Relocating to N. Berkeley from the West of Ireland and scared!

Good morning, everyone

A gentle check in to ask for some local input, if I may.  I am moving to North Berkeley from County Clare next month with the rest of my clan. I am breaking into a cold sweat thinking about flying long haul with our one year old daughter. 

We would be very grateful if anyone could direct us towards a safe park to play in nearby; a good family physician; the best place to shop for toddler clothes, equipment and toys; suggest what to do or where we can go for Halloween to allow our little lady a chance to interact with other toddlers; advise whether families are still trick-or-treating; make suggestions regards day care/ playgroups; have any ideas of must pack essentials for life in Berkeley! A tall order, I apologise! 

My husband was recently awarded the Harkness Fellowship Award and will be researching and working in Oakland, and I have put my career ambitions aside to embrace this new family adventure, but admittedly am anxious about social isolation.  I imagine it is going to be hard to meet people during this pandemic.

Thanks in advance. Warmly, Sarah 

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Hi Sarah,

The good news is that you will be totally fine! North Berkeley is a safe, family friendly place. When you arrive, put on your mask and go and introduce yourself to your neighbors. Give them your email address. Spread the word that you are new, and looking for connections. This is not uncommon in a college town. We have lovely parks here - Codornices Park, Live Oak Park and the Rose garden area -- all within walking distance no matter where you live in North Berkeley. When you have a residential address sign up to Nextdoor which is a wealth of recommendations, connections, services and ideas in your particular neighborhood. This is where you will find all the things you are asking for above including many baby items that people are wanting to get rid of, often for free. N Berkeleyans respond warmly to a wave, a smile and a friendly attitude. You will quickly make friends - there are plenty of families with young children at the parks. Hope to meet you in the neighborhood!

HI Sarah,  I love Clare. I have a good friend in Liscannor. I don't know the answer to all these questions, but I just wanted to reassure you that you don't need to either right now. You're going to be just fine. You'll figure it all out when you get here. This country is in a really weird place right now. We are basically fighting for our democracy, dealing with this pandemic, grappling with our system racism, and we have been having some horrific wildfires (that season should be ending hopefully around the time you get here, fingers crossed).

Despite all that, Californians are a friendly bunch, even with our masks on, there are lots of parents that you can connect with through social groups (and this platform), and everyone loves an Irish accent. I hope you have a great adventure and good luck getting over here. 

Agree with previous poster. Putting a note in local mailboxes with your email/number and a brief intro really worked for me to meet folks in my neighborhood. So many great parks to choose from, use Google maps to identify a few and plan to explore them all to get to know the area. You can also sign up for Nextdoor but beware, I find a lot of online "trolls" in that community. Welcome - I hope you have a smooth adjustment!

Hi Sarah

I don't have many helpful recommendations yet but we moved here in August from London, just for the academic year as my partner is lecturing here for the year. Our little one is only a week old so not helpful in terms of play for your one year old, but if you need anything when you get here or want to meet up with someone else new to the area please don't hesitate to reach out! West coast Ireland is our favourite and we'd normally be making our annual trip to the south west this month, can't wait to take the little one when we get back on other side of pond! 


Hi, Sarah - welcome! In addition to the parks the other parent recommended, come up into the hills and check out Tilden Park if you want more of a hike or forest vibe. There's a large open lawn in front of the Brazil Building in the park (with a parking lot) where you can have a picnic and let your toddler run. Once it's open again (I believe most parks and playgrounds are technically still closed though that may be changing soon), Totland is a magical little park for small ones.

Solano Ave is a bit outside the North Berkeley area, but two of my favorite places to shop for kid stuff are there: Chloe's Closet (clothing, shoes, and some toys/gear/books) and Toy Go Round. Both are secondhand shops with high standards, and I've found many treasures!

Our pediatrician is Dr. Karin Schiffman and she is just lovely, I really like her and her small family practice.

Most fall/Halloween festivals have been cancelled as far as I know, and I don't think I'd recommend trick or treating, unfortunately. Specific neighborhoods may be doing things differently, but it seems an unnecessary risk at the moment. Once you are settled, join your neighborhood on the NextDoor app so you can connect with other parents nearby. You may be able to join a pod with a few other families so you and your little one can make friends. I also recommend joining the Facebook groups "Berkeley Moms" and "Main Street Mamas: East Bay".

Your question of what to pack reminds me of what my husband told me when I moved to the Bay Area 3 years ago: always have a jacket with you, no matter the weather! Pack layers. :)

Best wishes for a smooth journey!


I think you'll find lots of resources right here on BPN for many of the questions you posed so good job finding this resource!

You may want to look for a pod to join as covid has turned so many things on their heads. Again, BPN would be my first stop for this.

Not sure what folks are doing for Halloween- we aren't planning on doing anything outside of my son's preschool and a family pumpkin patch trip and decorating at home. Youll find folks celebrate differently in different neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods didn't do trick or treating even in pre-covid times. Many people will go to neighborhoods known for trick or treating, but again, I doubt that's happening this year.

I've long loved Totland Park amd the Rose Garden in Berkeley, both jewels in pre-covid times, but I have no idea what it's like now. I've been at Dracena Quarry Park and Temescal Regional Park a lot more recently as they have bigger open spaces. When I was on marernity leave with my first I started putting in "parks near me" in a google search and just started exploring all the parks in a 10+ mile'll get a feel for different neighborhoods this way too.

Toddler clothes can be found on BPN, at Target, Bay area Facebook groups, cute boutiques thay sell new and used items like Valentine's on Piedmont Ave Kelly's Corner MacArthur.

