There are many places in the Bay Area where you can go with your preschool-age children, but very few where you can go, sit down, sip a mocha and talk to your friends while they play. Play Cafe, in Oakland, is exactly that.
This new hang out is a hybrid between a grown-up Cafe and a Children’s Museum. It has a counter where you can order the usual cafe-stuff (coffees, teas, soft drinks, pastries and even fruit/veggie plates and hot dogs for the little ones) and a large room with (less than comfortable) tables and chairs. But the fun for the kids are in the little play areas that surround the room. One is a “Malt Shoppe” and features a play kitchen complete with tons of plastic food, a selling counter and an eating area. This was perfect for Mika as she loves asking people what they want to eat (and then telling them she doesn’t have any). A second one is a theater area, complete with a lighted billboard, beautiful costumes, a puppet theater (with puppets, of course) and a camera/screen. There is also a very large, very deep ball pit and a classroom with art and other learning materials. Finally there is a little area that is made to resemble the outside with a hopscotch game, a picnic table and a play-BBQ grill. All the toys are very high quality.
There were several small toddlers there that day and they seemed to be having fun, but I think the place is probably best for kids 2yo and older who are into “pretend play” – the ball pit, though, is fun for everyone. There isn’t much space to set down a baby – and my 7mo got bored quickly, but my 3.5 yo had a blast.
Play Cafe is free for the month of August, but will then charge $4.25 admission per child. A family membership will be $45. I can imagine that in rainy afternoons it will be very, very popular.