More than just an art, history, and natural science museum, this cultural institution helps define what it means to be Californian, as well as an Oaklander. For visitors, it’s an intimate look at the different cultural strands – including African American, Asian American, Latino/Chicano, and Native Californian – that weave together in the Golden State. Step outside onto the terraced roof gardens, part of the museum’s original design by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kevin Roche, for serene views of Lake Merritt.
The museum’s permanent collections comprise nearly 2 million objects, from ancient fossils to 20th-century California plein-air paintings. The Gallery of California Natural Sciences will awe children and adults alike with dioramas and stuffed animal mounts that show off the state’s biodiversity. The Gallery of California Art holds masterpieces like Dorothea Lange’s documentary photos taken during the Great Depression.
The museum is exceptionally family-friendly, especially on the first Sunday of every month, when admission is free. Friday nights are another great time to visit, when museum admission is half-price for adults (free for children); there’s also live music, food trucks, a pop-up store for craft makers, and even DJs and dancing. Check the museum’s events calendar online for more.
Directions: The museum is two blocks north of the Lake Merritt BART station. It’s also a short walk east of Oakland’s Chinatown. For more Transportation details see Oakland and Around (in the yellow bar).