Shop the Block | Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, here’s a list of curated ideas and resources for gifts — and experiences — for beloved family and friends.

For star-gazing science lovers

Memberships to Chabot Space and Science Center give individuals and families a passport to the universe. Free admission — when the pandemic eases and indoor programs resume — discounts at the gift shop and Town Kitchen Café, and priority registration for camps, special events and classes are just a few of the bonuses of membership. In the meantime, joining the science center offers unlimited, free access to shows in Chabot’s digital Planetarium and other perks.

For folks who adore Oakland and Bay Area art

Memberships offering multiple discounts and exclusive-to-members benefits make terrific gifts. Or, pay a “visit” to OMCA’s online store and choose a locally made gift from a broad selection of crafts that reflect the Bay Area’s rich and diverse culture. There are earthy teapots made by Kieu Tran; Latisha Baker’s bold earrings and pendants; ceramic mermaids from Marina Caliari Ceramics; an East Bay Cooks celebrating local chefs; posters, pins and mugs emblazoned with The Future is in Our Hands imagery by Mary Siegfried; honey harvested from bee hives in Oakland’s backyards, and so much more.

For the person with animal passion

Oakland Zoo is finally open again, now that the State and Alameda County Public Health Departments have given the A-OK to outdoor recreation organizations following COVID-19 safety protocols. Advance reserve tickets are necessary and are free to Zoo members and Friends of the Wild donors. Even without a membership, a Valentine’s Day trip to the zoo for a loved one is a special experience. Or “adopt” an animal with an online donation in your valentine’s name. Support animals in the care of zoos worldwide by “parenting” an animal. The gift of a donation comes with perks such as a plush toy animal of your choosing or a children’s book about animals.

For music-makers
Yamaha RBX170EW

Pick up a rare, vintage, new or used banjo, guitar, ukulele or other stringed instrument for the strummer in your romance at Mountain Music. For musicians who prefer performing their crooning with lip service, there are recorders, harmonicas, flutes, clarinets, trumpets and tubas. Or, practice self- and other-love with the gift of lessons from one of the family-owned businesses’ professional instructors. Lessons during shelter-in-place conditions are conducted via Zoom and Skype. Most instruments are available to rent and teachers design personal learning plans for players of any level on violin, viola, accordion, fiddle, guitar, piano, trumpet, drums and more.

For the book-besotted

Marcus Books is the nation’s oldest Black-owned independent bookstore. Celebrating its 60th year—and keeping customers from going berserk during the isolating pandemic—the venerable shop has lived up to its claim to “building cultural competency and intellectual awareness.” Order from anti-racism and ally ship lists’ for adults or children, Latinx stories aimed at older readers or the YA crowd, or choose from new releases, beloved fiction, biographies, poetry, cookbooks, history, sci-fi, fantasy, nonfiction, and the latest from local writers.

For the traditionalist

Let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with florals or confectionary sweet licks on Valentine’s Day. Returning to two favorite Shop the Block picks, Arjan Flowers and Herbs never fails to satisfy the ardent lover. With impeccable custom designs, owner Mina Bolouri creates seductive, beautiful gifts using seasonal flowers and plants.

Fairy Tale - Pink Blossoms that are so lush you want to fall into them like a cloud or pillow.
Flowers from Arjan

Pair the sensory stimulation of a floral arrangement (or fly solo) with a gift (or gift certificate) from longtime Piedmont business Fenton’s Creamery. Soon offering limited outdoor dining and currently available for carryout or delivery, select a Black & Tan Sundae, go big with a tub of your favorite flavor ice cream, and lots more.

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