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Revitalized neighborhoods, 300 new restaurants, mild temps and a quick two-hour drive make Oakland a perfect weekend getaway.
Jack London Square—This beautiful waterfront destination adjacent to the Port of Oakland includes the Amtrak station and the ferry landing, and people flock here for the shops, restaurants and the Sunday farmers market.
Kick off a weekend in the East Bay with small plates and craft cocktails at Bocanova. Book lovers should visit Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon to see where author Jack London studied as a boy—and drank as an adult. For evening entertainment, the famous Yoshi’s jazz club brings in national and regional acts to perform everything from blues to Latin jazz to standards.
If you want more interactive amusements, Plank offers indoor bowling, bocce courts, billiards and arcade games, or—hey, the bay is right there—rent a kayak or paddle board at California Canoe & Kayak. Bikes are available to rent by the hour or for a day at Bay Area Bikes. Coffee lovers should make a date for the public cupping at Blue Bottle Coffee on Webster Street, where every Sunday at 2 p.m., a trained barista will lead guests through a tasting of blends that made the Oakland-based company famous. If wine’s your thing, go tasting at nearby Cerruti Cellars or head back to the square to the Rosenblum Cellars tasting room. Spend some time on the water with a cruise on the USS Potomac, the yacht used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to host dignitaries. The Sunday farmers market runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Chinatown—In this historic district
off Broadway, Swan’s Market, on Ninth Street, is a foodie’s dream destination, with restaurants serving handcrafted tortillas (Cosecha), oysters (The Cook and Her Farmer) and fried chicken (Real Miss Ollie’s), plus specialty stores selling everything from seafood to sausage. Visit on a Friday and you’ll find pop-up shops and food vendors to round out the experience. Between Washington and Broadway on Ninth Street, Victorian Row includes the 1878 Nicholl Block Building and a stretch of Italianate houses that goes on for about six blocks.
Head back to Broadway by way of Ninth Street and check out Marion & Rose’s Workshop, which sells American-crafted housewares, gifts and accessories. Show off your newfound love of the East Bay at Oaklandish, which carries a wide selection of locally designed apparel and accessories.
In nearby Chinatown, try the dim sum at Peony Seafood Restaurant. Arrive early as the place is popular with locals and tourists. If you’re visiting during the week, take the $1 tour at the Fortune Cookie Factory to learn how fortune cookies are made.
Keep in mind: The “Free B” Broadway Shuttle will take you from Jack London Square to 27th Street during the week and from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Look for the lime-green buses.
Uptown—For live entertainment, head uptown, where venue choices are plentiful and the Art Deco astonishes. The legendary—and gorgeous—Fox Theater hosts international and national musical acts across genres, while The New Parish showcases musicians, comedians and improvisational theater. Paramount Theatre is home to the Oakland Ballet and Oakland East Bay Symphony.
The Art Deco-themed Flora restaurant focuses on locally sourced ingredients and craft cocktails. At Ozumo, dine on sushi or robata-grilled short ribs and squid. For dessert, visit Sweet Bar Bakery, which offers cakes and cupcakes, many available gluten-free.
While you’re there, take time to see the Remember Them monument, a bronze sculpture depicting 25 culturally diverse role models who championed peace, freedom and human rights. Also, if you happen to be in town on the right weekend, join the fun at Oakland Art Murmur on First Friday, when some 40 galleries open from 6 to 9 p.m. and a street festival runs along Telegraph Avenue between Grand Avenue and 27th Street.
Temescal—One of Oakland’s oldest neighborhoods, these days Temescal is a culturally diverse area full of boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Temescal Alley (49th Street and Telegraph Avenue) is home to several small boutiques and shops offering gifts, clothing, jewelry and home decor, such as Esqueleto and Walrus. Arrive early at Doughnut Dolly to get one of the handmade yeast doughnuts filled to order with a choice of cream or jam. Vegans can find cashew-based ice cream options at Curbside Creamery, and there are gluten-free cones, too. Restaurante Doña Tomás serves up Mexican dishes with a modern flair, such as kale salads with beets and pepitas, goat cheese quesadillas and enchiladas con mole. Cheese lovers will enjoy the selection at Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop. Stay for a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup, which is made with Pabst Blue Ribbon. More outdoor foodie fun: The 11-block-long Temescal Street Fair on July 5 will include local vendors and artisans, food, live entertainment and children’s activities.
Lakeshore—In the heart of Oakland, Lake Merritt, a 3.4-mile tidal lagoon, is also the home of the nation’s oldest wildlife refuge, making it the perfect spot for year-round bird watching. At Lakeside Park, explore themed gardens, such as bonsai, Mediterranean and succulents. On the southern end of the lake, book a gondola tour for two at Gondola Servizio. For those who love history and museums, take a tour of the restored Camron-Stanford House, then head to the Oakland Museum of California, where art, history and natural science galleries showcase the past, present and future of California. Every Friday night from 5 to 9 p.m., the museum hosts an all-ages event with food trucks, live entertainment and workshops, and discounted admission to the galleries. In the vicinity, grab some liquid refreshment and a light meal at Perch Coffee House. Other dining options include Mediterranean cuisine at Shakewell, Cuban fare at Caña and seafood at Lake Chalet.
Piedmont—On a clear day, take in a spectacular view from the hillside at Mountain View Cemetery, the final resting place for many renowned Californians, including Charles Crocker, architect Julia Morgan and Sierra Club co-founder Joseph LeConte. Satisfy your sweet tooth with an ice cream sundae at Fentons Creamery, an Oakland institution for more than 120 years. Pick up the latest magazines, even international titles, atIssues. If relaxation is what you need, visit Piedmont Springs for a massage, facial or time in one of four private outdoor hot tubs. If you’re in search of a good, cold brew, pop in to Cato’s Ale House, where more than 20 local craft beers flow on tap.
Rockridge—In Rockridge, along College Avenue, you’ll find a fabulous mix of boutiques, shops and salons. For new and used books, as well as paper goods, visit Pegasus Books. Body Time, originally founded as The Body Shop, sells skin care products for men and women. Pick up some funky footwear at The Sock Hop or a cute new outfit at Fit. Foodies looking to get acquainted with the local restaurant scene will love the Rockridge Food Tour, a three-hour progressive meal and guided walking tour. Ice cream lovers, take note: Starting May 31, the company will offer 90-minute ice cream tours with stops at three local favorites including Dreyer’s Ice Cream, the birthplace of Rocky Road ice cream. The Rockridge Market Hall houses eight individual shops, each with sidewalk access: A bakery, butcher, pasta shop and florist are among the offerings. If you’re staying downtown, take public transit and avoid hunting for parking: The Rockridge BART station is located on College Avenue, right in the center of the neighborhood.
Greater Oakland—Not far from Oakland’s city center, you’ll find Redwood Regional Park, a 1,830-acre forest full of coast redwoods, evergreens and chaparral. Picnicking and camping sites are available, and the nearly 40 miles of trails are perfect for hiking, running or horseback riding. Within the park, the Chabot Space and Science Center includes a planetarium, interactive exhibits and displays on space and earth science.
Just off Interstate 580 toward Pleasanton is the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate. Built by a coal baron in the early 19th century, the estate includes the original 37-room mansion, a carriage house and a meadow where upper-class San Franciscans camped after the 1906 earthquake. The grounds are open to the public during the week, and mansion tours are available on Wednesday mornings through September.
Check out Joaquin Miller Park, where the “Poet of the Sierras” once planted 75,000 trees as part of an effort to create an artist’s retreat.