Oakland

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California Oakland

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Introduction

Oakland is the 8th largest city in California and is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 8 miles (13 kilometres) east of San Francisco. It has well over 400,000 inhabitants. Once overshadowed by San Francisco, its larger neighbor lying directly to the west, Oakland has begun to step out from under San Francisco's shadow with its notable natural and architectural features and its rise as the multicultural "hipster" city of the Bay Area. Visitors to the city notice that Oakland reflects its diversity and history.

While Oakland has neither the concentration of tourist amenities present in its western neighbor, San Francisco, nor the suburban sprawl of San Jose to the south, the visitor can easily spend a few pleasant days here. From the mid-1960s through the early twenty-first century, popular media stoked American racial and class biases to generate negative perceptions about Oakland. Since the late 1990s, however, the actual basis for these often exaggerated portraits of Oakland life have receded, as the city is experiencing an economic and cultural revitalization, as well as the more controversial hyper-gentrification. Oakland is now the Bay Area's most diverse city. Although still an underrated cultural center, its heady arts and culinary scene and ongoing revitalization have generated enthusiastic coverage in the world media of record, including the NY Times, UK Guardian, UK Independent, NPR, and the LA Times. The city gets its name because it has an abundance of oak trees.

Since the 1960s, Oakland has been a hub of progressive politics and radical, sometimes outlaw organizations. For example, while Oakland gave rise to civil-rights-conscious labor movements in the mid-century, it was also the birthplace of the Black Panther Party and a crucial hub for the early era Hell's Angels.

Oakland's history in the arts and entertainment arena is notable as well, as Oakland has nurtured or been a second home to novelists Gertrude Stein and Jack London; actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks; architect Julia Morgan; environmentalist Julia "Butterfly" Hill; classical conductor Calvin Simmons; rappers MC Hammer, 2Pac, Messy Marv, and notables in the liberal arts and sciences.

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Sights and Activities

Oakland has many attractions to the eye and for the mind. Where some believe that it is a city of run-down Victorian houses or endless stretches of urban blight, this is very far from accurate. Oakland is a city with roots as far back as the earliest years of the admission of the State of California, and as such, it has architecture extant from many different eras. The Victorian architecture preserved and restored in Old Oakland, the Art Deco glory of Uptown, and the history of the Port of Oakland itself are among the many things to see. New York City has Manhattanhenge, towers of glass and steel; Oakland has the valleys of stone. Eight different walking tours are offered by the City of Oakland, with eight different paths to explore the city, from the historical landmarks of Jack London Square and the Waterfront, to the cultural sights and experiences of Chinatown, and the history of African Americans that grew and made their marks in civil rights and the history not only of the city but of the nation, just to give a small sample of three of the tours' itineraries.

Neighbourhoods

The first place many visitors are likely to visit is Downtown, especially if they are in town on business, or simply do not know where to start. The center of transportation by BART and by bus is there, if you want to branch out. Only a few streets away is Old Oakland, along 10th Street, just west of Broadway. Just east of Broadway and continuing north and south is Oakland's famous Chinatown, where many of the buildings and streets of Chinatown reflect the diverse nature of its history, in architecture and in the bilingual signs seen throughout the neighborhood.

The curious traveler can venture to take a bus southwards along Broadway, and come to Jack London Square. The unlikely mixture of warehouses and very expensive restaurants and posh atmosphere alongside some of the landmarks of the city's waterfront makes the Square an interesting place to visit and explore, even for locals. It's the home of the USS Potomac and the site of the namesake author's residence, still preserved and humbly standing not far from a saloon from the same era.

Just west of Downtown and slightly north of the Financial District is Uptown. In the evening it buzzes with art galleries, theaters and residents and Bay Area visitors coming into the area to see concerts. A popular area on the weekend with a mixed vibe of hipster and hip hop. It's a burgeoning neighborhood of performing arts ranging from nightclubs to music halls, and some of the best in the city's vintage architecture, like the Gothic Revival Cathedral Building and the Art Deco Fox and Paramount Theaters, as well as several nationally renowned restaurants, including Flora, Duende, and Pícan.

North Oakland is a sweeping term, referring to just about everywhere north of Uptown and Lake Merritt. Temescal is a neighborhood that lies north-northwest from Downtown; it is home to a range of restaurant cuisines, from Korean to Ethiopian. Northeast of Temescal lies Rockridge, a picturesque and affluent neighborhood mixed with family friendly and artistic vibes. South of Rockridge lies Piedmont Avenue, a street home to many renowned eateries, close to the small, sleepy and wealthy town of Piedmont. East along I-580 are the Grand Lake and Lakeshore neighborhoods, which share a friendly, early twentieth century suburban ambiance. The Grand Lake Theater stands at the entrance to the neighborhood that bears its name, a matter of a few hundred feet from Lakeshore Avenue - both neighborhoods have a range of eateries no matter what your budget, be it burgers or a romantic meal.

