by Caroline Grannan
Just riding BART can be a fun outing for children, but let's be realistic -- a trip should have a destination. These kid-friendly daytime outings let you take BART, forget about traffic headaches and have a great family day -- most of them an easy stroll from BART and one an invigorating bike outing.
BART station: Downtown Berkeley
Destination: Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge St., (510) 647-1111
The museum, on Kittredge between Shattuck Avenue and Harold Way, is just a block from BART. Habitot features hands-on exhibits, programs and events aimed at young children from toddlers on up, and a drop-in art studio. The Berkeley Public Library is across the street, and lively downtown Berkeley offers other attractions and an array of restaurants and gelato spots. Also nearby is the Hall of Health Hands-on Health Museum at 2230 Shattuck Ave. The UC Berkeley campus is an easy stroll away.
BART station: San Francisco International Airport Station
Destination: A trip -- perhaps a meal or treat outing -- for kids
who love trains and planes, including just being at an airport.
Take BART to SFO and whisk up the escalator to the cute AirTrain cars. The Blue Line reaches the terminals but also branches out to the rental car lots, while the Red Line traverses the terminals without the detour. Terminal 1 and the International Terminal offer a wide array of kid-friendly dining or snack choices in the pre-security outer areas. (Terminal 3 doesn't offer much by comparison.)
Savvy parents know to lay down the law about shopping for tchotchkes before an outing starts, but in any case, most of the shopping is past the security checkpoints, with the International Terminal best served by pre-security retailers. The terminals also feature rotating and permanent exhibitions from the Airport Museums, including the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum in the International Terminal.
BART stations: Powell or Montgomery
Destination: Yerba Buena Gardens
Fourth and Mission streets
This exciting downtown public complex features many kid-centered attractions, starting with Zeum, "San Francisco's hands-on arts and technology museum for kids and families." There's also the Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center; the historic, restored Charles Looff Carousel; and play facilities designed to fascinate and engage young kids, including a miniature labyrinth.
Walk behind the waterfall at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and interact with "Urge," Chico MacMurtrie's robotic moving sculpture. Many kid-friendly scheduled events also take place at Yerba Buena Gardens, and the Metreon shopping and entertainment complex is actually part of the same urban attraction. The Metreon offers a multiplex theater with an IMAX screen.
Close by are other attractions for kids who like interesting art or are otherwise the museum-going type, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art at 151 Third St. (with an excellent museum cafe) and the Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St. at Third.
"The MOCHA Gallery is dedicated to showing the work of children from the Bay Area community and beyond." MOCHA offers free exhibits connected with children's art, plus hands-on events, camps and other learning experiences.
BART station: Lafayette
Destination: Sunday morning bike ride
around the Lafayette Reservoir
This outing is for older children, tandem riders or kids young enough to be toted in a bike seat or trailer. Ride from Lafayette BART one mile to the start of the scenic, moderately hilly 2.7-mile trail around the reservoir, which is open to bikers only Sunday mornings before 11 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Cycling enthusiasts complain about the limited hours but praise the beautiful views and bird sightings, including reported occasional bald eagles.
From the BART station, bike a few blocks on Happy Valley Road and make a right onto the Mt. Diablo Boulevard bike lane. One mile down, you'll see the reservoir parking lot and trail entrance on your left. On the way back, if you keep going on Mount Diable Boulevard a few blocks past Happy Valley to downtown Lafayette, there are nice little places to eat, poke around and get treats before you get back on BART. (Traffic on Mt. Diablo Boulevard can be a little unpleasant even with the bike lane, but is likely to be light on Sunday mornings, making it the most attractive time for this outing even for those with flexible schedules.)
Caroline Grannan is a freelance writer from the City.