but are thinking of moving to the suburbs as our son gets older. We are really looking for a suburb where kids play on the streets and bike to each others houses. Does that still exist? Where are we most likely to find it? Money isn't really and issue. We are thinking perhaps Orinda in the east or Hillsborough on the peninsula. Either would work for our commute. We would love some advice. Thanks. 

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Orinda particularly the Ivy Drive and Glorietta neighborhoods.

I have friends in all types of neighborhoods. I see kids playing outside in Alameda and Pleasanton. Once you get into the more exclusive neighborhoods, you don't see the same freedom of movement.

We love living in Lafayette, and my kids play out front all the time. We live on a flat street with the cul-de-sac, and my son spends hours outside kicking a ball, shooting baskets, playing with the neighbors, riding bikes etc. I love this old-fashion childhood in the safe town. 

 When we were looking, we were considering both Orinda and Lafayette (Moraga is another good option, but my husband thought the commute was too far ). I found that Orinda didn't have many flat streets, as it has more hills. There are hilly part of Lafayette as well, but there are also many areas with flat streets and plenty of kids outside! We also live near the trail, which is very convenient. We can walk to school and to town. 

I have friends who live all around the bay area, and many are envious of our neighborhood. I pinch myself every day and feel grateful to live in such a wonderful spot. 

Good luck with your search, and moving to the suburbs can be a great decision. 

I know what you mean.  I grew up in Oakland hills and Berkeley and we played in the streets, rode bikes everywhere.  One of the "kids" I grew up with years ago just sent me a letter saying how much fun she had in those days.  In Oakland there would be 5  to 10 kids all playing together in the street.   I think times have changed and that's defiantly something that's rare in Orinda.  The streets are narrow, cars drive fast, lots of hills and few sidewalks.  Downtown is only 2 blocks long and it's filled with real estate offices.  Kids are too busy with organized sports, hanging out at the country club or  involved in  other activities.  There is an occasional lemonade stand on the corner.

You might want to take a look in Santa Cruz.  I've been taking my daughters there for basketball and volleyball games for a couple of years and I see kids riding bikes and playing together in the yards and in the street. 

Good luck finding a Disneyland Main Street USA in the US.

We don't have school-aged kids yet (first child due to arrive any day now :)), but we can speak quite highly of West Contra Costa County; we moved to Pinole almost 3 years ago and there seems to be quite a strong community of families here. We frequently see kids playing in each others' yards, and there are also a lot of public play spaces like parks and sports fields that are always well-used without being too crowded. For older kids, the city's pretty bikable although a bit hilly. The city's also very clearly putting in an effort to make itself more "community-friendly"; there is a winter holiday festival, a 4th of July parade and other activities that are increasingly well-attended. And both the houses and general cost of living are cheaper than you'd find in the eastern part of the county, and the temperature swings are not nearly as crazy either :)

We moved from San Francisco to Berkeley nine years ago when our children were 11 and 6. Maybe it's less of a suburb than you're thinking of, but my son shoots baskets on the street in front of our house and has been walking around the city and traveling by public bus since he started middle school. I was a reluctant transplant - loved the city - but life here is much more family oriented. Parents are very involved in the schools and there are lots of things for kids to do. 

Orinda is a great community with wonderful schools and lots of families but I wouldn't describe it as somewhere kids bike and play in the streets.   Frankly the lots are too large and spaced out and the roads are not pedestrian or child friendly.  It is a very car-centric community.  In the LaMorinda area your best bets for that are in Lafayette (the ranch homes near downtown and perhaps Upper Happy Valley).  

I have friends in Hillsborough and it is another great community with great schools and lots of families.  That's said the families are typically very wealthy and the community politics can get a little too Desperate Housewives for some.  Whether kids play in the streets or not likely depends on the specifics of your neighborhood but the few families I know there tend to stick to themselves and their yards.   

Two neighborhoods you haven't mentioned:

Piedmont - some parts, particularly near the parks, can give you this old time, family friendly vibe.  Also good public schools. 

Alameda - people overlook this one.  I know we did when considering where to buy.  But the East End and Gold Coast fit this description to a tee.  Kids run in packs, roam free at the local parks, parents practice "free range" parenting without the worry someone will call CPS If your kid walks to the corner market alone, families bike together on the streets, to the beach, to the local wineries, etc.   Alameda is home to many ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds which is good for kids and was an important factor in our decision. The homes are more affordable, you can commute by ferry to SF and you are minutes from Oakland and Berkeley's great restaurant scene (also true of Piedmont).  

Best of luck in your decision!

My son goes to school in Danville, and the kids there have a ton of freedom (in a good way). Several of my friends have moved to Castro Valley recently, and have encountered the awesome environment you described, but if money is no object, you may not like it (it's cheaper and less charming than the areas you mentioned). Living on a cul-de-sac is key, wherever you choose.

Albany is another good one, kids are pretty much free-range around Albany Memorial Park from the age of 9 or 10.