Oakland skyline at night. Image courtesy: visitoakland.org
Info About Oakland
Founded in 1852, Oakland, California has history that goes back much further than its 150 years. Native Americans lived in the region for over 5,000 years. The Spanish visited the area in the 1770′s, and came to settle about 50 years later. Asians, African Americans, and those of Northern European extraction came with the Gold Rush, and put down their own roots. Today, Oakland is one of the nation’s most ethnically integrated cities.
- The original inhabitants of Oakland were the Ohlone Indians, a hunting and gathering tribe.
- Oakland’s population is about 400,000 people. The median age is 33 years and a quarter of its residents are under the age of 18.
- The site of the nation’s first three-dimensional theme park for children, Children’s Fairyland, has been in operation for over four decades. Inspired by Children’s Fairyland, Walt Disney went on to construct Disneyland.
- The Central Pacific Railroad selected Oakland as the terminus of the new transcontinental railroad, which was completed in 1869, providing a vital link to the East.
- The internationally acclaimed Oakland Museum, with its tiered Babylonian style roof gardens, is the only attraction of its kind totally devoted to the natural sciences, history, and art of California.
Things to Do in Oakland
All of the locations and activities listed below would make a great outing for Friday. If you are interested in coordinating a group outing, choose one of the activities below and then sign up to host a Friday Social Event on the Social Events page!
Old Oakland (Victorian Neighborhood)
Old Oakland, formally known as the Old Oakland Historic District, is a historic district in downtown Oakland, California. The area is located on the northwest side of Broadway, between the City Center complex and the Jack London Square district, and across Broadway from Chinatown.
The Old Oakland district was the “original” downtown Oakland during the 1860s after Central Pacific Railroad constructed a terminus on 7th Street. By the 1870s, elegant brick Victorian hotels were being built in the blocks surrounding the railroad station to accommodate travelers. The ground floor of the hotels were designed as series of narrow shops so that pedestrians would pass by many of them just walking down the block. The architectural styles of the time featured tall, cast-iron columns and large plate-glass windows.
The downtown began its decline after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when the shopping district began moving to the blocks north of 14th.
In the 1970s and 1980s developers carefully rehabilitated and restored a block along 9th Street between Washington Street and Broadway, known as “Victorian Row”. Notable structures on Victorian Row include the 1878 Nicholl Block building.
In its early days, the Oakland Tribune rented a small office on 9th Street. A sign for the Tribune office can still be seen hanging outside the building today (2007). A farmer’s market is also held every Friday on the same stretch of 9th Street.
As of 2008, the neighborhood continues to gentrify as a ‘downtown lifestyle’ district, more bistros and boutiques have cropped-up, as more market-rate condominiums have been constructed nearby, and as transit-oriented development retail and housing become more and more in demand.
At the center of Oakland you’ll find this man-made salt and fresh water lake which was the country’s first wildlife refuge. It’s easy to spend a whole day just in the area around this lake, which measures 3.5 miles around. The kids will love a visit to one of the oldest children’s theme parks in the country, Children’s Fairyland on the shores of the lake, where adults actually aren’t admitted unless accompanied by a child. After paying a visit to the old lady who lived in a shoe, rent a pedal or sail boat at the Lake Merritt Boating Center, and spend awhile relaxing on the water. Also nearby Lake Merritt is the Oakland Museum of California, where you can learn about hundreds of years of California history. If museums aren’t exactly your thing, try taking in a movie at the historic Grand Lake Theater. If all this activity has made you a bit puckish, just head around the corner to Spettro or down next to the lake to Zza’s Trattoria, where kids are well taken care of, entertained, and well fed all at the same time. If you feel like doing your own food prep, on Saturday mornings, you can head out to the Oakland Grand Lake Certified Farmer’s Market where you can pick up all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and other goodies, while supporting local farmers and businesses.
