Get Your Game Face On
Diablo's Guide to Games People Play in the East Bay
(Campo di Bocce)
Calling all sports enthusiasts, trivia experts, and poker sharks: This guide’s for you. From baseball to bocce to bingo, we’ve unearthed the East Bay’s best places to play just about everything. So dig into this definitive resource and get ready for all things F-U-N. Who knows, you might even want to bring your kids along.
By Games of Yore
Since archery became an Olympic sport, bows and arrows have captured the hearts of couch potatoes everywhere. Newark’s Archery Only is home to eight indoor practice lanes that range from 5 to 20 yards. Drop-in lessons on Mondays from 7 to 8 p.m. and from 8 to 9 p.m. will help you channel William Tell. A $15 fee includes rental equipment and time with a certified instructor.
Archery Only, 37300 Cedar Blvd., Ste. C, Newark, (510) 795-0460, www.archeryonly.com
Badminton is the world’s fastest racquet sport: “Birdies” fly at speeds as high as 200 mph. Casual games at Hayward’s new Matt Jimenez Community Center aren’t nearly as explosive, but you’ll still need quick reflexes and rapid hand-eye coordination to keep up appearances. Catch a drop-in game on Sundays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. ($3 fee per player). Birdies and racquets are provided. Tice Valley Community Gymnasium in Walnut Creek also attracts a laid-back bunch Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. and Sundays from 7 to 9 a.m. ($2 fee per person at the door).
Matt Jimenez Community Center, 28200 Ruus Rd., Hayward, (510) 887-0400, Ext. 3, www.haywardrec.org ; Tice Valley Community Gymnasium, 2055 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-3572, www.ci.walnut-creek.ca.us
Bocce combines elements of lawn bowling, billiards, and wine tasting. The first Northern California Open Bocce Ball Championships were hosted at the Martinez Regional Shoreline in 1979. Today, the city’s Bocce Federation boasts more than 1,200 players who regularly take to the park’s 14 outdoor courts, whose surfaces are mostly comprised of clay and bits of oyster shell (consider it a throwback to the days when Sicilian immigrants used shucked shells as court surfaces).
If you’re looking to get in out of the cold, check out Livermore’s Campo di Bocce, one of only three indoor bocce clubs in the United States. Campo di Bocce, which opened last June, has a restaurant and bar, four indoor lanes, and four space-heated outdoor lanes that stay open until midnight Sundays through Thursdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The club allows drop-in play, but members get lane reservation priority.
Martinez Regional Shoreline Park, Ferry St., Martinez, (925) 228-0112 or (510) 562-7275, www.ebparks.org/parks/martinez.htm ; Campo di Bocce, 175 E. Vineyard Ave., Livermore, (925) 249-9800, www.campodibocce.com
Hit the lanes, and let the friendly competition begin. You can change your identity for the digital scoreboard, down beers mid-frame, and impress your friends with either a string of strikes or a one-of-a-kind technique. All local alleys offer late-night special events on Fridays and Saturdays: A flat rate (usually $15) gets you shoe rental, unlimited games, and entertainment, such as music, light shows, videos, or prize competitions. If you’re a serious bowler, look into one of many local leagues.
Clayton Valley Bowl, 5300 Clayton Rd., Concord, (925) 689-4631, www.claytonvalleybowl.com; Danville Bowl, 200 Boone Ct., Danville, (925) 837-7272, www.danvillebowl.com ; Diablo Lanes, 1500 Monument Blvd., Concord, (925) 671-0913, www.diablolanes.com ; Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl, 6750 Regional St., Dublin, (925) 828-7550, www.earlanthonysdublinbowl.com ; Granada Bowl, 1620 Railroad Ave., Livermore, (925) 447-5600, www.granadabowl.com
Back in 1995, membership in the East Bay Cricket Club consisted of three people, and the group’s home field was Lorin Eden Elementary in Hayward. The club has since adopted a second stomping ground at Sea Breeze Park in Union City. The season kicks off this month with weekly practices and games (both home and away) on Saturdays and Sundays.
