Rainy Day Places to Go

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Affordable rainy day outings for toddlers

Oct 2006

With the rainy season approaching, I'd love to get suggestions on where to take a toddler on cold, wet days. I'm getting tired of going to Habitot & the library every time it's foggy out. Are there other drop-in places that are affordable & worth the $$? Julie

I don't know if any of these is affordable to you, but check into them - one or two memberships might be for your sanity in the rainy months - and are great year round when you're looking for something last minute but interesting. Remember, memberships make visiting frequently super cheap.
- Oakland Museum of California - the kids love the natural history part and will sometimes even let us look at art!
- Lawrence Hall of Science
- The Aquarium by the Bay - a favorite for all and unlimited numbers of kids are free so you can treat friends' kids and they'll only have to pay for themselves
- The Visitor Center at Crab Cove in Alameda - free & small but fun
- Lindsay Wildlife Museum - Walnut Creek
- The Discovery Musuem - Sausalito
- MOCHA, downtown Oakland
- Pump It Up - Jack London Square(?)
- Wee Play at the Veterans Memorial Building in Alameda - Google for details - Fridays for $3, I believe.
- Kindergym w/Dawn Margolin at Temple Beth Abraham - drop ins are $8
- The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito
Have a fun winter!

Mocha in Oakland is the BEST. It's a place where kids (and yes, really young kids too - my daughter has been visiting since 12 mos) can freely express their artistic abiities. It's free play with art supplies. Also, it's near a market and if you visit on Fridays, you'll get a chance to shop the Farmer's Market just outside (although parking could be a little challenging on those days). The membership fees are certainly worth it. You can drop-in to try out the little studio. See here: http://www.mocha.org/ Enjoy! EA

Some places to try: MOCHA, Tumble & Tea, the Play Cafe,the Oakland Museum,Zocalo (a coffeeshop in San Leandro with a kids play area),Cal Academy of Sciences and Exploratorium in SF. Not sure whether you'll find these ''affordable'', they'll range between $5 to $8.

Another possibility is to try /other/ libraries. Most libraries have story times once or twice a week so you could hit a different one almost every day. There are also other kids activities at local libraries. For example, the SL library will have a morning toddler concert on Nov. 11th and a puppet/etc. show on Nov. 22nd Marga

Check out the Oakland Museum of California! I've been going there a lot with my now 3-year-old. Yes, it's a museum so there are parts of it to be quiet (which I think has been a good lesson for my daughter), but there are also a natural history section and a Cal. history section which have lots of things to look at that make for great teaching/learning moments. It's also nice that as an intelligent adult, you can look at and learn about things of interest to your self On rainy days, we call Habitot, ''Hellitot'' :-)

Wee Play in Alameda is fabulous (http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/arpd/pdf/weeplay_flyer.pdf). Basically, Alameda Parks & Rec turns the Veterans' Building into a big indoor play area twice a week (Wed. and Fri.). It's $5 per kid, under 3 only carrie

Kids 'N Dance on MacArthur Blvd (betwn 35th & High) has drop in times for their ''Stay 'N Play'' Room. It is a room filled with gymnastic equipment and some toys appropriate for toddlers. You pay $3.00 for your kid (no fee for you) and stay however long you would like so long as a class will not be in the room. Since it is sometimes used for classes, you should call before going to check if the room is free when you want it (and for how long) anon

You should try Tumble and Tea in the Temescal District in Oakland. Two moms opened up a place for kids to play (a-la the jungle, but much classier) where parents can sit and have a coffee, read magazines and eat some great food. It is highly recommended on a wet day. My girls (6 and 2) both love it there. Parents are free, kids are $5.95 and siblings are $2.00. 4210 Telegraph Ave or http:// www.tumbleandtea.com/ Tiffany

I've enjoyed taking my toddler to the Pacific East Mall on rainy days. It's located on Pierce Street, just north of the Albany/Richmond border along Hwy 80. It's an indoor shopping mall consisting entirely of Asian businesses. There are a lot of restaurants, a supermarket, and a number of stores and services (optician, dentist, etc.) There are big fish tanks of live fish and other creatures (not for the squeamish, but fascinating for toddlers) in the market. There is pretty good people watching and a lot of room for a toddler to run around or push a shopping cart. The shopkeepers and restaurant staffs are very tolerant if, for example, your toddler tries to escape from you and runs in. (Not that it ever happened to me! Ahem...) One caveat, they sometimes have a display of Gigantic Breakable Pottery on one end. An added bonus is that the mall is open on holidays and you can do your grocery shopping while you're there. Sandra

We like to go to the pet store! It's free and lots of animals to look at.

