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First time in Oakland with 1 day to explore

First time in Oakland, and I have 1 day to explore. Taking Bart from S.F., so I will not have a car. What are the must see neighborhoods and places to go? I'm into rad people, coffee, art, and experiencing the local culture. 

7 Answers

top answer by
Megan from Palo Alto


Great idea to visit Oakland, once a major Ohlone native village before it became Rancho San Antonio, a land grant from Spain, owned by the Mexican Peralta family, then a staging point for passengers to the Sierra Foothills during the Gold Rush and formerly the western terminal of the transcontinental Railroad, now a diverse vibrant city that is culturally on par with SF but far more relaxed.

The three answers from Valerie, Chiara and Spencer below are great and totally agree with their suggestions. I have three additional/complementary suggestions for different approaches to Oakland that include "rad people and art" from BART.  I highly recommend getting a copy of Secret Stairs East Bay by Charles Fleming and, considering walks #22 Grand Lake's Rose Garden and Walk #30 Upper Rockridge West. 

My option #1 is to follow Walk #30 in the book, which is fantastic in conjunction with Valerie's suggestions below regarding a visit to Market Hall (for the hot ricciarelli almond cookies at the bakery, best outside of Siena Italy), which is the starting point for Walk #30.  This walk takes you up through some cool neighborhoods to a spectacular view of the Bay Area and you see all the gorgeous rebuilt homes from the Oakland Fire. It's a 3-mile walk but very doable and fun.  If you don't like walking that much, suggest you follow Valerie's advice regarding the Rockridge Bart station and see College Ave and Market Hall Produce, but then take Chiara's advice and walk to the Temescal Neighborhood along Telegraph Ave. around 51st st. along a footpath that starts behind Market Hall through FROG Parkat Claremont Ave at Hudson St to Redondo Ave at Clarke St and then exit out to Telegraph Ave.. Be sure to visit Temescal Alleyon 49th St, a funky fun area of boutiques like Esqueleto and MARISA HASKELL's affordable but edgy jewelry and Doughnut Dolly's filled pastries from an old hand-crank custard filler.  Pizzaiolo is a fantastic dinner option. 

For my second suggestion, I recommended Walk #22 because you would see a completely different side of Oakland, which includes the WPA historical gem the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, featuring 5,000 rosebushes hidden away in a cute Oakland neighborhood and lets you explore all of the boutiques and restaurants in the Grand Lake Neighborhood, just north of Lake Merritt.  To get here by Bart you would take BART to the Lake Merritt BART Station and then catch a bus for a short ride to the intersection of Grand Lake Ave and Lake Park Ave. Few people know that the term "deadhead" from the Grateful Dead refers to lopping off the tops of roses (see their album covers) and every year surviving members of the Grateful Dead have gone to Morcom Amphitheater of Roses built in 1932 to participate in a mass deadhead pruning event. Cool bit of trivia. Recommend eating at Boot and Shoe Service on Grand Lake Boulevard and sitting in back garden and then visiting the Chocolate store next door.

A third option is to go to the 12th St BART and get off there to explore Old Oakland, Chinatown and lower Lake Merritt (and possibly visit the Oakland Museum of Californiaat 10th and Oak and see the amazing Gallery of California History and Gallery of Natural Sciences filled with super cool dioramas along with the contemporary art).  From BART walk to 10th St and visit Ratto's 100-year-old market and the cafes and eateries and DIY boutiques around there including The Trappist for phenomenal Belgian beer and the gorgeous woodwork in the vintage bar, then proceed to Oakland's intact Chinatown centered around 8th and Webster, built to house all the Chinese who came to build the railroad and work in gold mining.  Wherever I go, I plot around bakeries and beer, and Chinatown has phenomenal cheap, delicious, unique pastries, such as Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum. Keep walking down 10th and you will get to the Oakland Museum of California and Lake Merritt, passing lots of old Oakland architecture and history along the way.

Finally, the great art galleries in Oakland are actually not at any of these three stops. A fourth option is to go on a Thursday to Oakland for the third Thursday Art Walks and visit the galleries along Telegraph between 23rd to 25th St (my favorites are Johansson Projects and Vessel Gallery), just a few blocks north of the Fox Theatre which has best live music line up in the Bay Area. You Could walk north from the 12St. BART station to this area do the art walks, have dinner at Pican Restaurant, as suggested by Spencer below and catch a show at the Fox Theatre. You will love this place!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Market Hall Produce (attraction)
  2. Temescal (attraction)
  3. FROG Park (attraction)
  4. Temescal Alley (attraction)
  5. Esqueleto (attraction)
  6. MARISA HASKELL (attraction)
  7. Doughnut Dolly (restaurant)
  8. Pizzaiolo (restaurant)
  9. Morcom Amphitheater of Roses (attraction)
  10. Lake Merritt (attraction)
  11. Lake Merritt BART Station (attraction)
  12. Morcom Amphitheater of Roses (attraction)
  13. Boot and Shoe Service (restaurant)
  14. Oakland Museum of California (attraction)
  15. Ratto's (attraction)
  16. The Trappist (restaurant)
  17. Chinatown (attraction)
  18. Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum (restaurant)
  19. Oakland Museum of California (attraction)
  20. Johansson Projects (attraction)
  21. Vessel Gallery (attraction)
  22. Fox Theatre (attraction)
  23. Pican Restaurant (attraction)
  24. Fox Theatre (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Spencer from Los Angeles

Go to Pican Restaurant and eat all of the fried chicken and funnel cake and bourbon apple pie and huckleberry beignets and drink all of the bourbon and Instagram a photo of it.