East Bay Cricket Club, (510) 781-0111, www.eastbaycricket.org
George Platt’s Swordplay Fencing Academy in Concord offers private instruction or group lessons with three types of swords: foil, épée, and sabre. The school provides students with jackets and pants, made of tightly woven cotton or nylon, and a protective facemask.
Swordplay Fencing Academy, 1061 Shary Cir., Ste. A1, Concord, (925) 687-9883, www.swordplayfencing.net
(George Platt's SwordPlay Fencing Academy)
Lawn bowling, or “bowls” as it is commonly referred to in England, thrives at Oakland’s Lakeside Park, home to three bowling greens. The object of the game is to roll a three-pound bowl so it stops close to the small white ball (jack) at the far end of the rink. On any given day, you’ll find the Oakland Lawn Bowling Club gathering for social events. Come spring, tournaments offer the opportunity for more challenging play.
Oakland Lawn Bowling Club, Lakeside Park, 660 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, (510) 625-9937, www.oaklandbowls.homestead.com
If you really want to work on your short game, Pleasant Hill’s Grayson Woods Golf Course is the place to go. Grayson Woods has one of the only 18-hole putting courses in Northern California, and at $7 a round, it’s perfect for practicing your putting—or putting together a party for golf lovers of all ages.
Grayson Woods, 400 Iron Hill St., Pleasant Hill, (925) 935-7277, www.golfgraysonwoods.com
Three international-size courts with glass back walls attract squash fanatics to Oakwood Athletic Club in Lafayette. Open challenge courts are available on Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 to 10 a.m. If you’re looking to take your game up a notch, consider joining the East Bay Competitive Squash League, which meets at Oakwood on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. Squash pro Armando Olguin conducts private or group lessons from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays and from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.
Squash is also played at Club Sport San Ramon, 350 Bollinger Canyon La., San Ramon, (925) 735-8500, www.clubsportsr.com ; Club One Oakland, 1200 Clay St., Oakland, (510) 895-1010, www.clubone.com ; Big C Concord, 1381 Galaxy Way, Concord, (925) 671-2110, www.thebigc.com
Ping-pong possibilities abound in the East Bay. Newcomers to the game should check out the Concord Table Tennis Club, which offers classes for beginners on Monday evenings, as well as a bevy of open practices and tournaments. The club also hosts a team that participates in the Northern California Table Tennis League, which has locations throughout the Bay Area and is the highest rated league in the history of the United States.
Concord Table Tennis Club, 796 Grayson Hill Rd., Pleasant Hill, www.concordtabletennis.com ; Northern California Table Tennis League, (510) 794-1284, www.norcaltable tennis.com
Put Your Money Down
Think bingo is for senior citizens? Think again. The chance to win cash at Blue Devils Bingo Hall in Concord is enough to lure a varied crowd. Get in the game on Sundays at 1 p.m. or on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. Evening sessions offer 23 consecutive games, and an additional midnight session on Saturdays serves up 13 all-you-can-play games for $25.
Blue Devils Bingo Hall, 4065 Nelson Ave., Concord, (925) 689-4696, www.bluedevils.org/about/bingo.php
Golden Gate Fields throws open its gates April 25 through June 10 and offers eight races per day during the week and nine per day on weekends. Keep an eye out for Dollar Days, when general admission, parking, hot dogs, beer, and sodas are $1 each. You can bet on in-house thoroughbreds, as well as on races at various East Coast tracks, which can be viewed via simulcast starting at 11 a.m. Even if you don’t win, there’s plenty of fun to be had, especially inside the Turf Club, which offers both sit-down service and a buffet. Consider it an excuse to get decked out in Kentucky Derby–style attire.
Tri-Valley pony players who don’t mind watching races on closed-circuit televisions should check out Pleasanton’s satellite racing center at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. You can place bets on races all over California Wednesdays through Sundays. There is also live racing at the fairgrounds during the Alameda County Fair.