West Oakland was once a burgeoning working-class neighborhood with its roots tracing as far back as the opening decades of the 19th century. The neighborhood is a gritty paradox, featuring separate blocks of slums and industrial sites and on others, stately restored victorians and arts-rededicated warehouses. Marred by among the city's higher crime rates, West Oakland also boasts a growing number of stylish hipster cafés, drawing a clientele ranging from the port's dock workers to concept-conscious hipsters from around the Bay Area.

Museums

  • African American Museum and Library at Oakland, 659 14th St (at Martin Luther King Jr. Way), ☎ +1 510 637-0200. Tu-Sa noon-5:30PM. This is a beautiful building, one of the libraries donated by Andrew Carnegie, and its exterior merits a look before or after you visit the interior. The museum is on the second floor. Some of the temporary exhibits are quite worthwhile, and the permanent exhibits, which tell the black history of Oakland in text, pictures, and videotaped interviews, are really well done. Check the AAMLO web site for information on special exhibits, programs and events, such as an African American walking tour of downtown Oakland. Free.
  • Chabot Space and Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd, ☎ +1 510 336-7300, fax: +1 510 336-7491, e-mail: VisitorInfo@ChabotSpace.org. W-Su 10AM-5PM. Opened in August 2000, the Center is a state-of-the-art science and technology education facility on a 13-acre site in the hills of Oakland. Visitors can watch planetarium shows and/or Megadome movies, simulate space missions in the Challenger Learning Center, explore a variety of changing hands-on exhibits and observe the sky through the center's telescopes. In addition, the Science Discovery Lab (for children 7 and under and their parent/guardian) is fantastic. Discounts for first Fridays of the month, during evening hours. Adults $18, seniors/students/military/ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) $15, children $14, members free.
  • The Museum of Arts and Digital Entertainment (The MADE), 3400 Broadway (Just north of 34th and Piedmont Ave, former Saw Mill building), ☎ +1 510 457-0211, e-mail: info@themade.org. F noon-midnight, Sa 10AM-10PM, Su noon-6PM. A museum dedicated to the entire history of video games, from the days of Pong and Donkey Kong to their own VR rig, available to the public. Arcade games, consoles, PC games, imports, big screens - whatever your age or your interests, there's always something to see and do. $10, members free.
  • Oakland Aviation Museum, 8252 Earhart Rd, Bldg 621 (inside Oakland International Airport; use Cooke St., parking is on Boeing St.), ☎ +1 510 638-7100, e-mail: oamdirector@oaklandaviationmuseum.org. W-Su 10AM-4PM. Civilian and military aircraft both large and small, even the Flying Boat. Flight simulators, flight lessons, even open cockpit days make this stop in Oakland International's old North Terminal a memorable one for anyone interested in flying or the history of aviation. Adults $12, seniors (60+) $10, military/student/teen $8, children 5-12 $6, children under 4 free.
  • Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St (at 10th; Lake Merritt BART station), ☎ +1 510 238-2200. W-Th 11AM-5PM, F 11AM-10PM, Sa Su 10AM-6PM. A startlingly good museum dedicated to the art, history, and culture of California. The building itself is an admirable piece of architecture, and the exhibits are almost uniformly excellent and engaging. Free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month. $15.95/adult, $10.95/concession, $6.95/youth.
  • Oakland Public Library, 125 4th St (Main Branch, six blocks east of 12th Street BART), ☎ +1 510 238-3134, toll-free: +1-888-625-6873. With branches in neighborhoods throughout the city (check their website for specific branch locations and hours), the Oakland Public Library hosts numerous public events that make use of their facilities and vast resources.
  • Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Rd (exit off I-580), ☎ +1 510 632-9525 ext 100. Seasonal. The mission of the Oakland Zoo is to inspire respect for and stewardship of the natural world, while providing a quality visitor experience. At the Oakland Zoo, you can explore together, learn together, and have fun together. $24, kids and seniors $20 Age 2 and under/76+ Free.
  • Pardee Home Museum, 672 11th St (at 11th St and Castro St), ☎ +1 510 444-2187. By appointment only. The home of the Pardee family, beginning with a California State Senator in 1868, and made into a museum in 1981. The main attraction is the accumulation of knick-knacks that the family gathered from traveling the world, as well as the history of the family, and the vintage of the house and grounds. $10/person.
  • Peralta Museum of History and Culture (Peralta Hacienda Historical Park), 2496 34th Ave, ☎ +1 510 532-9142. W F Sa 2:30PM-5:30PM. Check website for tour hours and special events. Once headquarters of the Rancho San Antonio Spanish land grant, this six-acre park contains the 1870 Antonio Peralta House and interpretive exhibits, a native plant garden, and changing exhibits on history and culture. $5 admission, free for Fruitvale community members, members, and children 10 and under.
  • USS Potomac, Clay St and Water St (Oakland Ferry Terminal; adjacent to Jack London Square), ☎ +1 510 627-1215. The ship is available for dockside tours W F Su 11AM-3PM. Historic cruises on the bay are available Apr-Oct Th & Sa; these must be booked with TicketWeb or by calling +1-866-468-3399. The Potomac was built as a Coast Guard cutter, and remodeled as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht in 1936. It served in that role until his death in 1945. In 1941, a fishing trip on the Potomac served as a cover story for Roosevelt's secret meeting with Churchill in Newfoundland waters; this meeting led to the Allied partnership during World War II and eventually to the formation of the United Nations. Dockside tours $10, $8 seniors, free for children 12 and under.