Jack London Square
Jack London Square is surrounded by history and culture as well as modern fine dining. Stop into Heinold’s First & Last Chance Saloon for a drink where Jack London drank, then step outside and visit his cabin, which was moved from Alaska to the square as a memorial to the great author. Nearby Jack London Square is a little more history in Old Oakland and Preservation Park where you can get a feel for what Oakland was like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you’re into something a bit more contemporary, you can stop into MOCHA (Museum of Children’s Art) to see the artwork of today’s youth, or stop in to see a Jazz show at Yoshi’s accompanied, of course, by delicious sushi and drinks. Another delicious option in the area is the Fat Lady where you can get a variety of delicious food, or Everett & Jones for some down-home barbeque. Sundays here bring about the Jack London Square Farmer’s Market, where you can check out local produce and flowers and finish it off with a stroll along the waterfront.
Rockridge/College Avenue Shopping District
The North Oakland area of the Rockridge/College Avenue Shopping District is ripe with fun shopping and dining opportunities, whether you’re antiquing or looking for gourmet foods, Rockridge and North Oakland should be your first stop. If its gourmet food you seek, do not miss Rockridge Market Hall, where you will find amazing wines at Paul Marcus Wines, Market Hall Produce, delicious prepared foods at Pasta Shop, or a cup of joe at Peaberry’s Coffee & Tea. Also located in Market Hall is the classy Oliveto Cafe & Restaurant, with the more casual caf downstairs, and the fancier restaurant upstairs. College Avenue also provides shopping other than the culinary kind. For best-sellers and independent novels, stop into Diesel, A Book Store just down the block from Market Hall. Also on the same block is Rockridge Antiques where you can bulk up your furniture selection with timeless style. Farther up College you can visit Christensen Heller Gallery and browse beautiful art, jewelry and even kitchen wares. If you’re in the mood for someone else to do the cooking, you are in the right place. The original Zachary’s Chicago Pizza is famous throughout the Bay Area for their mouthwatering Chicago style stuffed pizza, the specialty being spinach and mushroom. Other nearby favorites include Cactus Taqueria and Pearl Of Siam. Also nearby in North Oakland is the charming Piedmont Theatre and blast from the past Fenton’s Creamery to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Paramount Theatre of the Arts
Oakland’s Paramount Theatre is one of the finest remaining examples of Art Deco design in the United States. Designed by renowned San Francisco architect Timothy L. Pflueger and completed in late 1931, it was one of the first Depression-era buildings to incorporate and integrate the work of numerous creative artists into its architecture and is particularly noteworthy for its successful orchestration of the various artistic disciplines into an original and harmonious whole. Address: 2025 Broadway Oakland, CA 94612
*The show scheduled during our convention is the The Wiggles Big Birthday on Friday, August 12 at 2:30 and 6:30 for family fun (or very big kids.)
Tour 2 – City Center – Wednesday, August 10, 10:00 am
Turn-of-the-century landmarks alongside modern high-rises are the focus of this tour. Explore the upbeat style of the modern City Center Square and discover a thriving “there” there. Examine symbols of Oakland’s arrival as a modern 20th century metropolis: the Beaux Arts-style City hall and Rotunda Building, the Tribune Tower, and the Art Deco-style Financial Center building. Tour begins at 10:00 a.m. in front of Oakland City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. Parking is available at the Clay Street Garage. Enter on Clay Street between 14th and 15th streets.
To make a reservation for Tour 2, please call (510) 238-3234 or e-mail email@example.com. Please include the specific tour and date you are requesting in your message.
Tour 3 – Uptown to the Lake – Saturday, August 13, 10:00am
A walking tour of the Uptown District with an emphasis on Art Deco! Tour includes the Paramount Theatre, Historic Sweet’s Ballroom, the Fox Theater and the Kaiser Center roof garden with views of Lake Merritt. Tour begins at 10:00 a.m. in front of the Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway. Parking is available at Telegraph Plaza Garage, Telegraph Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets.
To make a reservation for Tour 3, please call (510) 238-3234 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the specific tour and date you are requesting in your message.
