BART Day Trips

Archived Q&A and Reviews

BART day-trip for 3 y.o. & infant

May 2005

I've checked the archives, but didn't find specific answers--I haven't ridden BART since before I had kids, and then only 3 y.o. daughter LOVES trains, and I want to take her (and my 4 mo. old) on BART, get out and walk around (eat, use bathroom), and then take it back home.

We live in N. Berkeley, but could drive to any station (which one is easiest to navigate with a stroller, safest, the least crowded, etc...?) Are there elevators? I don't know if I could carry the infant carseat & a folded stroller, AND hold on to the 3 year old on a long escalator...

I thought of going to the SF Airport and riding their ''monorail'' type train...any other destinations to recommend? A mall, a kids' museum, any place that's within easy walking distance of a BART station, is stroller accessible, and has bathrooms? I'm thinking of a 3-4 hour adventure, there & back. Thanks. Heidi

When my kids were little we used to take BART from the El Cerrito Del Norte station near our house to the Lake Merritt station. We would get off there, walk a short block to the Oakland Museum, walk around the museum, which is quite child friendly, eat lunch in the restaurant there, and head back to the BART station and home. It took about 3 hours, was just the right length, and was always a fun time. Judy

Why not try Amtrak from Jack London Square to Emeryville and back? Such fun - and each end can be a destination. JLSquare has Barnes and Noble and pretty water views, etc. Emeryville has the Public Market, Borders, etc. Bathrooms, views and fun. Totally stroller accessible. Mom of a train lover, too.

One possible BART trip is to take the train to the Powell St. Station in SF. The station is underneath the San Francisco Centre mall so you can run around, eat lunch, visit the bathroom there. Also, just across Market St. from the Mall is the Powell St. Cable car stop. If the line is not too busy you could take a cable car ride or, at a minimum watch the street performers. This is a great rainy day activity. Have fun! Jennifer

North Berkeley BART is fine, and rarely crowded unless it's the peak of rush hour. If you are driving there, get to the station a little before ten to get one of the ''after 10:00'' spaces (free). I'm not sure why you need to lug your car-seat, though, if your baby is o.k. in the folding stroller.

Some ideas:

Downtown Berkeley (for a longer ride, just stay on the train longer, then get on a return train without exiting the paid area) - Habitot, Hall of Health, ice cream, parks, etc.

Embarcadero - Ferry building (maybe even a ferry); walk along the Embarcadero or take the ''F'' streetcar (probably crowded with tourists this time of year) to Pier 39 for street performers, merry-go-round, sea lion viewing, etc.

Lake Merrit - Oakland Museum (especially when they are having their Sunday Family Exploration series)

Powell Street - Zeum, Metreon, Yerba Buena gardens with bowling, ice skating (you'll need someone to watch the baby), merry-go-round, play structure, etc.

For more ideas, go to, select ''Rider Guide'' and click on ''Destinations''

If you want to do a ''REAL'' train, consider taking the Amtrack train to San Jose or Old Sacramento sometime - it can be a great all day outing, though more than 3-4 hours. Have fun! R.K.

My kids (ages 4 and 2) love the Academy of Sciences which is now temporarily South of Market in SF. Here's the web site:

It is the perfect size for small ones, the penguins are neat-o and it is just down the block from the beautiful carousel near Zeum. It's a two block walk from BART (info w/ directions is on the web site). BART does have elevators, but they can be hard to find and sometimes icky. You could ask for help from a station attendant if you're confused. I like the Rockridge station because it's in a busy area and, hence, feels safer. Molly G

i've commuted 2-3 times a week on BART with my toddler since he was 5 months old. unsurprisingly, he is also fixated by trains!

every station has an elevator, since the BART system is wheelchair accessible. whether they are working or not is another issue, although lately they seem to be in good order. each station has a sign showing which elevators are currently in/out of service. north berkeley actually has one of the nicer elevators. warning, though: some of the elevators do smell kinda gross. like a litterbox, as i tell my son. both your kids are free, too (under 5).

as to where to go, if your daughter really loves trains you probably want a longer ride. (you could go one stop to habitot in downtown berkeley, but it's not really a train experience!) i suggest going into downtown SF, since from N. Berkeley you will get some above ground track, which the kids seem to love. you will also pass through macarthur, a big hit as it has four parallel tracks so you'll always see at least one other train pulling through. you'll also go underneath the bay.

so where to go in downtown SF? i would suggest either embarcadero - a nice walk along the waterfront, go into the Ferry bldg to get some lunch and maybe do some shopping- or to powell st. at powell you can go to yerba buena gardens, the academy of sciences on howard st., or to the rooftop playground, plenty of places to eat and you can go into the metreon to use the bathrooms.

the airport sounds like a good idea, you can BART all the way down there if you want and then take the monorail (we call it 'baby BART). we're an SF-berkeley commuting family, so i don't know too much about the other lines, but i'm sure there are lots of places there too.

my last piece of advice is to avoid rush hour if you can- that way you'll have more room and it won't be as big a deal if one of your tykes chooses to melt down. although folks on BART have mostly been pretty nice about it, in my opinion. cachien

BART is incredibly safe and easy to use, but do not count on the elevators working,as they often aren't and aren't that convenient anyway. If it were me, I'd put the baby in a bjorn or backpack and have your three year old walk, but my kid was always a good hoofer. Otherwise you'll just need to haul that sucker up the stairs or escalator (and hope for help from a kindly stranger.)

