Across the Bay: A Beginner’s Oakland Guide

By: Christine Ciarmello

January 11, 2014

Thanks to our great new codeshare agreement with Delta, a whole new world of American cities are now within easy reach, including Oakland””or “Oaklandia” as San Francisco’s neighbour across the Bay is sometimes nicknamed for its indie spirit, quirky boutiques and rabid craft cocktail scene that mimics the hipster world portrayed on TV in Portlandia. Take a look at our beginner’s Oakland guide for the lowdown on the city’s top attractions.

One of Oakland’s most notable skyline features is the cargo cranes at the Port of Oakland. Their giant size and creature-like shapes inspired filmmaker George Lucas to create the AT-AT Walkers in the Star Wars trilogy.

The city’s history goes back far further than seventies science fiction though. In the late 1800s the Central Pacific Railroad built its terminus in Oakland, linking the East Coast to the West. Risk-taking Americans who sought their fortunes arrived in the brand-new territory. In fact, innovation and fearlessness quickly became the buzz words which defined the city. In the sixties, Oakland’s Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station spearheaded the funk-music genre, while the city’s Black Panthers led many rallies that changed the course of Civil Rights.


Today, Oakland continues to attract artists, food crafters, writers and other creatives who nowadays can no longer afford their own studios and storefronts in that other city across the Bay.


Bay Area Style | Oakland Guide | Children's Fairyland

Children’s Fairyland was the inspiration for Disneyland © Stephen Hollingsworth/Visit Oakland

Declared America’s first game refuge in 1870, Lake Merritt remains the only natural saltwater lake in the heart of a city, with a necklace of lights ringing its 3.1-mile perimeter. Joggers and rowers are a common sight. On the shores is the nation’s first 3-D park for children, Children’s Fairyland, which opened in 1950 and was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Disneyland.


If you’ve had a chance to see the 2011 movie Moneyball starring Brad Pitt, you may want to catch an Oakland A’s baseball game at the Oracle Arena (more commonly called Oakland Coliseum). Coach Billy Beane, the character Pitt played, is now the General Manager.


Bay Area Style | Oakland Guide | Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California houses a collection of the state’s history © Shaun Roberts c/o Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California houses a fascinating and large collection of the state’s history that spans the centuries with oddball highlights like the rise of Silicon Valley, with a model of a garage similar to the one Apple was born in, as well as the animation studios’ history in California.


Jack London Square, along the waterfront, sits across the Bay from San Francisco and ferries whizz between the two cities many times daily. In the past two years, JLS has become a notable food hub, with spaces being renovated by acclaimed chefs like New York Times food writer Daniel Patterson.


Bay Area Style | Oakland Guide | Chabot Space and Science Center

A first-rate planetarium can be found at the Chabot Space & Science Center © Chabot Space & Science Center

Sure there’s the research-grade telescopes for public use and a first-rate planetarium at the Chabot Space & Science Center, but don’t let that distract you from the thrilling views and redwood forest setting.


Perhaps the most tourist-trodden of the neighbourhoods is Jack London Square. Anywhere else you wander has a decidedly local flavour. The current “it” “˜hood is Uptown. Original art deco storefronts have brightened with small businesses, including creative co-ops, a winery, and many restaurants booked solid most evenings.


Bay Area Style | Oakland Guide | Visit Rockridge

Rockridge is a trendy neighbourhood with excellent shopping © Travis D. Jackson/Visit Oakland

The neighbourhoods ringing Lake Merritt have started attracting a young professional crowd who linger along Grand Avenue, the main artery with its coffeehouses, chocolatier and indie bookstore. Arts and craftsy bungalow-heavy Rockridge is the best place to shop for clothing, shoes, and home accessories. Its sweet main street of College Avenue sways upscale, with many families settling here. It borders Temescal, a gritty area in transition but worth exploring for the food and “hipster alleys” – converted horse stables turned storefronts.


Bay Area Style | Oakland Guide | Duende

Oakland has a number of popular restaurants and cocktail bars © Duende Restaurant

When the Mai Tai cocktail was first concocted in Oakland in 1944 at Trader Vic’s restaurant, famous newspaper columnist Herb Caen wrote, “the best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland.”


Although few San Franciscans will admit it, the same can be said of Oakland’s current red-hot dining and drinking scene. Many Chez Panisse alumni departed Berkeley and found their places here, serving up ramen, pizzas and pintxos among others, with their Panisse philosophy of pure ingredients intact. Craft cocktails shake on most corners, and something else seen on most corners? San Franciscans who have travelled to Oakland for a night out.


Partnering with Delta allows us to connect you to and from a selection of destinations across the United States and Canada, making it even simpler to book flights to Oakland.


If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, did you at least get a taste of Oakland? What were your favourite spots? Let us know in the comments below.


Written by Christine Ciarmello


Christine Ciarmello

A San Francisco-based freelancer and now fog aficionado, Christine Ciarmello was editor-in-chief of Islands, then deputy editor of one of the largest circ lifestyle magazines, Sunset, where she created the culture blog Westphoria. She left her hometown of New Orleans after a nearly lifetime stint, three hurricane evacuations, and too much seafood gumbo. She covers the hedonistic sports of traveling, eating, drinking, and design-hunting. Places that require a ferry to get there, plus modern-vintage hotels and the tropics are her weaknesses.

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