You'll want a good hoodie or fleece, walking shoes, water bottle; if you have a bike then a good lock. Berkeley is a comfy town so you wont need anything too glamorous. Lots cotton, fleece, linen, Danscos, and Tevas around here. Everyone will tell you to dress in layers; sometimes it feels like a 20 degree difference between the sun and the shade.

Lots of luck and welcome!!

Sarah no need to be afraid. Berkeley has many nice parks and people. Like any large city, there is some crime, but not enough to be concerned. The real shocker for most people and for you will be the very large populations of homeless scatter all over the city. You'll have no problem finding toddler clothes and toys.  If you are on a budget look on Craigslist. The Bay Area has a large Irish population so chances are you will meet some distant relatives. Berkeley is warmer than Ireland and in the spring will be as green. Oakland can be a bit rougher so develop your street smarts and be aware of your surroundings. I would not worry about social isolation.  In San Francisco there are restaurants and bars where Irish is spoken. I would suggest contacting the Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco.  The Irish has a huge influence in history of the Bay Area, especially San Francisco. Take a look at as well. 

Good luck with your move! You will make it through the challenges and have a great experience. There are lots of parks in N Berkeley (I'm in Oakland) which you can easily find. A fun, larger one for kids is down near Berkeley Aquatic Park. We also love the playgrounds at Piedmont's Dracena Park and the one near Lake Merritt in Oakland called Snow Park.  Family physician depends on your insurance, we are with Kaiser and love Dr. Fischoff. For Halloween, there is always a party in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood, but that may be shut down this. year due to Covid concerns. Feel free to reach out when you arrive if you want to have a coffee with another mom! All the best.

Hey Sarah,

I second whatever the Goosemama already said. Also, there is Tilden park. Once the pandemic is under control, the Tilden Little Farm (FREE) will re-open buy a lot of celery and lettuce and head there to feed goats, cows, sheep, nearby is also a carousel ($). There is also a steam train on the other side of Tilden-also a delight to kids. In San Francisco, there is California Academy of sciences ( with many activities for kids. Oakland Zoo ( and San Francisco Zoo ( are already open and operational. Unlike Europe, everything cost money, a lot of money. Once here, you can join your local public library ( and they sometimes check out guest passes to the venues listed above. Another option might be to buy an annual pass...Toy shop-5 little monkeys ( it is local and located on Solano ave. There is a big store, Target. Depending on where in North Berkeley you are planning to live, keep in mind the altitude. It is easy to hike down from home to the stores, less so in helps....

Right now, socialization is tough. We are all under Shelter-in-place order, so stuck in the wild or at home...schools and playgrounds have been closed since CAN walk around parks and streets.

Welcome to California and North Berkeley! I can get you started on a few things:

1. Great parks: Live Oak Park and Cordornices Park. There are also some great parks in Albany, just five minutes north of North Berkeley: Jewel's Terrace Park and Memorial Park. Thousand Oaks Elementary School in Berkeley is also a great place to play and because schools are remote, it is open and available during the day. Lastly, Tilden Park is a large regional park with hiking trails and fun stuff like the Steam Trains, the Little Farm, a botanical garden, and a nature center. Everything is closed now during the pandemic, but you can still hike and visit the botanical garden by appointment. Cesar Chavez Park by the bay has beautiful views of San Francisco (but no playground--just a path for walking and biking). The UC Berkeley campus is also a great place to walk around and explore. There are grassy fields, a creek, etc. My kids love riding bikes and exploring there. And the UC Berkeley botanical garden (open by appointment) is beautiful.

2. Berkeley Pediatrics is a great medical office with great doctors in North Berkeley. 

3. For used toys and clothes, I recommend Toy Go Round and Chloe's Closet, both on Solano Ave. in Albany. Target has toddler clothes and all the equipment/supplies you need. There is a location in Albany that's a 10 minute drive from North Berkeley. And has wonderful toddler clothes, very well made and long-lasting.

4. I don't think many people are going to be trick or treating and the city of Berkeley is advising against it. (You can sign up for email health alerts from the Berkeley Department of Public Health.) Parks and playgrounds are probably the best places to meet people.

Good luck!!

If your children like to choose their own clothes then the convenient place to shop is Target due to their many locations, non-label prices, and savvy purchasing dept. If the parents like to dress up the kids then online shopping will save you time unless you like to wander shopping malls. I prefer more durable clothes, but after a certain age, very little can withstand the abuse of active girls much less active boys! Safe Halloween fun can be had at the many family farms within an hour's drive if you pick off peak days/hours. We just went to one in Lathrop ( and a couple hours in the evening darkness was great fun for our kids' age range. I can see how some people would be able to spend the whole day there if one is not simply passing through the area.


I grew up in North Berkeley and I'm now raising my baby here too. Please feel free to contact me directly for park and general area info.

Regarding essentials:
1. Always have clothing layers because the weather can change throughout the day.
2. I'm sure you've heard of the fires in our state. Once you move, if you are going to live here between June - November make sure your home has a good quality air purifier.

Congratulations to your husband on the fellowship and I hope the whole family enjoys living here.

I live in north Berkeley and love it. My husband hails from an Irish background. I can answer your questions via email!   We see Dr. Annemary Franks, but there are great doctors there, you can see them on your website..  Very long standing practice (since the 1970's at least), and very organized.  We flew home with an 8-month old (2 long-haul flights, with stops in Minneapolis and Amsterdam), and the airline then (Northwest I think) had limited amounts of seats (2 seats in the entire airplane I think, you have to request ahead) where you could have a bassinet attached to the seat ahead of you.  Very helpful.  I'm not sure if your 1-year old would fit, or if they still have them (12 years ago).  Best of luck!

Please reach out, would love to welcome you to N. Berkeley in a socially distanced setting! I've got a 2 year old and am happy to chat, Katherine