Kids' Activities in Oakland

Things to Do With the Whole Family

While this is a very adult city in some ways, there are also plenty of kids' activities in Oakland. Especially for those new to the area, however, these may not be immediately obvious. Check out this list for some ideas!

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    A 6-week-old meerkat pup lounges with adult meerkats in their enclosure at the Oakland Zoo on March 11, 2013 in Oakland, California.
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    Children's Fairyland, located on the shores of the beautiful Lake Merritt, has been a staple for Oakland families for over six decades. Its rides, storybook sets, gardens, and animals make it a truly magical place for young children. Don't forget to buy a key at the admissions counter; this will let your child unlock the audio stories corresponding to various attractions. All children must be accompanied by adults, but – more unusually – all adults must also be accompanied by children. For concerned parents, this should offer some reassurance that everyone inside has a good reason to be there.

  • 02 of 06
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    What child doesn't love visiting a zoo to see all kinds of familiar and exotic animals? The Oakland Zoo has over 650 animals ranging from bats and bison to warthogs and zebras. The selection includes not only mammals and birds but also amphibians, reptiles and even arthropods. In addition to daily admission, the zoo offers various options for kids who just can't get enough. Consider spending a night here with your family, or sending your child to a two-day or week-long ZooCamp.

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    The Museum of Children's Art, called MOCHA, is much more than a simple museum. This isn't the kind of place to drag your kids for “enriching educational opportunities” while they whine or yawn. Don't worry, your kids will still learn – but it will be in such a fun way that they won't even notice that they aren't just playing around. You can drop in with your kids to make art (no clean-up for you!), hold a fun birthday party, or view the exhibits of art created by children. For devoted young artists, consider any of MOCHA's range of art camp offerings.

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    The Lawrence Hall of Science offers quite a few classes for science-loving children. Education is made fun, with classes having titles such as, “Slime & Slippery Stuff,” “Dry Ice Investigation” and “Light & Laser.” Some classes teach children about electricity and circuits, while others involve hands-on activities with the creatures in the LHS pond. If a class is too much of a commitment, consider going for just a day visit. Exhibits change regularly, so there will usually be something new to see even if you've visited before.

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    If your child is fascinated by space and astronomy, this is the place to go. The various exhibits, shows, and real observatories will give you and your child the chance to learn all about stars, planets, and space in general. The Chabot Space & Science Center also offers quite a few classes for kids of various ages. Your child can learn about everything from building machines to creating a comet. Nature lovers can join a 60-minute, easy day hike or a 3-hour, more strenuous night hike.

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    As this photo walking tour of Lake Merritt explains (check out pages 7 and 8), Lake Merritt is home to hundreds of birds of various species. If your child is a nature lover, he or she will love this opportunity to see so many birds – some of them remarkably beautiful – up close. Because Lake Merritt is right downtown, it can be an easy stop rather than a major ordeal. Depending on where you live, you may not even need to drive; the 19th Street and Lake Merritt BART stations are both only about five blocks from the lake.