Golden Gate Fields, 1100 Eastshore Hwy., Berkeley, (510) 559-7300, www.goldengatefields.com ; Pleasanton Satellite Racing at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, (925) 426-7622, www.alamedacountyfair.com/satellite_racing.html
If you find yourself short stacked, in the big blind, and knowing it’s time to push all-in—and you have any idea what this sentence means—then you may be ready to test your Texas Hold ’Em skills at one of these East Bay card rooms.
California Grand Casino, 5867 Pacheco Blvd., Pacheco, (925) 685-8397, www.calgrandcasino.com ; Oaks Card Club, 4097 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville, (510) 653-4456, www.oakscardclub.com ; San Pablo Lytton Casino, 13255 San Pablo Ave., San Pablo, (510) 215-7888, www.casino-sanpablo.com
Fun in the Pub
Think you’re a pool shark? Or just feel like shooting some eight ball after rewatching The Color of Money? Either way, rack the balls, chalk your cue, and make like Fats Domino at one of these great pool halls.
Massés Billiards, 2721 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-7665, www.masseswc.com ; Crown Billiards, 2416 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 725-3900, www.bayareacrownbilliards.com ; Rack Em Up Billiard Club, 2395 Monument Blvd., Ste. K2, Concord, (925) 798-6404; Cue & Brew, 1029 Arnold Dr., Martinez, (925) 370-1282; Kimball’s Carnival, 215 Washington St., Oakland, (510) 444-6979, www.kimballscarnival.com ; Thallasa, 2367 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 848-1766
Although one could reasonably question the wisdom of combining alcohol with sharp, flying objects, there is little doubt that darts is the quintessential pub game. If you’re looking to add a competitive edge, check out the Concord-based Northern California Darts Association. The association offers leagues at a host of bars throughout the East Bay; doubles leagues meet on Mondays and team leagues (teams are made up of four to six darters) meet on Wednesdays.
Northern California Darts Association, (925) 360-7419, www.ncda.homestead.com
Hashers are self-professed “drinkers with a running problem.” Really, it’s more of a meandering problem, as these men and women typically chart a three- to six-mile course with one purpose: stopping for beer at various pubs along the way. Despite the chaotic nature of the “sport,” the group is noncompetitive and usually manages to stay together and finish at the same time, regardless of who sprinted and who strolled. Join the East Bay hashfest every other Sunday for $5, which covers beer and snacks. Bring another newbie along and you can both hash for free.
East Bay Hashers, www.ebh3.com
Remember the episode of Cheers in which Cliff Clavin explains why beer makes you smarter? The Herd of Buffalo theory states that, much like a herd of buffalo, the human brain can operate only as fast as its slowest members. Excessive consumption of alcohol kills brain cells, but, much like a lion, it first attacks the slow and the weak, thus strengthening the herd (or the brain). Now, we know this isn’t really true, but in case you want to test Cliff’s theory yourself, head out to one of these pub quizzes, where you can test your knowledge of current events, trivia, and obscure music while thinning the herd with a few sudsy libations.
Pyramid Alehouse, 1410 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 946-1520, www.pyramidbrew.com, Tuesdays, 7 p.m.; 901 Gilman St., Berkeley, (510) 528-9880, Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 647-1790, www.beckettsirishpub.com , Tuesdays, 10 p.m.; Albatross Pub, 1822 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, (510) 843-2473, www.albatrosspub.com , Sundays, 8:30 p.m.
Shuffleboard takes patience and the ability to accurately judge the distance and speed of the puck you slide down a long, sometimes sand-covered board. The tabletop version is most popular these days, which is why it’s offered at many bars and nightclubs.
