The city of Alameda, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is adjacent to Oakland — but it’s a world apart. Separated from the mainland by an estuary and connected by bridges, Alameda has a small-town, family-friendly appeal. Kids play outside on streets lined with large trees and striking Victorian homes; there are parks and beaches with million-dollar views fronting the bay. Visitors and locals can bike along the bay front, kayak or kite surf, or enjoy a picnic while watching the sunset. Alameda Island, often overlooked in the high-wattage glow from its hip San Francisco and Oakland neighbors, has been discovered by popular Bay Area restaurateurs, betting that this city of young families will gobble up new offerings. The tab: My husband and I spent $179 for a night at the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham and about $145 for meals, beer and pinball.
The Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham is well-situated; it’s a short drive to the beach and a park and is in the middle of Webster Street, one of the city’s two main districts and full of eclectic mom-and-pop eateries, bars and retro shops. The hotel suites are a good value for families; rooms have one king or two queen beds and a small separate living area with a couch or sofa bed. Amenities may include a wet bar, microwave, refrigerator and two TVs so the kids (or adults) don’t fight over what to watch. You also get free Wi-Fi, parking and buffet breakfast. There’s even a bike-sharing program if you want to pedal around town.
The Star on Park was one of the first to open a branch of its popular Bay Area eateries in the burgeoning Park Street district downtown. We popped into the airy, stylish space and shared a salad, a sausage sandwich and a loaded Italian combo pizza (pepperoni, salami, onions, olives, bell peppers and pepperoncini) — all good. We saved room for dessert at Tucker’s Super Creamed Ice Cream, open since the 1940s. It has a large selection of everyday flavors as well as seasonal offerings such as blood orange pistachio and Point Reyes blue cheese. I’m partial to the old-fashioned marble fudge, rocky road and salted butter caramel.
Calling all pinball wizards! We had a blast at the Pacific Pinball Museum, which is part-museum, part-arcade. The museum has several rooms filled with more than 90 machines, art, murals and jukeboxes. The pinball machines date from the 1930s to the present, and most are in perfect, playable condition. (A few of the fragile oldies are roped off.) For $20 for adults, you can play all day. I loved Baby Pac-Man, and the hubby got hung up on Creature From the Black Lagoon.
THE LESSON LEARNED
We found another playground for big kids. Head to Faction Brewing, housed in a repurposed helicopter hangar at a former naval base, for great brews and great views of the San Francisco skyline. This being Alameda, rug rats are welcome.
Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham, 1628 Webster St., Alameda; (510) 522-1000. Wheelchair-accessible.
Star on Park,1400 Park St., Alameda; (510) 832-7827. Wheelchair-accessible.
Tucker’s Super Creamed Ice Cream, 1349 Park St., Alameda; (510) 522-4960. Wheelchair-accessible.
Pacific Pinball Museum,1510 Webster St., Alameda; (510) 769-1349. Wheelchair-accessible.
Faction Brewing, 2501 Monarch St., Alameda; (510) 523-2739. Wheelchair-accessible.