Parks & Gardens

Public parks are a very common sight no matter what part of Oakland you are in. From green gardens to athletic fields and playgrounds to the massive open space of the Oakland Hills, if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle for a breath of fresh air or the like, there are plenty of places to relax in. A more complete list of the city's parks may be found at the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation.

  • The Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate (The Dunsmuir House), 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct (take I580, exit at Foothill from either direction, take 106th under the freeway, and take a right on Peralta Oaks), ☎ +1 510 615-5555, fax: +1 510 562-8294, e-mail: dhhereservations@gmail.com. Tu-F 11AM-4PM. An out of the way large mansion and grounds dating to the sunset of the 19th century, the Dunsmuir House is home to a variety of events year-round, from classic car shows to Scottish Games. Adults $10, seniors $8, children $6.
  • Joaquin Miller Park, Joaquin Miller Rd (entrance about 1 mile from Hwy 13). A beautiful park in the Oakland hills, made up in part of "The Hights", the old estate of California poet Joaquin Miller. The park has some of the few remaining old-growth redwood groves in the East Bay. Lots of hiking and bike-riding opportunities. Free.
  • Lake Merritt, East of Downtown (Lake Merritt BART, also easy access from I-880 from the south or I-580 from the north). A large tidal lagoon that is surrounded by parkland and city neighborhoods. A popular 3.1-mile (5-km) walking and jogging path runs along its perimeter. It is historically significant as the United States' first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870.
  • Morcom Amphitheater of Roses (Morcom Rose Garden), 700 Jean St (one block from Grand Ave.), e-mail: centralreservationsunit@gmail.com. A peaceful and picturesque oasis of color, near Grand Lake, often a site for weddings. Seven acres of roses, a few benches and quiet, nestled into a residential area. The garden may be reserved after Mother's Day through October 31. Reservations are booked on a first come first serve basis.
  • Preservation Park, 1233 Preservation Park Way (two blocks between Castro and MLK, 12th St. and 14th St.), ☎ +1 510 874-7580, fax: +1 510 268-1961. A preserved and gated Victorian neighborhood and gardens open to the public (on foot). Popular spot for weddings. Office space available.
  • Redwood Regional Park, 7867 Redwood Rd (take Redwood Road north from Skyline Blvd.), toll-free: +1-888-327-2757 (option 3 extension 4553). Daily 5AM-10PM unless otherwise posted or permitted. The hills behind the Mormon Temple and to the east of Oakland's bustling streets are home to this, where redwood groves and trees and trails and wildlife help even the most weary traveler forget that a city lies at the elbow of the wilderness. Redwood is just one of a string or regional parks running along the crest of the Oakland Hills. To the north are Huckleberry Botanical Preserve and Sibley Volcanic Regional Park while to the south is Anthony Chabot Regional Park. All have trails that interconnect with Redwood.

Art Galleries

News on many of Oakland's fine arts exhibitions can be found at Oakland Art Murmur.

  • E14 Gallery, 472 9th St (Old Oakland, between Washington St and Broadway), ☎ +1 510 424-7750. Tu-F noon-6PM, Sa-Su noon-5PM. A modest art gallery focused on the local art, crafts and artists of Oakland, the focus primarily being the urban consciousness of the city.
  • Feelmore Adult Gallery, 1703 Telegraph Ave (corner of Telegraph and 17th St.), ☎ +1 510 891-0199, e-mail: info@feelmore510.com. M-Th noon-9PM, F Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-5PM. Offerings include traditional adult products as well as vintage adult films, antiquarian books, pre-1980 adult magazines, vinyl records, and erotic artwork. Pricey - usually $60 and up.
  • Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Ave (at 23rd Ave.), ☎ +1 510 444-9140, e-mail: info@johanssonprojects.com. Th-Sa 1PM-5PM, and by appointment.
  • The Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St (BART: 19th St.; near Franklin St.), ☎ +1 510 465-8928, e-mail: info@JoyceGordonGallery.com. W-F 11AM-5PM, Sa 1PM-5PM. A commercial fine art gallery that showcases the Bay Area's cultural and social diversity. Also hosts artistic events.
  • Pro Arts Gallery, 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza (BART: 19th St; at Oakland Art Gallery), ☎ +1 510 763-4361, fax: +1 510 763-9470, e-mail: info@proartsgallery.org. Th-F noon-6PM. Special events on weekends. Free.
  • SLATE Contemporary Gallery (Formerly Vessel Gallery), 473 25th St (Between Telegraph Ave and Broadway), ☎ +1 510 652-4085, e-mail: info@slateart.net. M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa noon-5PM, First Fridays 10AM-9PM and by appointment. As the name says, exhibitions from all over the country and the world, focusing on contemporary art.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

