Summer Bucket List for Bay Area Kids

What to do with East Bay kids this special memorable summer? Some of our usual favorites aren't on the books just yet so we'll be adding more to your bucket list as the summer continues. Grab your sunscreen and a protective face mask and let's have some fun! Thanks to Piedmont Recreation Department for sponsoring this year's guide to an epic summer.

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Never run out of family fun ideas with our list destinations and activities for summer fun! We have selected dozens of Bay Area and near-home outings. We hope you'll find plenty of things to do in the East Bay — and beyond! — this summer.

Best things to do this summer in oakland with kids

Outdoor Fun

  1. Gather sea glass at Point Molate. You can make wind chimes with your haul.
  2. Go fishing. Bring your gear to some of the best spots for fishing in the East Bay.
  3. Bring a picnic to Piedmont Park. Climb trees at the park and eat a tasty meal outside.
  4. Hike along the beautiful trails and grounds of Mills College in Oakland.
  5. Play mini golf at Golfland or Scandia.
  6. Bike around town. Find your nearest entry point to the Ohlone Trail or the Bay Trail and just ride.
  7. Walkie talkie play date. Meet your buds at opposite ends of the park to play spy games with two-way radios.
  8. Play bocce ball. The fancy sets are heirlooms or will glow in the dark, but a basic bocce set is only about $25.
  9. Run around Cal Campus and find out why it is so special.
  10. Hike off the beaten path by getting an EBRPD permit for a special trail or two.
  11. Fly a kite. We like the marina paths at Cesar Chavez Park, but most open fields will do the trick.
  12. Walk, bike, or scoot around the San Leandro Marina Park or Alameda Waterfront.
kid Catching fish at San Pablo Reservoir
Catching fish at San Pablo Reservoir | Photo: Carol Burton

Neighborhood Fun

The East Bay is full of treasures for the hunting. Whether you find gorgeous street art or teeny tiny gnomes, making a scavenger hunt part of your walk is more than half the fun.

  1. Explore the quirky side of town. Quirky Berkeley will help you find dozens of oddities throughout Berkeley from a giant orange to a birdhouse pyramid.
  2. Decorate your whole block with sidewalk chalk. Chalk out jokes, hopscotch, city skylines, or inspirational quotes.
  3. Go on a shape walk. Look for circles, shapes, or triangles and take pictures. Make a photo collage or book to enjoy later.
  4. Paint rocks with cheerful pictures or messages and hide them around your neighborhood.
  5. Look down and find the gnomes. Gnomes are all over certain parts of Oakland, and there are always more to find!
  6. Pose in front of some street art. Here are 7 murals of various sizes, colors, and subjects brightening up the East Bay. There are many, many more!
Discovering gnomes in Cleveland Heights neighborhood | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Active Fun

  1. Explore the creek at the downtown Piedmont Park. Walk the paths, dip your toes in the water. Pick up lunch from Mulberry's Market.
  2. Play tennis. Lots of tennis courts are open including the courts in Piedmont.
  3. Discover secret stairs and paths. The Secret Stairs of the East Bay is a handy guidebook to find some new ones. Wear yourself out running up and down the steps.
  4. Golf nine holes. Try a par 3 course with your favorite kid, maybe you'll make it to 18. Hit a bucket of balls at the driving range.
  5. Walk around Lake Merritt.
  6. Climb up Indian Rock, a rugged hike that'll take you to some beautiful views.
  7. Bike on a pump track. Check out Dirt World in Richmond or the BMX Park in Pleasanton for dirt biking and laughs.
  8. Kick a soccer ball at Dracena Park. BYO ball, cones, and snacks.
  9. Skateboard or scooter at the area skateparks. Try the one in Piedmont if you haven't been.
  10. Cycle over the Bay. Ride bikes across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island and back.
  11. Stand up paddle boarding in Alameda. Make an appointment at Mike's Paddle for gear and lessons.
  12. Climb the hill and pick blackberries at the top of the Wildcat Canyon Regional Park’s Belgium trailhead.

jax playing tennis
Jax plays tennis at Grove Street Park courts | Photo: Annie Reid

Backyard Fun – if you have private-ish outdoor space, lucky you!

Check out the Piedmont Virtual Rec Center, a curated list of fun activities, games, workouts, skill building, and tours divided up by age.

  1. Splash around in a kiddie pool of any size or shape. Even the smallest ones can serve to cool your hot toes with an ice bath. Annie loves her quarantine-purchase Sable inflatable pool for the kids and parents.
  2. Add a “water park” feature to your trampoline or running-around space. Sprinklers do a lot more than when we were kids.
  3. Build a hideaway fort. Overachieving parents might build a permanent treehouse structure while slackers like me can tape together shipping boxes.
  4. Read in a hammock. Check out library games, e-books, celebrities reading audiobooks, graphic novels, or whatever gets your kiddo to love reading. A hammock makes it more summery.
  5. Badminton. Badminton sets are fun and the sport is easy to learn for all ages. I would say that there's not much difference between the $20 sets and the $65 sets, but then again, the sunshine ate my set during its second year.
  6. Camp in the backyard.
backyard pool
An inflatable pool in the backyard can be just the thing for little sibs and parents to cool off

No backyard, no problem — workarounds

  1. Make s'mores around the fire. If you have a fire pit — I'm so jealous — and I hope you're already using it for s'mores. Otherwise, let's put our skewers near the grill or stove burner.
  2. Pitch your tent in the living room. Giant blanket forts work, too!
  3. Water fight. Pick an open field and get sloppy wet with tons of water balloons and the high-powered water blasters. (Clean up balloon fragments afterward, please.)

Stay-up-late Fun

  1. Outdoor movie night. My family has a screen and small projector. You can use a white sheet on a wall and a few more pieces of equipment to set up an outdoor home theater.
  2. Go stargazing. Escape the city lights and see the stars with your older kids.
  3. Hit the drive-in movie. See current movies from the comfort of your vehicle in Concord.
Flying kite at cesar chavez park
Flying kite at Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley | Photo: Carol Burton

Sweet Treats for Summertime

  1. Pick up some donuts just because.
  2. Make lemonade or lemonade popsicles from the abundant supply of lemons around town.
  3. Pick peaches once cherry season is over at Mike's U-Pick — bake a pie together because ugly still tastes good!
  4. Bake something delicious. Not a baker? You can pick up an easy kit from Trader Joe's.
  5. Make homemade ice cream.

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* We fact-checked and cross-checked all of these listings but always encourage you to check again before packing up a carload of children and snacks for Summer Fun because stuff happens, especially when you've driven an hour to get there!

All recommendations were made by Heather and Whitney with help from our friends.

oakland summer 2020 guide

Thanks to Piedmont Recreation Department, where there's always a camp, a park, or super fun idea! 

[Photos credits noted above]