Also Tumble & Tea and Play Cafe great. Both in Oakland. Drop in fee of $5.95 and yummy warm coffee/tea drinks for parents.

In Alameda there is Wee Play on Wed and Fridays. It's a huge room filled with baby and toddler toys. Drop in only. It was $5 last time we went. 10am-1pm in the Vetrans Memorial Building located on the corner of Walnut and Central Ave.

Pump it Up in Oakland 2500 Embarcadero in Oakland also has drop in times if your kids like jump houses and big slides. Plan to bring socks for all. Also under $6 for drop in. Tues & Thurs 10-11:30am and Mondays 3:30-5pm

Tumble an Tea on Telegraphh at 42nd is an indoor play space and cafe. It is a great place where you can get your caffine fix while the kids run around and burn off energy and if you don't want to make lunch at home you can feed both yourself and the kids some really decent food. The beauty of it all for me is that my kids have a great time and are tired out enough to go down pretty easy for there afternoon naps and I have no mess to clean up

Hi, Probably the most affordable rainy day outing ever...I used to take my son, when he was between 2 and 3 and obsessed with escalators and elevators, to the Rockridge BART station. There, under a roof, you can go up and down the escalators for hours. You're also outside, so it's nice to get the fresh air too. He absolutely loved it. (We didn't use the elevators, just the escalators that were running anyway.) anon

Have you been to Studio Grow? It's a new, drop-in play space in Berkeley (on 10th and Gilman) and my toddler LOVES it. It opened earlier this year and we've been going all summer and fall. They have different rooms with activities for toddlers - art, music/dance, a stage, lots of blocks and magents to build things, a reading area, a BIG room for active play (tumbling, balls, etc.), an area with puzzles, another with dollhouses, a courtyard with water play, a room for eating (you can bring your own food or buy snacks) - it's like a preschool but the adults stay. In addition to the self-guided spaces, Studio Grow educators lead group activities every day - story, music, dancing, tumbling, parachute. Tuesday mornings they even have yoga! There's often live entertainment on weekends (we saw a GREAT show there a few Saturdays ago). And EVERYTHING is included with admission ($6/person). It's a very happy place, and I imagine it will be popular this winter - we'll be there. Check it out - www.studiogrow.com

IKEA. I took my daughter there once a week or so when she was 2- 2 1/2. She loved to play in the kids area and go on the slide. We usually stayed for lunch in the cafeteria -- very cheap kids meals. She loved the meatballs. IKEA mom

Try the Vivarium, a great reptile pet store on Fifth St in Berkeley. (www.EastBayVivarium.com) Beautiful and unusual species, also frogs and tarantulas. Many cages/tanks are at toddler level. If you're lucky, someone may let you pet a boa constrictor. Go at feeding time if you dare - chameleons zap live bugs with their long tongues; snakes gobble up baby mice. Their website says they also do birthday parties.
Fan of the Vivarium

Ideas for a rainy Monday

May 2005

Does anyone have any ideas on things to do with pre-schoolers and toddlers on a rainy Monday? We love Lawrence Hall of Science but are looking for more ideas. We're willing to drive a bit! Kim in Montclair

I take my son to Ikea on rainy days, and he has a blast playing with the displays in the children's section. Jessica

I am not sure about Monday openings but here is my rainy day list that I keep posted on my fridge:

  • Habitot
  • Lawrence Hall of Science
  • Oakland Library
  • Berkeley Main Library
  • Train table at Barns & Noble
  • MOCHA Little Studio
  • Hilltop Mall
  • Oakland Museum
  • Chabot Space and Science center
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum
  • BART Ride to SF Center
  • Pier 39 Aquarium
  • Lindsay Wildlife Museum


Places to take kids on a rainy day

Dec 2003

I saw some of places that have been posted in the past for the place to go on rainy days. But the last posting is on 2001 and I am wondering if there is any new places since then. Now that rain season has begun, it is essential for me to get my kids somewhere to burn their energy! The one place I can put in is the place in Pleasant Hill. The Jungle is a bit of a drive but it is worth it. It has a small children area and big kids area all indoor. Food court and everything. It is a dream place on the rainy day. Does anyone know anywere that's closer?

I'm glad you're asking, because the previous rainy day postings *are* kind of old & I'm (desperately!) looking forward to reading everyone's answers! When you say ''closer'' I assume you mean Oakland or Berkeley? Also, I don't know how old your kids are, but for what it's worth, here are the places I've found so far as the mother of a 23-month old ...