Shuffleboard games can be found at O’Kearney’s, 1251 Arroyo Way, Walnut Creek, (925) 979-0132, www.okearneys.com ; Round Up Saloon, 3553 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-4817; V&E Club, 2071 First St., Livermore, (925) 447-3293; and the Sunshine Saloon, 1807 Santa Rita Rd., Ste. K, Pleasanton, (925) 846-6108, www.sunshinesaloon.com
Calling All Nerds
There’s nothing like an old-fashioned board game to rouse you out of the nothing-to-do blues. Where to turn? In Walnut Creek, Black Diamond Games hosts Board Game Night every Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. Many of the games are Euro-style or all-inclusive, which means no one leaves feeling like a loser. Every Sunday, gamesters look forward to Privateer Press Day, when they get to spend the entire day playing tactical miniature games.
On the west side of the Caldecott, your options include simulations of World War II battles (using miniature soldier figurines) on Sundays at End Game Oakland and scheduled game nights at Eudemonia in Berkeley, where beginners can pick up tips on the latest games. It’s Your Move Games and Hobbies in Oakland even offers a Singles Night on the first Friday of the month—although the event has been opened to “singles and friends” because kindred whiz kids kept coupling up—and a Scrabble Club on the first, third (and sometimes fifth) Saturday of each month at 1 p.m.
Black Diamond Games, 2989 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 947-0600, www.blackdiamondgames.com ; End Game Oakland, 921 Washington St., Oakland, (510) 465-3637, www.endgameoakland.com ; Eudemonia, 2154 University Ave., Berkeley, (510) 883-0814, www.eudemonia.net ; It’s Your Move Games and Hobbies, 4920 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-4386, www.itsyourmovegames.com
On Tuesday nights, intermediate and advanced bridge players gather at the Jewish Community Center in Berkeley.
You don’t have to be a member to participate, but return players should expect to pay a fee of $15 every six months. Games start at 7 p.m.
Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley, (510) 848-0237, www.jcceastbay.org
In pursuit of competitive tips and tricks, chess-loving suburbanites turn to the East Bay Chess Club. Based in Oakland, this organization is open most days for drop-in chess games and lessons. You can also catch various lectures, exhibitions, and tournaments. For those with exceptional strategies and stamina, marathons are offered on Monday and Friday nights.
East Bay Chess Club, 7994 Capwell Dr., Oakland, www.eastbaychess.com
The Entertainment Zone’s 4,500-square-
foot Q-Zar battleground is a trip, complete with pulsating lights, high-energy music, and laser-enhancing mist. Half-hour games run every 15 minutes on a first-come, first-served basis, unless you reserve a party package.
The Entertainment Zone, 2295 Willow Pass Rd., Concord, (925) 521-9663, www.theentertainmentzone.net
Commando squad, listen up. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to go to Mount Diablo, via Clayton’s Morgan Territory Road, suit up in goggles and pads, and fire semiautomatic paintball guns at The Enemy. Venture Games Paintball is open Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. If you’re renting equipment, the cost is $35 per day, plus an additional $15 to $30 for paintballs, depending on how itchy your trigger finger is. If you have your own equipment, it’s $20 to play (but you probably knew that already).
Venture Games Paintball, (925) 757-5150, www.venturegamespaintball.com
Get Out Your Quarters
Dave and Buster’s
Cocktails are an integral part of the adult arcade experience. Dave and Busters in Milpitas boasts two full-service bars that allow serious competitors to raise the stakes by betting the next round of beer on their game of choice. The fuzzy orange margarita, a potent blend of 1800 Reposado, peach schnapps, and blood orange syrup, is sure to put some twinkle in your toes. Put your tequila-powered mojo to good use with a game of Dance Dance Revolution or one of the NASCAR-style racing games. During Power Hour, 4:30 to 7 p.m., you can play an entire hour of video games for 10 bucks.
Dave and Buster’s, 940 Great Mall Dr., Milpitas, (408) 957-9215, www.daveandbusters.com
This family fun park next to I-580 offers a bunch of “be a kid again” activities, including bumper boats, go-karts, laser tag, and arcade games. And although miniature golf may seem kooky to “real” competitors, it’s a great way to get in a little putting practice. Boomers’ two 18-hole courses are more dignified than average putting playgrounds.