The weather is comparable to that of San Francisco, though usually a little warmer and sunnier because the incoming fog from the Pacific does not always reach the eastside of the Bay Area. Oakland, like San Francisco, has a Mediterranean climate with temperatures moderated by the San Francisco Bay and the nearby, greater expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Rain generally occurs in winter, not summer, since rains share more similarity to monsoons than they do to thunderstorms. Also, the effects of the San Francisco Bay and the East Bay's Mediterranean climate mean that below-freezing temperatures are unlikely, and if they do occur, the air will be dry.

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Getting There

By Plane

Oakland International Airport (OAK) is served by many domestic and international carriers. There is private shuttle service ($10–25) to hotels in Oakland and San Francisco. The airport is also served by the "BART to OAK" people mover to the Oakland Coliseum BART Station, from where you can continue onward to central Oakland or San Francisco, or transfer to the similarly named Amtrak Capitol Corridor station. The people mover runs every 5 minutes during the day, and ticket pricing is integrated at e.g. $7.85 to central Oakland or $10.05 to central San Francisco. This replaces the earlier AirBART buses, which have now been retired.

To/from the airport

  • Car: Oakland International is accessible from Interstate 880 (Nimitz Freeway) which is 2 miles (3 km) away. The airport can be reached by exiting Hegenberger Road or 98th Avenue. Rental cars are available at the airport and there are also taxis.

Other air travel options include the San Francisco (SFO IATA) and San Jose (SJC IATA) International Airports. SFO, with its BART station, is the more convenient of the two and also sits closer to Oakland. Those flying into SJC may have to battle significant traffic, pay for an expensive van or taxi ride, or take VTA's Airport Flyer (Route 10) to the Santa Clara Caltrain Station, then Caltrain to the Millbrae Intermodal Station, and then BART toward Oakland. (From SFO and Millbrae, BART provides direct service to West Oakland, Oakland City Center/12th Street, 19th Street, MacArthur, and Rockridge stations; those traveling to other Oakland stations, such as Coliseum, must change trains no later than 19th Street.)

By Train

A number of Amtrak trains travel to and from Oakland:

By Car

From San Francisco, Interstate 80 east leads over the beautiful Bay Bridge to I-580, I-880, and I-980, which go to east, west, and downtown Oakland respectively.
From Marin, Sonoma, and other counties along the northern coast of California, take US-101 to I-580 and cross the Richmond Bridge. I-580 leads directly into Oakland.
From Monterey, Salinas, and the Central Coast, follow US-101 to San Jose and connect to I-880, which leads to Oakland.
From Tracy, Modesto, and San Joaquin Valley's southern portion (Southern California, too), take the scenic I-580 over Altamont Pass.
From Stockton, either follow the Altamont Pass route or take California Route 4 through Contra Costa County to Route 242, then to Route I-680, which connects to Route 24.
From Contra Costa County, Route 24 leads to north Oakland through the Caldecott Tunnel.
From the northern East Bay, Vallejo, Fairfield, and the greater Sacramento, I-80 west leads directly to Oakland.
Alternatively, you can connect to Highway 123 and San Pablo Avenue in Richmond, and follow it to Oakland, if there is trouble on the parallel I-80. It's city streets, so will likely take extra time, and it will mean driving into and through everything between Richmond and West Oakland, including both El Cerrito and Berkeley.
Most northern entries to Oakland go through the heinous MacArthur Maze, a spaghetti-like mashup of four freeways trying to merge and pass each other. It's got terrible traffic during commute times (7AM-10AM, 4PM-8PM), so you might want to avoid driving on the freeways at these times.