1. Habitot, Habitot, Habitot ... Just about ALL the replies to your posting will mention Habitot. But there's a REASON for that! They have lots of great things for creating, exploring & messy play, including a room with all kinds of neat water tables & toys; a fabulous art room with finger paints, playdough & more, a quiet little reading room, cool stuff to climb on & more. After spending an hour or two there, the kids conk out for their naps no problem. It's kind of expensive -- something like $5.00 for kids over 12 months & $6.00 for the grownups accompanying them. But there are ways around it (1) Buy a yearly membership for $70 for you & your child (cheap if you plan on going a lot), or; (2) Buy (or split with another family) a $100.00 family membership which allows you to bring guests; or (3) Scrounge through that East Bay parents magazine for the occasionally published free coupons. Their Website is at www.habitot.org

(2)If you have a gym membership, you might want to consider switching to the Downtown Berkeley Y, which has great classes & facilities for grownups as well as programs for kids of all ages. Kindergym at the is open just about every morning & the kids love it. It's basically a room covered with soft squishy mats & lots of things to climb on & slide down & there's also a pit full of balls for the kids to jump into. This wonderful woman named Nancy also does a fun circle time with music, puppets, games & fun some mornings. If you want to try it out, I think you can buy a guest pass inexpensively -- or find a friend who can bring you in as their guest. For more information & schedules, visit www.baymca.org.

(3) Ikea: Thousands of East Bay moms in-the-know will revile me for revealing our special little secret ... Ikea is the PERFECT place to take kids on rainy days. Since my daughter's still innocent, she thinks of it as some sort of a museum & it hasn't yet occurred to her to pester me to buy things she likes. I get to have a semi-civilized & delicious cheap lunch while she nibbles my french fries & meatballs & hangs out with other kids in the play area (complete with a play kitchen & art supplies). The food's yummy, appealing to kids & even fairly healthy (not organic or anything, but fairly balanced & you feel pleasantly full rather than totally gross after eating). They also offer juice, little cartons of milk & jars of baby food. The restaurant even has a view of the highway overpass, the water & the San Francisco skyline in the distance ... not particularly romantic, but definitely interesting.We then run around in the store playing with stuff, climbing on furniture, etc. until we're exhausted & then we leave. When I actually need to SHOP at Ikea, I try to leave my daughter at home! If you have a toddler AND a nursing baby, you'll love Ikea even more, since they're extremely child (and MOMMY)-friendly & they have the most wonderful & comfy nursing room with soft cushy furniture & cool toys for the toddler to play with & a changing table. If you have older kids, you can even sign them into the supervised play room down stairs.

4. Wee Play in Albany on Solano. I haven't taken my daughter yet, but I've heard good things about it. They have drop-in play sessions for about $7.00 per hour, along with reasonably priced classes. For more information, visit www.weeplay.com.

5. Elephant Pharmacy in Berkeley on Shattuck (in the Gourmet Ghetto) has all sort of classes & workshops (for grownups as well as kids), including a music for kids class at 4pm on Fridays. I think their URL is www.elephantpharmacy.com

6. Your local library: All of the libraries & branch libraries around here seem to have story hours & other events for toddlers as well as older kids. The downtown Berkeley library devotes an entire floor (the 4th) to the Children's section. This gives the little ones enough room to read & even run around a bit ... as long as they do it quietly ;^)

7. Go Shopping! Sounds like a total nightmare. But if you decide to just pick up a couple simple things ... or not buy anything at all, it can work. In fact, if you embrace the concept of the modern store as a museum exhibit or attraction, rather than as a place where you have to buy something, you can totally have a blast. At Barnes & Noble, they have a huge Thomas the Tank Engine play table & a stage with little chairs that's decorated to look like Pooh's Corner. At pretty much any Goodwill or Ross (stores that my daughter & I have found to be large & diverse enough to be interesting, but not large enough for losing kids!), playing hide & seek amongst the clothes racks & shelves, playing with toys & climbing on furniture can keep you guys busy for hours. At a good, small, child-friendly neighborhood grocery, you can pick up some produce & miscellaneous items while teaching your child a little about fruits & veggies & how to buy something. The folks at Berkeley Natural Foods in my neighborhood treat kids like royalty & even have toy shopping carts & a little play house.