The Hog's Apothecary is a great beer hall, as is Beer Revolution Linden Street Brewery for craft beer tasting and tour. Cheese Board Bakery & Cheese in Berkeley is worth a visit alone. Go during the day time and not right at lunchtime, but early or late. Good drinks and fun time also at Jupiter, which is just down the street. BOOM. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pican Restaurant (attraction)
  2. The Hog's Apothecary (restaurant)
  3. Beer Revolution (restaurant)
  4. Linden Street Brewery (restaurant)
  5. Cheese Board Bakery & Cheese (restaurant)
  6. Jupiter (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Chiara from San Francisco

Hello Jillian, Piedmont Avenueis a cool street full of nice shops. Get off at MacArthur Bart Stationthen 15 min walk from there. Stay around the Temescal/Piedmont area (some areas of Oakland are sketchy). See you later at the Trippy meetup in SF! :)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Piedmont Avenue (attraction)
  2. MacArthur Bart Station (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Tom from Oakland

Definitely check out Jack London Square!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Jack London Square (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Jay from Northern California

Hi Jillian! Laurel Book Storejust opened in downtown Oakland by the Bart station, in the long-empty old wedge-shaped building.  Awaken Cafe is nearby too, a cafe with live music, arts, craft brew etc.

Lots of spots along Telegraph heading up to  The Fox Theatre, which is great - well worth checking it out for the building alone. They spent $75 million restoring the art deco theater and reopened it in 2009, and spots have cropped up all around it. Including a Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe

There's also the lovely old The Paramount Theatre, just around the corner and also still hosting shows and film screenings.

Many great restaurant choices around there. OzumoPican Restaurant, Plum Bar & Restaurant. Jack London Square has great choices too - HavenBocanovaLungomare.

Stop at The Trappist or Beer Revolution on the way.

Its a bit far to walk but Linden Street Brewery and The Dock at Linden Street are faves, across from where I worked at Lonely Planet Publications Inc.

Have fun!! - Jay

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Laurel Book Store (attraction)
  2. Awaken Cafe (restaurant)
  3. Fox Theatre (attraction)
  4. Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe (restaurant)
  5. The Paramount Theatre (attraction)
  6. Ozumo (restaurant)
  7. Pican Restaurant (attraction)
  8. Plum Bar & Restaurant (restaurant)
  9. Haven (restaurant)
  10. Bocanova (restaurant)
  11. Lungomare (restaurant)
  12. The Trappist (restaurant)
  13. Beer Revolution (restaurant)
  14. Linden Street Brewery (restaurant)
  15. The Dock at Linden Street (restaurant)
  16. Lonely Planet Publications Inc (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Valerie from Los Angeles

Depending on where you are staying in San Francisco, coming from the Marina District or North Beach, I would hop on the Montgomery St. BART Station. Make sure you take the Pittsburg/Bay point train to end up in Rockridge. I would get off at the Rockridge BART Station, that way you can explore College Ave.

College Ave is a looong street stretching all the way into Berkeley so you can really go either direction down this street. I would say the Berkely side has more of my favorite places, but let's start with Oakland:

Right across the street from the Rockridge BART station is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants called Cactus Taqueria, I only love them for their crispy shrimp and chicken tacos. Walk across the street and explore the Rockridge Market Hall , great place for coffee, tea, and local produce. Walk a few blocks south and and check out Bittersweet Cafe LLC, seriously the best peanut butter hot chocolate I have ever had. Keep heading south towards the Oakland side and you will find the cutest little stores to browse through. 

If you want to head North down College Ave towards the Berkeley side, you will find my faaaavorite places to eat. Are you ready to experience the best pizza you will ever have? Zachary's Chicago Pizza is to freakin die for! Their deep dish....drool. Keep walking up the street and you will hit Gordo Taqueria, locals love this place. 

Ici Ice Cream gets their own paragraph. Chances are, there will be a ridiculously long line out the door, but for a good reason and it is totally worth. the. wait. Have you ever had flavors like, Butternut Caramel? Or Banana Curry? Cinnamon-Rum Salted Almond? Or Rosebutter? These are the kind flavor options you get. So fun. You have to double scoop it and get different flavors with each scoop, spice up your tastebuds a little bit :)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Marina District (attraction)
  2. North Beach (neighborhood)
  3. Montgomery St. BART Station (attraction)
  4. Rockridge BART Station (attraction)
  5. College Ave (attraction)
  6. Berkeley (attraction)
  7. Cactus Taqueria (restaurant)
  8. Rockridge Market Hall (attraction)
  9. Bittersweet Cafe LLC (restaurant)
  10. Zachary's Chicago Pizza (restaurant)
  11. Gordo Taqueria (restaurant)
  12. Ici Ice Cream (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lake Merritt (attraction)
  2. Oakland-Grand Lake Farmers Market (restaurant)
  3. Rockridge (neighborhood)
  4. Grand Lake Theater (attraction)
  5. Fenton's Ice Cream (restaurant)

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