Boomers, 2400 Kitty Hawk Rd., Livermore, (925) 447-7275, www.boomersparks.com
Many East Bay companies are taking corporate meetings out of the “bored” room and onto the playground. Fremont’s City Beach is one such wonderland where colleagues can cultivate camaraderie—or take a well-deserved recess—with a few rounds of billiards, ping-pong, foosball, chess (with human-size pieces), basketball, volleyball, badminton, bocce, or virtual bowling. This spot also boasts sport courts and the largest rock climbing terrain in the area. Also worth a mention: The Santa Clara location has an extensive array of cardio equipment for gym buffs who want a pregame warm-up. In Fremont, live music and the Pineapple Bar & Grill lend a luau vibe to the scene.
City Beach, 4020 Technology Pl., Fremont, (510) 651-2500; 2911 Mead Ave., Santa Clara, (408) 654-9330, www.citybeach.com
Lucky Ju Ju pinball museum started asa lark, a way for owner Michael Schiess to break out his collection of 200 vintage pinball machines. The two-room arcade, tucked behind the storefronts of Alameda’s Webster Avenue, has become a cult sensation with a devoted following since its 2002 opening. Every Friday and Saturday night, pinball wizards young and old flip frenetically at pinnies from the 1960s and 1970s, creating a cheerful cacophony of bells and whistles. Lucky Ju Ju is open Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. until midnight. The admission ($10 for adults, $5 for children) includes unlimited pinball play.
Lucky Ju Ju, 713 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, (510) 205-9793, www.ujuju.com
Let’s Get Physical
Pete Rose once said, “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” For those of you looking to slide into second with your spikes high, check out the Tri-Valley Men’s Senior Baseball League, which offers divisions at the 25-plus, 35-plus, 45-plus, and 55-plus age levels. The schedule runs from April through September; games are played on Sundays. Women interested in playing hardball should check out California Women’s Baseball, which has teams based out of Alameda, San Francisco, and San Jose.
If you just want to take a few hacks, go to Concord’s Payless Batting Cages, where five outdoor cages are open seven days a week. The pitching machines and equipment are the same ones used by all 30 Major League Baseball clubs, and ball-drying equipment assures perfect pitches during April showers. Cages are also available at San Ramon Sports and Triple Play U.S.A. Batting Cages in San Leandro.
Tri-Valley Men’s Senior Baseball League, (925) 757-7400, www.tvmsbl.com ; California Women’s Baseball League, (408) 903-9387, www.cwbl.net ; Payless Batting Cages, 2700 E. Olivera Rd., Concord, (925) 825-7526, www.paylessbattingcages.com ; San Ramon Sports, 2411 Old Crow Canyon Rd., San Ramon, (925) 831-9050, www.sanramon sports.com ; Triple Play U.S.A, 2055 Adams Ave., San Leandro, (510) 568-2255, www.tripleplayusa.com
Does watching the pros run the floor make you want to hoist a few jumpshots of your own? Join a league at one of these gyms—or head to San Ramon’s Central Park, where the lighted courts draw ballers from across the Bay Area at all hours of the night.
Tice Valley Community Gym, 2055 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-3572; Foothill Community Gym, 2775 Cedro La., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-3539, www.ci.walnut-creek.ca.us ; Iron Horse Gym, 12701 Alcosta Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 973-3200, www.ci.san-ramon.ca.us/sports ; Los Cerros Community Gym, 968 Blemer Rd., Danville, (925) 314-3386, www.ci.danville.ca.us ; Central Park, 12501 Alcosta Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 973-3200, www.ci.san-ramon.ca.us/sports
Once you step inside King’s Gym, it’ll take a mighty pair of gloves to knock the Rocky soundtrack out of your head. That’s part of boxing’s charm. Plus, you’ll develop a killer uppercut and equally lethal abs. In the event this feat isn’t your (punching) bag, King’s Gym is still worth a visit if only to run into Andre Ward, Dublin’s 2004 Olympic gold medalist in boxing, who makes this his regular stomping ground. King’s Gym, 843 35th Ave., Oakland, (510) 261-2199
Attention hockey lovers: Can you think of a better way to let off some steam after a hard day at work than firing a slap shot past the goalie? The Bay Area is flush with places where you can lace up your skates, be they ice or roller. For ice hockey, check out the double rink at Oakland Ice Center or Dublin’s Iceland, which also offers Friday and Saturday night games of broomball, a sport that involves running around on ice in sneakers and trying to hit a ball into the goal with a paddle-shaped broomstick.