Oakland Getaway Lesson / Tour – A Classic romp around Oakland, Lake Merritt, and Jack London Square, includes a 3 hour long ride around Oakland, CA, up to 1.5 hours of guided riding and up to 1.5 hours of unguided riding – the best value around!
Cost: $55 per person
The Oakland Zoo
Up in the hills of Oakland you will find the Oakland Zoo, a favorite of families and school groups for over half a century. The zoo features numerous interesting animals from around the world and was actually voted to be in the top 30% of zoos in the United States. In addition to the animals, kids will delight in the rides area, which includes and train ride, and a gondola which rides over the zoo for an aerial view of the fauna. However, the zoo isn’t the only attraction to be found in Oakland’s hills. The Dunsmuir House & Gardens is a historical mansion and grounds which host guided tours of the estate as well as holding special events throughout the year. Dunsmuir house is a great place to get an idea of the grandeur some residents of Oakland have enjoyed throughout the city’s history. The Chabot Space & Science Center also calls the hills home, with its several telescopes, planetarium and space flight simulator. Another opulent sight to be found in the hills is the Oakland California Temple which is quite a sight in itself, but especially not to be missed during the holidays with its incredible decorations. For a little outdoors action in the hills, Redwood Regional Park is sure to please, with hiking trails, swimming areas, picnic and barbeque areas, it’s a great place to spend a beautiful day away from the chaos of the city below. Being that the hills are a majorly residential area, there aren’t too many places to stop and pick up a bite to eat, but Montclair at the base of the hills offers various dining options for hungry travelers, such as Flipper’s Gourmet Burgers and Pagarung Thai Cuisine. Address: 9777 Golf Links Rd Oakland, CA 94605 ~ 510-632-9525
Oakland Museum of California
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCA connects collections and programs across disciplines, advancing an integrated, multilayered understanding of this ever-evolving state. With more than 1.8 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage. Address: California History Museum & Gardens, 1000 Oak Street at the corner of 10th Street, Oakland, CA 94607 ~ Phone: +1 510 238 2200
Chabot Space & Science Center
Chabot Space & Science Center is located in the beautiful Oakland Hills just off Highway 13 in Oakland, California. A Smithsonian affiliate, Chabot is an educational science center whose mission is to educate students of all ages about Planet Earth and the Universe.
This 86,000 square foot center offers interactive space and science exhibitions, immersive digital-dome planetarium shows, and giant screen MegaDome shows. Chabot is also home to largest research-quality telescopes open to the public west of the Mississippi. Address: 10000 Skyline Boulevard Oakland, Ca 94619 Visitor Services: (510) 336-7373
Pardee Home Museum
Oakland’s Pardee Home Museum is one of California’s greatest architectural and historical treasures. From the outside, the beauty of the house and gardens is striking enough — but once you get inside, you’ll be astonished by the unique interiors and artifacts from around the world. And you’ll discover its outstanding historical importance as the home of one of the East Bay’s most influential families. Address: 672 11th Street (at the corner of 11th and Castro Streets) Oakland CA 94607-3651 ~ (510) 444-2187
Oakland Aviation Museum
The Oakland Aviation Museum was founded in 1981 as the Western Aerospace Museum. The museum’s first home was a small room at Hangar 5 at Oakland International Airport’s historic North Field. In 1988, the Museum was granted use of the historic Boeing School of Aeronautics hangar built in 1939. The hangar serves as the primary facility of the Museum, providing indoor and outdoor exhibition space, an education room, a History Flicks room, a research library and aircraft restoration work areas. In 2007, Western Aerospace Museum was renamed Oakland Aviation Museum with the historical mission refocused on the important legacy of flight at North Field and the surrounding area.
It has over 30 vintage and modern airplanes, both civilian and military, and other displays that highlight noted aviators and innovators. Address: 8252 Earhart Road, Bldg. 621 Oakland, CA 94621 ~ (510) 638-7100
Tips from Locals?
Are you local to Oakland? Have suggestions or ideas? Post in the comments below!