Destination: Oakland

If you’re headed to San Francisco but “Haight” the hassle of navigating one of the country’s top tourist destinations, you’ll find relief – and yes, even a whiff of the city’s treasured hippie past – just across the Bay Bridge in Oakland, Calif.

Once the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, this multicultural city of 400,000 has grown into the largest port on San Francisco Bay, fifth busiest in the country, and a key partner to the industry in nearby Silicon Valley. While some may denigrate it as SanFran’s plainer stepsister, there is an undeniable family resemblance, given that much of the City by the Bay was built from the coastal oak trees that gave Oakland its name.

Like other browbeaten manufacturing and commercial centers around the country, Oakland’s multicultural neighborhoods and emerging arts scene have helped it reinvent itself from within. The racial unrest of the Sixties, when college students Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party here, has faded, replaced by a growing economy and an influx of the grandchildren of the Haight-Ashbury hippies who founded “flower power” in Haight-Ashbury across the bay.

In fact, so much has changed so quickly in Oakland – crime dropped 61 percent this year alone – that the major fighting on its streets today is over the increasing encroachment of gentrification. Thanks to its vibrant arts scene, it’s even grown into its nickname: Brooklyn by the Bay.

Ready for a taste of Oakland rebooted? Here are 10 flavors to savor.

The Uptown arts scene: Contemporary art spills onto the streets of this trending district the first Friday of every month. Live bands and food trucks descend on Telegraph Avenue, while galleries like Vessel host all manner of exhibitions and live events. Be sure to linger after sundown to enjoy…

The Great Wall of Oakland: This local nonprofit aims to educate and enliven its community via a 100-by-100-foot projection on the side of a building on West Grand Avenue between Broadway and Valley Street.

Bakesale Betty: Hungry? Let’s head up Telegraph to North Oakland’s trendsetting Temescal neighborhood, where this Aussie transplant’s buttermilk fried chicken and strawberry shortcake has takeout customers lined up out the door. Email your order 24 hours in advance. You’ve been warned.

Temescal Alleys: As long as we’re in the neighborhood, let’s poke into the funky storefronts of this merry mélange of upcycled furnishings, handcrafted jewelry and fearless fashions.

Old Oakland: Enough already with the trendy; let’s head downtown for a city-sponsored tour of the grand old restored Victorians in Old Oakland.

Bay Bridge Trail: For the stroll or bike ride of a lifetime, check out the Bay Bridge Trail, which allows non-motorized access to the east span of the Bay Bridge to just past the span’s 525-foot signature tower. After that, you may need a beer at…

Beer Revolution: Located on Jack London Park, this brew powerhouse features 50 beers on tap, another 500 in bottles, and all the rays you care to soak up on its comfortable sundeck.

Lake Merritt: The jewel in Oakland’s crown, this 3.4-mile shoreline in the heart of the city serves as ground zero for all manner of outdoor recreation and nature appreciation. After you’ve survived the race or communed with the flora and fauna, don’t forget to drop into the…

Oakland Museum of California: For more than four decades, OMCA has collected more than 1.9 million seminal artworks, from historical artifacts to natural specimens and photographs to inspire the artists within its community. Children in particular flock to its interactive exhibits.

Catch a game at the Coliseum: Whether your schedule coincides with the NFL Raiders or the MLB Athletics, don’t miss the opportunity to root for the home team in this grand, open-air setting.

Photo credits:; cathedral on Lake Merritt: cdrin/; shipping freight Sheila Fitzgerald/

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

Leave a Comment