Things to do in Oakland, CA

Activities, attractions and tours
Lake Merritt featuring a pond

Oakland Attractions

In addition to being known for its trio of professional sports teams and history of political progressivism, Oakland—named for the oak trees dotting the region's coastal plains—lays claim to being one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States. All this is great news for travelers who long to reap the rewards of this vibrant metropolis in Northern California's East Bay. Iconoclastic museums, global cuisine, and energizing activities beckon, leading residents and travelers to refer to Oakland as the Bright Side of the Bay. Whether you’re an avid sports fan or a foodie hungering after your next bite, Oakland promises endless entertainment.

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Oakland must see attractions

1. Jack London Square

Come to Jack London Square to spend a relaxing afternoon walking the paths that run by the waterside or to enjoy a beer in the same tavern where the author of The Call of the Wild drank. Shop in some of Oakland’s best establishments and enjoy fine dining in one of the many restaurants overlooking the water.
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Shop, dine and stroll to your heart’s content in this waterside square, named after the novelist who spent his childhood here.

2. University of California, Berkeley

Explore the campus of University of California, Berkeley, a top college in Berkeley. Attend a sporting event or discover the beautiful sunsets in this vibrant area.
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Explore the campus of University of California, Berkeley, a top college in Berkeley. Attend a sporting event or discover the beautiful sunsets in this vibrant area.

3. Berkeley Marina

Made up of charming parks and boulevards, the Berkeley Marina is a scenic waterfront area on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. A yacht club and a hotel complement the many restaurants in this lively spot, providing stunning views of the bay. Stay for the sunset and watch the sky turn red above the water.
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A world-class playground complex, a labyrinth of nature trails and a solar calendar are among the highlights that make this stunning marina stand out.

4. Fox Theater

With seats for 2,800 visitors, Fox Theater is a large and iconic concert hall in Oakland that dates back to the 1920s. After beginning with silent films, it played a key part in the introduction of talkies to the local culture. Admire the sophisticated look of the theater’s building, with its dome high above the neon marquee and temple-like façade.
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Find a school, a restaurant and a concert venue in this historic complex where Dylan, Green Day and B. B. King have played.

5. Oakland Zoo

Take a walk through the rain forest in Oakland Zoo and listen for the sounds of chimpanzees, gibbons and numerous tropical birds. Take your children to the Wayne and Gladys Children’s Zoo, where they can interact with the animals and enjoy the play areas. Be present for feeding times when you can watch the giraffes, elephants, meerkats and even alligators getting their dinner.
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Watch alligators being fed, ride a train through the Australian outback and see a herd of elephants on the African savannah at this animal park.

6. Greek Theater

While exploring Oakland, visit the Greek Theatre, part of the University of California, Berkeley. Inaugurated in 1903, this amphitheater of classical design seats 8,500 spectators and hosts festivals, concerts and important ceremonies. Admire the Greek Revival architecture of the bowl and imagine you’re in Ancient Greece.
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President Theodore Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama are among the iconic figures who have graced the stage of this neoclassical open-air bowl.

What to do in Oakland

Free Things to Do in Oakland

Vacationing in Oakland on a budget? The following can be experienced for nada.

Judah L. Magnes Museum - Approach the staff or curator and find out about the fascinating collections housed here.

Adventure Playground - Let your hair down and add a bit of extra fun to your trip here.

Jack London Square - If you're impressed by modern architecture and design, add this landmark to your itinerary.

Jack London's Cabin - Drop by this historic landmark and learn a thing or two about the area's cultural heritage.

Old Oakland - Roam the streets and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this lively local haunt.

Remember Them Champions for Humanity Monument - Well known among local residents, this place is worth a look.

Cathedral of Christ the Light - Inject some spirituality into your getaway with a visit to this sacred place.

Hans Jenny Pygmy Forest Reserve - Appreciate the stark contrast between city life and nature's wonders at this breathtaking location.

Lafayette Square Park - Arrange a picnic date and enjoy a stroll around the gorgeous plant life.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Oakland

A mere 25 minutes from Oakland International Airport, the city of Oakland pulses with activity across all of its vibrant neighborhoods. In the heart of the city, Downtown entices with premium restaurants and popular boutiques, while residential enclaves like Rockridge and Grand Lake offer a slower pace without sacrificing the big-city amenities that locals and travelers love.


West of Lake Merritt, Downtown serves as Oakland's central business district, where independent coffee roasters and sudsy beer bars sprout up beside high-rise hotels and new-construction condos. Downtown stretches all the way from Jack London Square along Oakland’s Inner Harbor to Uptown, a popular destination for after-hours entertainment.


Sprinkled with bungalows and cottages, the community-oriented neighborhood of Rockridge is home to more than 80 restaurants, cafes, and shops, including the Rockridge Market Hall, where food and flower stores are open 7 days a week. Dreyer's Ice Cream maintains its international headquarters here, and ice-cream tours of several local purveyors abound.

Grand Lake

Stroll north from Lake Merritt and find yourself in Grand Lake, where live oak and California buckeye trees line Grand Avenue, the area's main thoroughfare. This laid-back neighborhood is home to finger-licking food joints and invigorating yoga studios as well as the vintage Grand Lake Theatre, which shows big box-office films.

Things to See in Oakland

Whether you want to marvel at cutting-edge community theater or are itching to score courtside seats at a Golden State Warriors game, there are a plethora of things to see in Oakland. If you're traveling in summer, reserve tickets to the Woodminster Summer Musical, Oakland's seasonal drama staged in an amphitheater under a canopy of redwood trees. For live concerts, head to The Fox, where musicians like Beck, Jill Scott, and Seu Jorge have been known to play. Nearby, the Paramount Theatre books popular comedians like Chris Rock inside a beautiful Art Deco building, while the New Parkway Theatre showcases classic flicks in a movie palace filled with couch-like seats. Finally, if you want to see the Golden State Warriors play, journey to the Oracle Arena—just be sure to reserve your tickets in advance, as home games for this hot team sell out fast.

Sightseeing in Oakland

From a museum devoted entirely to pinball to a rousing stroll through a redwood forest, there are a bevy of places to go and things to do in Oakland. A blend of photography, fine art, and hands-on activities excite the senses at the California Museum of Oakland, which documents California’s history through art and the natural sciences. Additionally, those with an affinity for the past can dive deep during a tour of the USS Potomac, which served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht following the ship's brief stint in the naval forces. In the West End, the Pacific Pinball Museum provides an interactive museum experience with more than 90 playable pinball machines to sample with a one-time admission fee. Those traveling with kids might be interested in heading to the Children's Fairyland near Lake Merritt, where storybook sets, gentle rides, and friendly animals appeal to the youngest of sightseers. Finally, there's no reason to limit your adventures to the Oakland city limits. Trace the footsteps of John Muir during a guided tour of Muir Woods National Monument or treat yourself to an estate tour in Napa and Sonoma, indulging in the range of delights that NorCal has to offer.

Things to Do in Oakland with Kids

Oakland is a superb destination for a family break. Bring the little ones along and enjoy these fun family friendly experiences together:


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