That said, my favorite BART expedition is to Yerba Buena Gardens in SF. Get off at Powell, walk the four blocks to yerba buena center and then you can play all day. There's the gardens themselves (fountain, grass, weird statues, playground with awesome slide) plus the Zeum and the Carousel.

Another option for train fanatics is to get out at Powell and then ride the old fashioned street cars down to Pier 39 (or the cable cars, if it's not the height of tourist season). You can even take the ferry home, if you're so inclined (then take the bus from Jack London Square to downtown oakalnd and pick up BART).

For all questions about public transit, including schedules, fares, etc, go to and use their fabulous trip planner.

Have fun! nelly

I take BART with my train-obsessed 4yo and his baby sister semi- regularly. Most often, we go from the El Cerrito Plaza station, which is nearest our house, to Downtown Berkeley, in order to go to Habitot. This is a very short BART ride, of course, but it's easier than parking in downtown Berkeley! And Habitot, of course, is a perfect destination to spend an hour or a whole day. We've also gone to San Francisco -- for the Chinese New Year parade, to meet friends for ice skating, and that sort of random outing -- and miscellaneous other places. Justin Herman Plaza might be a good outing for you; there are restaurants and public restrooms in the Embarcadero mall, you can walk along the waterfront, and the plaza itself is a fun place to just run around chasing pigeons.

For safety, your best bet is probably to just go midday, or weekends, so as to avoid the rush hour crowds. You'll encounter the occasional ''character'' but I've never really felt threatened on a train or in a station, and most other passengers seem to enjoy seeing the kids.

My main recommendation for you, though, is to forget the stroller. It is absolutely, positively not worth dragging a stroller around. Carry the baby in a sling, backpack or other carrier. You will be able to use the escalators and stairs, you will be able to get through the fare gates, and you will have your hands free for helping your 3yo and keeping her safe. All three of you will be much more comfortable.

Oh, and do be careful getting the 3yo through the fare gates -- they closed on my son's head once! (He was fine, but it's a hazard of being only about 3 feet tall.) Holly

Here is what we do.....

My son loves trains as well and I went on few trips with him. The eaisest for us was to get on Rockridge Bart station and go to Walnut Creek. From the Walnut Creek bart station, there is a free ride bus to down town (I don't know if you know about Walnut Creek but they have Nord Storm, Gymboryee, Gap etc etc to have a good time.) Of course, Nord Storm always has a nice bath room too. In front of Gymboree, there is a fountain with flowers and a lot of kids and moms usually are hanging out there. Stopping by that area and get back on the bus and get back on the bart usually takes about 4 hours. have fun!

My kids (4 and 2) love taking BART. We often take BART from North Berkeley (where we live) to the Embarcadero in the city on weekend mornings. The refurbished Ferry Building is great and fancy (we do a lot of 'window shopping') and the kids love to run by the water. Be warned, the Saturday Farmer's Market is wonderful but extremely crowded. We find Sunday's more relaxed but less yummy treats. Nancy

The trip to SFO is a winner. The new international terminal is a great place to stretch your legs.

I've taken BART from the Rockridge Station. There's an elevator under the station ( west of the escalator near College St) that takes you to the station and the platform.

Hint: if you plan to go to any station that requires an elevator ride to get out, do ask the station agent if the elevator there is working before you start the trip. Most of the time elevators work but I when they don't it's a BIG drag. Have fun, JM

Try the Oakland Museum. It's close to the Lake Merritt Bart station, has a nice restaurant and is great for 3 year olds. Also, Lake Merritt itself is a nice place to take kids - lots of birds, some playgrounds, a sandy beach area, a nice path. All the Bart stations have elevators, almost always in working order. Jen

I would suggest the Embarcadero station. It exits right at the Hyatt hotel that has glass elevators and an indoor fountain that kids can put their fingers in. Big fun! Outside the hotel is the plaza where the kids can run around. Walking around the Embarcadero Center is fun because there are all kinds of ramps and staircases. There are many restaurants or a more casual outdoor food court. Across the street is the Ferry Plaza that has a farmers market Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Have fun! Helena

We take BART from Fruitvale station into SF. Sometimes we get off at the MOntgomery Station and take the elevator up. The doors open up on Market street literally right across the street from the huge Old Navy Flagship store. They have easy to spot bathrooms there and a very cheap and good snack bar. Another option is to get off at the Embarvadero station. You can use the bathrooms at the Hyatt that is right there and then walk over to the Ferry Building for food and walking around. The Farmers Market is fun there on the weekends too. Taking the ferry from Alameda to SF is also great fun for the whole family. cs