By Bus

  • BoltBus, W. Oakland BART at 1451 7th St (bus stop in front of the West Oakland Bart station on 7th St. near the corner of Mandela Pkwy. at the street signs stating "No Stopping Bus Only"), toll-free: +1-877-265-8287. Service to and from Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and many major and minor points on the West Coast.
  • Greyhound, 2103 San Pablo Ave (San Pablo Ave & Castro, a block up from 20th St.), ☎ +1 510 832-4730. At the western border of Uptown in a notorious location — be careful. There is regular local bus service to and from Downtown and in the opposite direction, Berkeley.
  • Hoang Express, bus stop at Banh Mi Ba Le's Sandwich Shop, 1909 International Blvd (E 14th St) (International Blvd & 19th Ave south of downtown Oakland), ☎ +1 408-729-7885, toll-free: +1-888-834-9336. Travels between SoCal (San Diego, El Monte, Los Angeles, Westminster) and northern California (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento). $60-65 to Bay Area from Los Angeles.
  • Megabus, W Oakland BART station at 1451 7th St (bus stop is at front of W Oakland BART Station on 7th Street (eastbound) between Center St and Mandela Parkway), toll-free: +1-877-462-6342, e-mail: inquiries@megabus.com. Service to and from Anaheim, Burbank and Los Angeles.

By Boat

The San Francisco Bay Ferry has departures from both Pier 41 and the Ferry Building in San Francisco, weekdays year-round and weekends except for mid-winter. Its Oakland terminal is at the foot of Clay St. in Jack London Square. (On summer weekends there are also trips to Angel Island, an island park in the middle of the bay, formerly an immigration station.)

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Getting Around

Oakland is a good-sized city, with attractions more than a fair distance from the center of town. Car rentals tend to be more expensive than other locations in the country, and streets are frequently lined with meters, unless they're in completely residential zones. Some of the larger attractions have their own parking of course, and some of the more visitor-friendly neighborhoods have sizable parking lots - some paid and some not. Most residential areas allow parking for only a limited time for non-residents, so the wise traveler is best-advised to use public transit of some kind.

By Car

Unlike the often-tightly packed and crowded streets of nearby San Francisco, many locations of Oakland are much more friendly to cars. Parking lots are a more frequent sight, some requiring a nominal fee, as well as larger parking structures near the airport, and some of the BART stations. In addition to the freeways and route mentioned in the "Get In" section, there are a couple of smaller intraurban freeways in Oakland:
The Warren Freeway (CA 13) is a two-way narrow four-lane highway that intersects CA-24 near the Caldecott Tunnel at one end and follows the feet of the Oakland Hills, passing alongside the wealthy Montclair neighborhood, through a wooded valley until it merges with I-580. It's often used to bypass the often-circuitous route taken by I-580 and the MacArthur Maze, but its narrowness can turn it into a traffic jam far more easily. Interstate 980 is a north-south freeway that becomes CA-24 when it nears the Cloverleaf merge with I-580. It meets I-880, passing around the western edge of Old Oakland.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

The frequent and long-term visitor to the area may be best-advised to acquire a Clipper card, which is touted as an 'all-in-one' transit electronic flash pass. It allows much easier use of almost all of the entire Bay Area's public transit agencies, allowing the user to use simple cash value or a specific transit agency's monthly pass. Cash value may be added at any of BART's stations, as well as a certain stores in Oakland or throughout the Bay Area.

  • AC Transit, 1600 Franklin St. M-F 7AM-7PM, Sa-Su 9AM-5PM. Bus service to most parts of Oakland and its neighboring cities and towns for $2.35 (one-way, $.25 for single-use transfer), transbay service to San Francisco is $4.50 (one-way, single-use transfer for AC Transit only is free). A Local Day Pass, allowing unlimited transfers at no additional cost is $5, and lasts until 3 AM the following day. Service for most routes ends at or around midnight. There are several all-night routes, designated by "8xx" numbers, such as the 800, which runs from Richmond BART/Amtrak, through El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley and Oakland to and from San Francisco. (From Bay Area phones, dial 511, then say "AC Transit" for the AC Transit menu, then say, "Customer Relations").
  • The B, ☎ +1 510 891-4777, e-mail: info@meetdowntownoak.com. M-F 7AM-10PM. The B is a free shuttle service operating along Broadway from Grand Ave. all the way to Jack London Square.
  • Emery-Go-Round, 1300 67th St, ☎ +1 510 451-3862, e-mail: transit-info@emerygoround.com. M-F 6AM-10PM, Sa 7AM-10PM, Su 9AM-7PM. Shuttle service that connects at MacArthur BART Station, providing frequent and free service from the early morning to around 10PM between Oakland and Emeryville Free.
  • BART. Connections between Oakland to San Francisco, the Peninsula, Contra Costa County, and the far northeastern reach of Silicon Valley, usually at a cost between $2 and $4 each way. BART has stations in several major neighborhoods in Oakland, such as Downtown (City Center), West Oakland, Lake Merritt and Rockridge. Note that there is an extra $5 added to any fare beginning or ending at SFO.

By Bike

Oakland has a wide and increasing infrastructure of bicycle lanes. If you need a bike, rental shops are close to nonexistent. Oakland enjoys a pumping bike culture, with lots of bike parking, and especially at some "parklets" at many of the city's coffee shops. If you like mixing bikes with your nightlife, you can join the 300+ people that cycle together monthly at East Bay Bike Party.

