Most people visit Oakland, California, on a day trip from San Francisco, the big city across the Bay, so here’s how to spend your perfect day. You might find yourself here if you’re arriving in the Bay Area on an Amtrak train or driving in from somewhere else in California. No matter what the reason, why not stay for a while and explore? One day might just be enough to get a taste of Oaktown’s multicultural flavor. Do a little laid-back sightseeing and shopping, take advantage of bargain priced meals and drinks, soak up the big bay views, and linger after dark for neon-lit nightlife.
Make your way down to Jack London Square for a walk along the waterfront. Grab a breakfast sandwich at Authentic Bagel Co., then mosey by Oakland’s busy wholesale produce market over to Blue Bottle Coffee Co., one of the Bay Area’s most renowned coffee roasters. Order the signature house drink: a Gibraltar, which is a double shot of espresso mixed with a little milk and served in a tiny glass tumbler.
It’s a quick, 15-minute walk up and over to the stand-out Oakland Museum of California. Rarely crowded, this small museum always thinks outside the box to tackle relevant social and environmental issues and to celebrate multicultural pride. It has an incredible collection of California art and historical artifacts that you could easily browse for at least an hour or two.
You’ve got plenty of options for lunch. You could head into Chinatown for handmade sesame noodles at Shandong Restaurant, or keep walking west across Broadway to Old Oakland and Swan’s Market, where an eclectic mix of artisan food vendors keep hungry locals satisfied with Mexican and Japanese dishes, seafood, sausages, and more.
If you’re not hungry yet, head north instead from the museum to Lake Merritt, Oakland’s urban oasis. Follow the paved recreation path around the east side of the lake and detour up Lakeshore Avenue to Arizmendi, a co-op bakery that vends vegetarian pizzas and racks of fresh-baked goods, some still hot from the oven.
Amble around one of Oakland’s leafy neighborhoods with intriguing shops. Piedmont Avenue, north of MacArthur Boulevard, is a mix of vintage wear and antiques, bookstores, and cafes. Convenient to BART trains, upscale Rockridge straddles the border between Oakland and Berkeley. A hip neighborhood for a younger alternative crowd, Temescal runs along Telegraph Avenue south of 51st Street.
Make the drive up to green Tilden Regional Park for sunset, and if you have time, take a short hike along one of the park’s panoramic bay-view trails. Otherwise, outdoor tables at the Lake Chalet are another perfect sunset-watching perch, on the western shore of Lake Merritt.
Bursting with trendy restaurants and bars, Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood is up-and-coming. In handy proximity to the 19th Street BART station, Uptown is studded with 20th-century art-deco buildings, some of which have been beautifully restored, such as the Fox Theater and the Paramount Theatre.
For dinner, gather around a fire pit in the outdoor courtyard at Drake’s Dealership, a casual brewpub, or book ahead for a table at Duende, a cozy Spanish tapas restaurant. Afterward, go bar hopping or catch a show or an indie rock concert. Movie lovers should walk over to the landmark Grand Lake Theater, while jazz cats can scoot down to Jack London Square, where intimate Yoshi’s jazz club is a local landmark.