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.
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.
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.
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.
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.