Next time you are in the San Francisco Bay area, make time for a day trip to Oakland, just across the bay. Better yet, spend a few days there to explore its charm. Just as New York has its formerly somewhat seedy, but now-trendy Brooklyn, San Francisco has its Oakland, a vibrant sister city just a bridge away, but with a whole different feel.
Replete with gorgeous views, great food and wine, trendy shopping, an emerging art scene and culturally-dynamic diversity, newly-chic Oakland deserves its emerging reputation as a Bay Area attraction. Add in a checkered history, a busy port, a mix of familiar and exotic cultures, lower rent than in San Francisco and an influx of young locals and the coffee bars, cafes, galleries and clubs that follow them, and you have today’s Oakland – a simply smart destination.
Shopping is burgeoning in Oakland, too. Beyond the usual coterie of trendy shops and souvenir emporia, there are many unique local shops. There is also a lively farmers market at Jack London Square every Sunday and the huge monthly Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire draws antique collectors from all of Northern California.
Alameda Island is adjacent to downtown Oakland and is reachable by tunnel. Formerly a sleepy and slightly seedy village, it too is undergoing an urban renaissance with its share of trendy shops, boutiques, craft breweries and eateries.
For sports fans, the area is a magnet for both professional and amateur sports. If you are interested in basketball, baseball or football, Oakland has it in abundance.
Greater Oakland has an abundance of natural beauty as well. From downtown’s beautiful Lake Merritt urban oasis to the nearby spectacular bay views and redwood grove in the Oakland Hills, visitors will delight at how picturesque the east bay can be.
Throw in Old Oakland’s restored Victorian architecture and Chinatown, and Oakland is well worth exploration.
Before you go
Oakland can be easily reached by highway, air, cruise ship or train.
• By train, Amtrak has a station right at Jack London Square. It offers frequent service to the entire west coast and beyond. BART regional trains run throughout the bay region.
• By car, Oakland is on Interstates 80, 880 and 980
• Cruise ships sail from San Francisco, 12 miles distant via Interstate 80
For 2-3 days
• Lake Merritt. If you are the hiking sort, the 3.25-mile walking path around the lake is very rewarding, with many attractions along the route.
• Jack London Square, a shopping center on the Oakland Estuary, offers a marina, shopping wine tasting and day cruises.
For more days
• Visit Oakland Museum of California
• See spectacular views of San Francisco Bay from the Oakland Hills and the majesty of nature at the Redwood Regional Park
• Take a wine-tasting trip to nearby Napa and Sonoma counties.
• Go on a bay cruise on the Presidential Yacht Potomac from Jack London Square. Other day cruises are available
• Enjoy a day trip to San Francisco
• Try a day trip to Sausalito
• Visit Chabot Space and Science Center in the Oakland Hills
• See Treasure Island off the Oakland Bay Bridge
Destination at a glance
• An emerging world-class culinary scene and good museums
• Mobility level: Low, except some steep paths in the Oakland Hills around Redwood Regional Park
• When to go: Year-round. Winter can be cold and rainy and summers are hot but not humid. September and October are busy, but with near-ideal weather
• Where to stay: Downtown and the Jack London Square area both have many good hotel choices
• Special travel interests: Historic buildings, cultural diversity and gorgeous views.
Jeffrey Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein are publishers of Living on the Suncoast Magazine. They can be reached at email@example.com.