Until a few years ago, Oakland was mainly known for its important commercial port, the largest on the west coast of the United States. Thanks to the city’s influx of creative types — artists, chefs, directors, and programmers from nearby Pixar — lured by cheaper rents than nearby San Francisco, the atmosphere has completely changed. Oakland is experiencing a period of great development and cultural renaissance.
It is increasingly a city with its own identity, which is becoming a tourist destination where you can spend two or three days immersed in art, music, nature, and good food, and then go out to explore the other places in the city.
This is how restaurants spearheaded by some of the most exciting names in the restaurant world (such as the disciples of Chez Panisse), lively cultural centers, lush parks, wineries, craft breweries, and infectious joie de vivre, have turned the city into one of the most emerging destinations in the bay.
Relaxing Afternoon at the Lake
Oakland’s Lake Merritt, a once-polluted artificial salt lake, has had a new face for four years due to a $122 million redesign. It features a variety of themed gardens and sports facilities to explore, including a Sensory Garden, a Japanese Zen Garden, and the only Public Bonsai Garden in Northern California.
Work is underway to open a canal between the lake and Jack London Square so that one day it can be rowed out to San Francisco Bay (so the fur seals can come back, too). Lake Merritt was the first wildlife refuge in the United States in 1870. The birds had disappeared for a while, due to increasing development, but now they are back on the rise. Golden Gate Audubon offers free birdwatching tours.
Morning Between Wineries
It’s true, Napa Valley is close by, just an hour away, but why freak out in traffic when Oakland has an exceptional wine trail? What you hear: Gorgeous wine cellars with wine barrels, maceration areas, and tasting rooms featuring Zinfandel and Syrah wines, among the most highly regarded in the state.
The view from Rosenblum Cellars is second to none, and you’ll be able to enjoy a four-wine tasting while admiring the Oakland Harbordotted with sailboats There are many other wineries in the city like Jeff Cohn, Urban Legend, and Periscope, but it is perhaps Dashe that offers the best urban winery experience.
Morning in Nature
It’s hard to imagine that, within the confines of this city of 400,000 people, miles of trails wind through the cool shade of some of the world’s tallest trees. There are stands of redwood trees along the bay ( Muir Woods being the most famous), but one of the largest remaining redwood parks is undoubtedly Redwood Regional Park in the Oakland Hills. These majestic trees, nurtured by the mist flowing through the Golden Gate Bridge, contrast with the surrounding landscape.