Bike sharing is a recent development in Oakland, so most of the action is through Ford GoBike and their trademark blue bikes and docking stations. LimeBike is a more recent appearance, mostly through their trademark lime green rental scooters. Both tend to be quite pricey. GoBike's machines allow only a limited time of use, 30 minutes at a time for a day-long access pass or 45 minutes a ride for an annual membership fee.

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Eat

The third great passion after art and music that is shared by residents and visitors to Oakland alike is food. Oakland is foodie country. No matter what your budget is - if you want to find something to eat from a hamburger to a full-course meal, you're going to find both and just about everything in between. Though any city would look spartan and lackluster next to San Francisco, Oakland is not found wanting.

  • Home of Chicken and Waffles, 444 Embarcadero West (between Broadway & Franklin, on the corner), ☎ +1 510 836-4446. M-W 10AM-midnight, Th 10AM-1AM, F Sa 10AM-4AM, Su 9AM-midnight. The best chicken and waffles in the Bay Area. Cheap, open late, good drink specials (though the beer & wine is pretty standard, nothing to get excited about), it's a local institution. A diner style decor, lots of televisions (some tables even have televisions), and wonderful, attentive service. Full catering. $10-20.
  • Chop Bar, 247 4th Street #111 (at 4th & Alice), ☎ +1 510 834-2467, e-mail: info@oaklandchopbar.com. M-Th 8AM-10PM, F 8PM-11PM, Sa 9AM-11PM, Su 9PM-10PM. A gathering spot for meat-eaters, based on a West African concept of the same name - it is a bit pricey for what is offered, but the quality of the meat is excellent. Full catering menu. $20-40.
  • Dyafa, 44 Webster St (Corner of Webster and Water, next to Heinold's), ☎ +1 510 250-9491, e-mail: info@dyafaoakland.com. M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Sa-Su 11AM-2:30PM, Tu-Sa 5:30PM-10PM, Su-M 5:30PM-9PM. A friendly, picturesque spot with fine geometric tiles and a menu from the Middle East and a touch of North Africa. $20-40.
  • Forge Pizza, 66 Franklin St #100 (Corner of Franklin and Water), ☎ +1 510 268-3200, e-mail: info@theforgepizza.com. M-Th 11AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-10:30PM, Su 11AM-9PM. A vision of bare hardwoods and a menu of neopolitan features both with meat and without as well as a respectable list of sandwiches and salads. $20-40.
  • Plank, 98 Broadway (Large building at N end of the Square), ☎ +1 510 817-0980, fax: +1 510 817-0984, e-mail: info@plankoakland.com. Daily 11AM-midnight (Age 21+ after 9PM). An unusual mixture of bowling alley, bocce court, pizza and sandwich restaurant and cocktail bar, all rolled into one. $30-40.
  • Kincaid's Bay House, 1 Franklin St (south edge of Jack London Square), ☎ +1 510 835-8600. M-F 11AM-2:30PM, M-Th 3PM-9:30PM, F Sa 3PM-10PM, Su 3PM-9PM; Lounge Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-11PM. The east bay location of this national chain of seafood and steakhouses. A nice dining room that makes Scott's Seafood look old and stuffy. They also have a great happy hour where frugal foodies can pig out on seafood and finger foods every evening in the bar. Online reservations. Virtual tour. $25-65.
  • Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar, 2 Broadway (south of main entrance to Jack London Square), ☎ +1 510 444-3456, e-mail: ramiroc@scottsjls.com. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 10AM-9PM. Large, upscale, seafood restaurant on the waterfront, frequented for wedding receptions and business luncheons. They have a decent happy hour. Old school surf and turf. Full catering. Online reservations. Private space available. Full florist service. $40 and up.
  • Caffè 817, 817 Washington St (inside the Ratto & Co. Building), ☎ +1 510 271-7965, fax: +1 510 271-0778, e-mail: caffe817@gmail.com. M-F 7:30AM-5:30PM, Sa Su 8:30AM-3PM. Stylish Italian caffè where patrons line up patiently for capuccini, chorizo & eggs, polenta, fresh fruit granola, panini sandwiches & salads. Online ordering. Delivery. Under $10.
  • The Fat Lady, 201 Washington St (corner of Washington & 2nd St.), ☎ +1 510 465-4996, e-mail: info@thefatladyrestaurant.com. M-F 11:30AM-10PM, Sa 9AM-11PM, Su 9AM-3PM. Victoriana themed restaurant that has been open since 1970. Fine art lines the walls, yet it's casual and fun for a nice dinner out. House made cocktails are delicious, a great wine list. They also have brunch. Banquet services available. $20-40.
  • Le Cheval, 1007 Clay St (between 10th and 11th Streets), ☎ +1 510 763-8495, fax: +1 510 763-7610. M-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-9:30PM, Su 4PM-9PM. Asian fusion cuisine spot. Online reservations. $15-30.
  • Seison Restaurant & Lounge, 495 10th St (inside the Washington Inn Hotel), ☎ +1 510 832-7449, fax: +1 510 452-4436. M-F 5:30PM-9PM. Seafood, some American standards and a full bar, very atmospheric. Private events space available. Reservations available. $20-40.
  • Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana, 468 8th St (between Washington St. and Broadway), ☎ +1 510 444-1944, e-mail: info@tamarindoantojeria.com. M-Th 11AM-3PM, 5PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-3PM, 5PM-10PM. Mexican tapas.
  • Delage, 536 9th St (corner of Clay and 9th), ☎ +1 510 823-2050. Tu-Su 5:30PM-9:30PM. A small Japanese spot that does nightly omakase (chef's choice) with seasonal local ingredients. Reservations recommended. Online reservations. $70 prix fixe.

