- Photo by Pat Mezzera
- Hiking with kids can be an adventure and takes no planning.
All the summer camps filled up in February; what's a parent to do? Here are a few fun things to get the summer revved up, while also making memories of time spent together. Summer's a special thing. Sleep in if you can, and apply liberal amounts of ice cream.
1. Visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. It's possible your kids have never seen the comic strip Peanuts. That's OK, because the museum offers blown-up versions to read on the wall, plus a fascinating array of memorabilia for this world-famous set of characters. Many photo opportunities abound, like sitting in a giant version of Snoopy's dog food bowl. The cartoonist's home office was moved to the site, so you can see what he kept on his desk and pinned to his '70s paneled wall. Right now, the next-door ice rink is undergoing renovations, but in September you can skate in a beautiful facility modeled after Swiss architecture. Finally, happiness is a warm puppy, so we've heard, and you can get regular kid fare at the Warm Puppy Cafe, where a table is "reserved" for the once-daily and now-departed customer Charles M. Schulz. 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-579-4452, SchulzMuseum.org.
2. Dollar movies. The Regal Summer Movie Express lets you attend early morning movies at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for $1, freeing up the afternoon for other fun. They're second runs, but, hey, kids watch movies over and over again anyway. This summer, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Puss in Boots, Paddington, and many others are on offer, two different movies each week through Sept. 4. The kid's box concessions are also deeply discounted. Participating theaters include Regal Crow Canyon in San Ramon and the Regal Hacienda Crossings in Dublin; of course, check the website for showtimes and specifics. A similar program is offered through Cinemark theaters in Richmond, Hayward, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and others. RegMovies.com, Cinemark.com.
3. Book it. All libraries offer summer reading clubs with rewards for reading (free books and swag), as well as performances and workshops over the summer. But did you know bookstores get into it, too? For instance, Oakland's A Great Good Place for Books hosts its second annual Read-A-Palooza. Come into the store and get a passport. For each book your child reads (not necessarily purchases — it could be a library book), or each special event or author visit he or she attends, the card gets punched. After eight punches, the passport holder wins a prize and gets entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card. He or she also gets photographed for the bookstore's social media avenues when the card is full; last year around 200 kids participated. 6120 La Salle Ave., Oakland, 510-339-8210, GGPBooks.com.
4. Children's Fairyland. Every East Bay child must visit Fairyland at some point. It is in the fine print of your contract. So much to love: kitschy 1950s nursery-rhyme inspired rides; a renowned puppet theater that once launched Frank Oz; friendly animals like goats and miniature ponies; and 10 acres of marvels that reputedly inspired Walt Disney. And get this: You can sleep overnight at the park in your sleeping bag on selected Saturday nights, with special performances, access to the rides after the park is closed to the general public, and a continental breakfast for $45 (act quickly; some nights are already sold out). 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, 510-452-2259, Fairyland.org.
5. Park Olympics. In a single day at Berkeley's Tilden Regional Park, you can hike, pet, spin, and ride. First, breathe deeply that particular and wonderful eucalyptus aroma while hiking on the 40 miles of trails; study the map on the East Bay Regional Park District's website to find an easy trail to start. Then head to the bright-red Little Farm, where you can bring your own carrots and celery to feed the small menagerie of cows, pigs, sheep, and more. Drive eastward through the park to take a spin on the historic 1911 Merry Go Round, with hand-carved beasts and chariots, in place here since 1948. The last stop on your tour is a short ride through the trees on the miniature steam train. The Redwood Valley Railway looks like a scaled-down version of the iron beast that brought settlers west after the transcontinental railroad was built. The first two legs of your Tilden Quadrathlon are free. EBParks.org.
6. Take it a step further. This summer, why not participate in the Trails Challenge offered by the park district? To win, you hike five out of 20 trails, or a marathon's worth of walking, 26.2 miles. Download the AllTrails app to get started. At completion of the challenge, you get a commemorative pin. EBParks.org.
7. Swim in the redwoods. The pool in Oakland's Roberts Regional Recreation Area is heated and sits in a beautiful redwood grove. Near the picnic area, you can find a plaque marking the spot where two trees were once so tall sailors in the bay used them as landmarks. There is also Lake Anza in Berkeley and Lake Temescal in Oakland; check websites to make sure they are open because sometimes algae blooms close them down. EBParks.org.
8. Bowls and brews. Hey, Mom and Dad need fun too. Jack London Square's Plank! offers 18 lanes of bowling, an arcade, bocce ball, and a grown-up favorite, the outdoor beer garden. 98 Broadway, Oakland, 510-817-0980, PlankOakland.com.
9. Zoo. You know Oakland has a zoo; no one has to tell you. Yet the Oakland Zoo has upped its game in recent years in terms of more compassionate habitats and ... a gondola. A new California Trail section showcases bison, grizzly bears, California condors, and four baby wolf pups who arrived in mid-May. Every Friday June 14-July 26, donate a Nature Valley granola bar at the entrance gates and receive a free child admission for every paid adult; the bars go to a local food bank. 9777 Golf Links Rd., Oakland, 510-632-9525, OaklandZoo.org.
10. Your sweet tooth is begging you. The Jelly Belly Factory is Fairfield isn't that far a drive (40 minutes from Oakland), and provides a perfect follow-up to a dental visit. Your self-guided tour takes you on a catwalk above the assembly lines, with interactive games along the way and free samples. 1 Jelly Belly Ln., Fairfield, 800-522-3267, Jellybelly.com.
11. Do nothing. A lot of studies point out the benefits of boredom. Daydreaming leads to creativity, ingenuity and renewed vigor to try something different. It's OK to send the kids outside with nary a toy but the grass and the sky.