8. Hilltop Mall: I haven't done this yet, but a couple of moms I know take their kids to the play area there & everyone has a grand ole time. The play area looks like a frog pond with green carpeting & lily pads & room to run around. From what I hear, parents should wait till their toddlers are steady on their feet before going to the Hilltop Mall frog pond, since things get pretty crazy there with the older kids & all. For information, directions, a floormap, etc., visit http://www.shophilltop.com/.

9. Various Museums: The East Bay -- and the Bay Area in general -- abounds with wonderful museums. If your children are age three and up, take them to one of the many museums around here that are geared towards kids. If they're younger, you might as well just do something nice for yourself & check out that art show you've been dying to see, since little toddlers don't NEED museums. For them, everything's a museum.

and FINALLY ... #10 (drum roll, please)

10. OUTSIDE!!!!: Most kids ADORE rainy days, along with the requisite puddles & mud. For any child -- let alone a child growing up in California who hasn't seen rain since last year when they were too young to remember -- rain is totally fascinating. Sometimes I just let my daughter frolic amongst the raindrops, prance through puddles & wallow in the mud. After all, she has the rest of her life to be clean & dry & orderly. And the ability to enjoy getting cold & wet without dying from frostbite or hypothermia is why we pay beaucoup bucks to live on the left coast! EAP

First, I'd like to thank the person who posted her top ten list of rainy day places. I just wanted to add one specific museum that I've found to be a great place to take my 18 month old son -- the Oakland Museum of California, located at 10th and Oak Street in Oakland. The Natural History floor is especially great for young kids. For one thing, nearly all the exhibits are enclosed in plexiglas, so I don't have to worry too much about my son touching things he shouldn't. The aisles are wide and he can roam freely, which is great since he loves to just walk and walk. He's fascinated by the giant rotating globe, and the stuffed birds that hang from the ceiling. And I find it to be a pretty interesting place to hang out too. Children under 4 are free, and annual memberships are reasonable (it's $40 for one adult, and something like $55 for two).

I agree with the recommendation for Habitot, with one caveat -- it can get amazingly crowded on a rainy day. My son doesn't seem to mind -- he loves being around other children -- but be aware that you will spend much of your time there mediating disputes as your child tries to snatch something out of another's hands, or vice versa. If you or your child are especially shy, or you don't handle chaos well, you might find that this is not the place for you. Diane

Rainy day places for a crawler

November 2001

I'm looking for good rainy day places for an active young crawler who lives in a tiny, tiny house in Rockridge. Where do the crawling babies go when the parks are wet? He's not crazy about Habitot. We're thinking bookstores, cafes, etc. But where can a small guy enjoy some supervised floor time without getting scowls? Hilary

Have you tried Gymboree? Back four years ago when my daughter was a crawler in Rockridge I took her there weekly to the basement of the College Ave. Presbyterian Church. The phone number is: 597-0982. Suzanne

Lawrence Hall of Science has a toddler section that works for crawlers. Discovery Museum does too, tho it is farther away. Other crawlers' homes are ideal. Jennifer

At the little Farm in Tilden there is an indoor nature center with carpeted floor and ramps that is a nice quiet place to go. If it stops raining you can check out the farm. Call for hours first. Hadley

  From: Natasha   As it just so happens, I am in the midst of putting together a list of  indoor activities for Neighborhood Moms; but it won't be available until  October 15th (the deadline for our print newsletter).  Meanwhile, here are a few suggestions:  The Oakland Museum - Especially the Natural History section. We once  lucked upon a kindly docent who took the children around.  It might be  worth calling ahead to see if someone is available.  If you can face a drive to S.F., The Steinhart Aquarium is wonderful for  all ages, and the Exploratorium works best for five year olds and up,  though I hear they have a new area for younger kids.  The Lawrence Hall of Science.  Most exhibits are for school aged kids,  but there is usually an exhibit with foam blocks or some such activity  for little ones.  There is a cafeteria downstairs which works fairly well  for antsy kids.  The Nature Center at Tilden Park (by the Little Farm).  Children enjoy  going through the exhibit on Wildcat Canyon.  It would not be appropriate  to eat inside or to let them run completely amuck.  I'd rather lie on a bed of nails than go to Chuck E. Cheese (in El  Cerrito), but if you're desperate, it has a ball room and mechanized  rides.  The Emeryville Public Market has a small ball room and a couple of rides,  adjacent to some fairly decent food.  People have been known to drive to Concord or S.F. to the Jungle, which  is one of those large Discovery Zone type of places.  The Albany Library and the Berkeley Main Library have nice areas for  small children to read and hang out.  I'll send more ideas as they come in from Neighborhood Moms, and will  have a Web Page up by mid October.