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Drink

  • Ben and Nick's Bar & Grill, 5612 College Ave (between Keith Ave & Ocean View Dr), ☎ +1 510 923-0327. Bar: 11:30AM-2AM daily; kitchen: Sa-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-11PM. Often-visited for their considerable beer list and well-stocked menu. $15-30.
  • Cato's Ale House, 3891 Piedmont Ave (near Montel St), ☎ +1 510 655-3349. Bar: M-Th,Sa 11:30AM-midnight, F 11:30AM-1AM, Su 11:30AM-10PM; kitchen: Sa-W 11:30AM-10PM, Th-F 11:30AM-11PM. A local pub that would look at home in nearly any century, with a long list of both local brews and quality imports. $10-30.
  • Commonwealth Cafe & Pub, 2882 Telegraph Ave (Telegraph and 29th St.), ☎ +1 510 663-3001. M-Sa 10AM-11PM, Su 10AM-9PM. Good pub food with a fresh twist, microbrew beers on tap, and cafe. Soccer matches broadcast. $15-30.
  • The District, 827 Washington St (between 8th Street and 9th Street), ☎ +1 510 272-9110, e-mail: info@districtoak.com. M-F 4PM-close, Sa 5PM-close; brunch: Sa-Su 11AM-2:30PM. A friendly pub that serves brunch and dinner, in addition to cheese, wine and whiskey. $20-40.
  • Luka's Taproom & Lounge, 2221 Broadway (at W. Grand Ave.), ☎ +1 510 451-4677. Su-W 11:30AM-midnight, Th-Sa 11:30AM-2AM. Excellent food with a great selection of Belgian Ales, a small dance floor in a separate room, and a pool table in the back. Check website for daily specials. $20-40. (updated Sep 2018)
  • McNally's Irish Pub, 5352 College Ave (between Bryant Ave & Manila Ave), ☎ +1 510 655-3929. Su-Tu 2PM-2AM, W-Sa noon-2AM. A standard Irish Pub in Rockridge. Under $15.
  • The Trappist, 460 8th St (half a block from Broadway, in Old Oakland), ☎ +1 510 238-8900, e-mail: info@TheTrappist.com. Su-Th noon-12:30AM, F-Sa noon-1:30AM. Large selection of both Belgian-style and local beers. Knowledgeable staff and good bottle selections for the road.