Like your hockey warm and dry? For roller hockey, try Oakland’s Dry Ice Hockey Arena, which offers inline skating hockey clinics and camps, organized tournaments, and $10 per night pickup. The arena is also home to a women’s Roller Derby league. Or book the rink at Golden Skate in San Ramon.
Oakland Ice Center, 519 18th St., Oakland, (510) 268-9000, www.oakland ice.com ; Dublin Iceland, 7212 San Ramon Rd., (925) 829-4445, www.dubliniceland.com ; Dry Ice Hockey, 210 Hegenberger Loop, Oakland, (510) 562-9499, www.dryicehockey.com ; Golden Skate, 2701 Hooper Dr., San Ramon, (925) 820-2525, www.thegoldenskate.com
Kickball is popular on suburban playgrounds, but Tri-Valley adults also go crazy for the game. Last year, more than 100 grown-ups participated on seven teams in Danville’s competitive and recreational leagues; when spring leagues begin this month, as many as 10 teams are expected to turn out. Evening games take place on Sycamore Valley Park’s synthetic turf field, and basic playground rules are enforced. You must be 18 or older to play.
Danville kickball, (925) 314-3386, www.ci.danville.ca.us
Soccer is one of suburbia’s favorite pastimes, but why should kids get all the glory? Diablo Adult Soccer League is a recreational, nonprofit league for men 30 and older and women 27 and older. Teams create their own rosters and can have up to 25 players at any time (all teams must have at least seven women on their roster). Games take place on Sunday mornings at 9 or 11 a.m. at parks and schools in Walnut Creek, Concord, Danville, and other cities.
Want to get your kicks year-round? At San Ramon Sports, competitive and recreational soccer games take place on two indoor, turf-covered fields. Adult games begin at 6:30 p.m., and this spot offers leagues for players of all ages and abilities. Fields can be rented for practices, parties, and business meetings.
Diablo Adult Soccer League, www.diablosoccer.org ; San Ramon Sports, 2411 Old Crow Canyon Rd., San Ramon, (925) 831-9050, www.sanramonsports.com
If creaky knees have ended your days of hardball, or you want to get out on the diamond with a mellow group of friends and coworkers, maybe softball is the way to go. Co-ed and men’s slow-pitch softball leagues are available at Walnut Creek’s Heather Farm Park and San Ramon’s Central Park.
Walnut Creek Adult Softball, (925) 943-1955, www.wcasi.org ; San Ramon Parks, (925) 973-3200, www.ci.san-ramon.ca.us
It so happens that the Northern California section of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) is based in Alameda. Lucky us. The USTA offers members and nonmembers a number of activities and matches that take place on East Bay public courts and at private clubs, including Ruby Hill in Pleasanton and the Blackhawk Country Club. Roughly 10,000 participants (ages 19 and up) took to the courts in Contra Costa and Alameda counties last year.
Northern California USTA, (510) 748-7373, www.norcal.usta.com
Wallyball’s pace is much crazier than regular volleyball’s, and you’re sure to work up a sweat because the rules allow the ball to bounce off the walls at unexpected angles. The games take place on indoor racquetball courts, including at Pleasant Hill’s Irvin Deutscher Family YMCA on Monday and Thursday evenings (technically, you can play whenever racquetball courts are open).
Irvin Deutscher Family YMCA, 350 Civic Dr., Pleasant Hill, (925) 687-8900, www.mdrymca.org