Not Cheap Or Free But Worth Knowing About: PlayCafe
I recently joined a new mommy group on meetup.com. (If you haven’t checked out all the parent groups on meetup.com go ahead and do it; there are so many and most are free!) The meet up was at Play Cafe in Oakland. I thought wow, let the kiddo play with some new toddler friends and have a cup of coffee = momma heaven! The meetup failed to mention it costs $9 to just enter the playspace. You aren’t allowed to bring in any snacks for your toddler either, you must purchase them. There is no coffee, just espresso drinks and tea. Not a budget-friendly place but it was a lovely experience worth letting you all know about.
The husband/wife team that own the cafe are really friendly people with a very cute toddler of their own. There is a ball pit, dress up clothes, a work bench, a puppet show theatre and other great toys. It is located in an easy to get to (and park in) and beautiful part of Oakland, rather near the zoo. The pannini another mom ordered looked delish! On a Thursday morning it was empty so the kids had the whole place to themselves. I bet during inclement weather it gets pretty crowded.
In conclusion, it isn’t the most budget friendly place but it is a great place to know about and have in your play spot arsenal/rotation.