Oakland bar

Find stellar dining, drinking and shopping in the East Bay. (©Colin Burke McClure)

28 Things to Do in Oakland

By Renee Brincks on 02/28/14, updated 01/19/17
Favorite

From the Bay Bridge’s sleek new eastern span to a citywide retail and restaurant boom, Oakland is making headlines. While some link the city’s recent renaissance to redevelopment projects, the East Bay community has long been a favorite of entrepreneurs and creative types. To sample all Oakland has to offer, explore the city’s diverse, dynamic neighborhoods. 

Shop

For quirky treasures and cool apparel, spend time along Temescal’s avenues and alleys. Build an outfit at Ali Golden and complete the look with jewelry from Esqueleto, or stock up on succulents and planters at Crimson Horticultural Rarities. The Piedmont Avenue district also promises an engaging mix of vintage shops, bookstores and home goods. Downtown, stop by Oaklandish for an East Bay-inspired t-shirt or swing through one of several weekly farmers markets for a little local fare. 

Dine

The sun-drenched Rockridge neighborhood has become one of the Bay Area’s most buzz-worthy dining destinations with big names such as Box and Bells, A16 Rockridge, Trappist Provisions and Ramen Shop, plus the newly renovated Toast Kitchen + Bar and the European-style food and flower shops at Market Hall. In Jack London Square and Old Oakland, look for waterfront seafood cafes, local favorites like Forge Pizza and Miss Ollie’s Caribbean restaurant and historic saloons—Heinold’s First and Last Chance once welcomed the likes of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson. Boot and Shoe Service draws the cocktail crowd to Grand Lake, while Cafe Van Kleef and Duende serve concertgoers in trendy Uptown. 

Discover

Three popular venues form the epicenter of Oakland’s live music scene: the Fox Theater, Paramount Theatre and Yoshi’s Oakland. For visual art, don’t miss monthly First Fridays and weekly Saturday Stroll gallery walks by Oakland Art Murmur. Creative Growth Art Center, one of the participating studios, has displayed the work of artists with disabilities for more than four decades. For traditional family fun, watch elephant feedings at the Oakland Zoo or explore the California history gallery at the Oakland Museum of California.  

Play

The region’s hottest new urban bike route is an out-and-back ride on the new Bay Bridge span. Rent wheels at Bay Area Bikes’ Jack London Square location. Walkers can follow a scenic 3.4-mile loop around Lake Merritt, or amp things up with an adventurous hike at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. The Round Top Loop Trail circles a peak made from 10-million-year-old volcanic debris and lava. 

Getting There

From San Francisco, cross the Bay Bridge on Interstate 80; board a BART train traveling east to Oakland; or take a ferry to Jack London Square from the Ferry Building or Pier 41. 

The Where® Travel Guide to San Francisco