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Sleep

  • Bay Breeze Inn, 4919 Coliseum Way (near 50th Ave.), ☎ +1 510 536-5972, fax: +1 510 536-0107, e-mail: info@baybreezeinnoakland.com. No frills. Around $80/night.
  • Best Western Airport Inn and Suites, 170 Hegenberger Loop (near Edgewater Dr.), ☎ +1 510 633-0500, toll-free: +1-800-780-7234, fax: +1 510 633-1040. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. In an industrial neighborhood. Free breakfasts. Very clean and professional. $120-170.
  • Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, 10 Hegenberger Rd (near Doolittle Dr.), ☎ +1 510 635-1892, fax: +1 510 635-1292, e-mail: hotelhelp@choicehotels.com. High-speed Internet, continental breakfast and pool on a budget. Free shuttle to and from Oakland Airport. $80-100.
  • Motel 6 - Embarcadero, 1801 Embarcadero (near 16th Ave.), ☎ +1 510 436-0103, fax: +1 510 436-7428. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Surprisingly pricey for a budget motel chain. $80-110.
  • Quality Inn Oakland Airport, 8471 Enterprise Way (near 85th Ave.), ☎ +1 510 562-4888. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Free buffet breakfast and coffee, pool and hot tub. $100-120.
  • Courtyard Oakland Airport, 350 Hegenberger Rd, ☎ +1-510 568-7600. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The hotel offers airport shuttle service for easy access to and from the Oakland International Airport. Free Internet available throughout the lobby and in all guest rooms. The Bistro serves breakfast, dinner, cocktails and Starbucks coffee. $220-260/night.
  • Courtyard Oakland Downtown, 998 Broadway (at 9th St.), ☎ +1 510 625-8282. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Steps from BART subway, traveling to San Fran in minutes. Property offers: outdoor pool, fitness center, & 3 meeting rooms. $200-250.
  • Executive Inn & Suites, 1755 Embarcadero (south of I-880, near Embarcadero Cove), ☎ +1 510 536-6633, fax: +1 510 536-6006. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Waterfront-side executive-class hotel, as the name implies. Choice of waterfront or city view. Complimentary breakfasts and Wi-fi. Full space for meetings and banquets. Free shuttle service to Jack London Square and Oakland Airport. Outdoor heated pool and Jacuzzi with waterfront view. $220-275. (updated Sep 2018)
  • Hilton Oakland Airport, 1 Hegenberger Rd (at Doolittle Dr., near Oakland Airport), ☎ +1 510 635-5000. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Parking is $11.75, no valet. Full access to computers, fax and copiers 24 hours daily. Attached sports bar with 13 HDTVs. Fitness center, heated outdoor pool. Breakfast buffet. Shuttle service to Oakland Airport as well as the Coliseum and the Oracle Arena for sports or performance events. Frequent rebates depending on date of stay - book online to check. $200-250 per night.
  • Holiday Inn & Suites - Oakland Airport, 77 Hegenberger Rd (near Airport Access Rd.), ☎ +1 510 638-7777. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Airport shuttle service and a swimming pool. $200-220.
  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 66 Airport Access Rd (at Doolittle Dr.), ☎ +1 510 569-4400, toll-free: +1-877-833-0605, e-mail: GM@Oaklandhiexpress.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Good, nice business-class hotel with a lot of amenities. $180-220.
  • The Washington Inn, 495 10th St (corner of Washington and 10th St.), ☎ +1 510 452-1776, fax: +1 510 452-4436. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Old-fashioned-looking hotel and restaurant near Old Oakland. Self parking with fee. Business center and complimentary newspapers. Cable TV, complimentary wifi. $150/night and up.
  • Best Western Plus Bayside Hotel, 1717 Embarcadero (south of I-880, near 16th Ave.), ☎ +1 510 356-2450, toll-free: +1-800-780-7234. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Waterfront view. $250-310.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Oakland-Waterfront, 1103 Embarcadero (near 10th Ave.), ☎ +1 510 663-2700. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. An all-suite, extended stay hotel with fully-equipped kitchens. Complimentary hot breakfast daily, dinner with beer and wine M-Th, and high-speed Internet. Pets allowed, with fee. $280-420.
  • Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway (at 11th St.), ☎ +1 510 451-4000, fax: +1 510 835-3466. Central location. Onsite restaurant, fitness center and heated swimming pool. Access to downtown shuttle system. $300-400.
  • The Waterfront Hotel, 10 Washington St (facing the main entrance to Jack London Square), ☎ +1 510 836-3800, toll-free: +1-888-842-5333, fax: +1 510 832-5695. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Large hotel with a nautical theme, swimming pool and enclosed restaurant. $400 and up.

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Learn

  • California College of the Arts, 5212 Broadway (at College Ave.), ☎ +1 510 594-3600, toll-free: +1-800-447-1278. As the name implies, a large art college with a variety of disciplines. One caveat - the school is split into two locations, this listing is for the Oakland campus. The other is in San Francisco.
  • The Crucible, 1260 7th St (at Union St., two blocks from West Oakland BART), ☎ +1 510 444-0919, fax: +1 510 444-0918, e-mail: info@thecrucible.org. (Office) M-Th 10AM-6PM, F 10AM-2PM (Studio), M-F 10AM-10PM, Sa Su 10AM-5PM. An industrial arts collaborative offering classes in everything from blacksmithing to welding.
  • Laney College, 900 Fallon St (between E 8th St. and 10th St.), ☎ +1 510 834-5740. South of Lake Merritt, one of the city's two community colleges through the Peralta Community College District.
  • Lincoln University, 401 15th St (at Franklin St.), ☎ +1 510 628-8010, toll-free: +1-888-810-9998, fax: +1 510 628-8012, e-mail: admissions@lincolnuca.edu. A private university primarily focused on business, offering a modest variety of minors.
  • Merritt College, 12500 Campus Dr (off of Redwood Rd.), ☎ +1 510 531-4911. It's high in the Oakland Hills. Merritt is the other Peralta community college in Oakland.
  • Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd (near Pierson St.), ☎ +1 510 430-2255. An all-women's liberal arts college.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Accommodation in Oakland

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Oakland searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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This is version 19. Last edited at 9:43 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 19 articles link to this page.

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