Oakland stands out as an important industrial port city in California and as one of the most important American centers of African-American culture. With its large downtown area and its industrial charme, Oakland resembles somewhat older industrial cities in the East Coast, i.e., Pittsburgh or Baltimore. However, Oakland's diversity––it remains one of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities in America–– as well as its strikingly creative, and multiracial culture; its historically, often prescient, progressive politics; and its emerging status as one of America's leading culinary cities, all ensure the city's distinctness. In the wake of white flight between the 1950s and the 1990s, exacerbated by mid-twentieth century deindustrialization, Oakland became home and a defining political and cultural center to Northern California's African Americans. Infusions of latinos in the Post-War era helped reshape Oakland from a white, Republican, and deeply conservative city into a largely "minority" and progressive-leaning urban center, albeit one that white institutions of industry and financial investment largely abandoned in the same period. The resulting decline of the city's fortunes, economic opportunities, and quality of life led, in part, to its historical role as the birthplace of the Black Panther movement in the 60s and 70s. Oakland's post-industrial decline made it especially vulnerable in the crack epidemic during the 80s and early 90s, even as the city saw the first seeds of white influx gentrification in neighborhoods that are now among the Bay Area's most prized –– and expensive.
Oakland is currently experiencing "hyper-gentrification," an especially fast and deep influx of monied whites (but also size-able numbers of affluent, educated African-American, latinos, and Asian-American and other professionals and creatives of colour). This gentrification has improved Oakland's quality of life, restored blighted areas, lowered violent and property crimes, and expanded the city's already vibrant multiracial arts communities. Gentrification has also pushed Oakland's formidable local culinary scene into one of international reputation. Whereas tens of thousands of middle-class citizens fled Oakland between 1970 and the 1990s due to the city's decline and resulting high crime and neighborhood degradation, revitalization encouraged by mayors Lionel Wilson and Elihu Harris and aggressively expanded by then mayor Jerry Brown, has ensured that Oakland not only gained back but surpassed its former population high-water mark in the 1950s. In recent years, the international media have focused on Oakland's outstanding artistic, culinary, and creative arts; publications ranging from The New York Times, UK Guardian, Zagat to National Geographic Traveler have all placed Oakland in their prestigious annual top-cities-to-visit lists, transforming perceptions of Oakland from "Murder City" of "thugs" to the NYTimes' coined meme, "Brooklyn by the Bay," a city of multiracial creatives, hipsters, young star chefs, working-class bohemians, and eccentrics of the sort once associated with twentieth century San Francisco.
But the hypergentrification has also exacerbated the extent of Oakland's homeless population and income inequalities: an estimated 6,200 people and children live on the streets, and the dislocation of long-time residents, many of whom are of colour, threatens the source of the city's revival: its economic and cultural diversity. As in neighboring, thoroughly gentrified (and ethnically cleansed, formerly bohemian) San Francisco, tent cities of the poor and dispossessed have arisen in both marginalized neighborhoods and borders of increasingly affluent areas in West Oakland, Lake Merritt, and Fruitvale neighborhoods.
Be compassionate when passing by these areas and understand that many of these people did not plan for financial misfortune.
For now, Oakland's signature diversity thrives. The centrality of the city's African-American contributions, for example, remain profoundly felt in everything from the city's vaunted culinary scene, to its highly influential music, theatre, visual and performance arts, politics, literature, and film. Indeed, in 2018 alone, Oakland African-American filmmakers, and their multiracial crews and casts of largely Oakland natives, produced the year's biggest worldwide blockbuster film and two arthouse sensations, Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, and Blindspotting, respectively.
Oakland International, +1 510 563-3300, (IATA: OAK) in the East Bay is the fourth busiest airport in California (following Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego). It provides flights and services to numerous destinations in the United States as well as Mexico,with a growing list of European destinations, including Scandinavia, Spain, Britain, and Italy. It is a major hub for Southwest airlines. Oakland Airport is easily accessible through public transit. The air train connects the local train BART to the airport. Oakland airport is the closest and easiest connection into Oakland both time-wise and logistically.
San Francisco International, +1 800 435 9736, (IATA: SFO) located about 10 mi (16km) south of the city is a major international airport, one of the largest in the world and has numerous passenger amenities including a wide range of food and drink establishments, shopping, baggage storage, public showers, a medical clinic, and assistance for lost or stranded travelers and military personnel. It is the major hub for Virgin America and United as well as a major international airport with direct flights to Asia, Latin America and Europe from airlines that include British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. BART connects SFO with Oakland with a direct line in about 40 min on the train.
Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International, +1 408 277-4759, (IATA: SJC) in Silicon Valley, about 1 hour south of San Francisco attracts Bay Area residents who find SFO to be inconveniently distant from their homes. Daily long haul destinations include Tokyo (ANA) and London (British Airways). Beijing (Hainan) and Shanghai (Air China) are served multiple times a week while Frankfurt (Lufthansa) is seasonal (summer). Oakland and San Jose tend to offer more discount airline flights, while San Francisco Airport attracts more international flights and can be more convenient for those staying in the city. Private pilots should consider Oakland (ICAO: KOAK) rather than SFO, as the separate general aviation field there is more accommodating to light aircraft.
BART - This is the local train that is used through the bay area, with at least 8 stops designated to the city of Oakland. For train schedule, ticket cost, see http://www.bart.gov/
AMTRAK - connects the city of Oakland to other cities across the US. Frequent connections by Capital Corridor trains connect Oakland to San Jose, and Sacramento, along with longer distance trains serving nearby Emeryville.
Local bus system operated by AC Transit. Bus fares are $2.35 each way. There are value tickets (month pass) that can be purchased for $84.60 from most grocery retailers like Walgreen, Safeway, Lucky and Whole Foods. http://www.actransit.org/rider-info/fares-tickets-passes/
Another option of going to the San Francisco is through the ferry system. Oakland's port is located at Jack London. https://sanfranciscobayferry.com/route/sffb/oakland
Oakland is a friendly city that has multiple forms of transportations for all users - public transit, bikes (rentable for day or monthly use through Ford bikes(https://www.fordgobike.com/) and Lime bikes and scooters https://www.limebike.com/) and private automobiles
For public transit, it would be best to get a clipper card. This card allows you to reload, tap and go on busses, trains and ferries. There isn't any day, week or monthly pass available, but using your clipper card is best as it will save you a little bit of money opposed to using cash or credit to buy a ticket. Clipper cards can be bought at certain Walgreens and Bart stations (available at Lake Merritt, Embarcadero and Montgomery).
Uber, Lyft, and taxi services are an affordable and convenient option.
Downtown Oakland offers many interesting sights to visit. There are elegant high-rise buildings, but also beautiful traditional architecture in Old Oakland. There exists a fascinating old urban Chinatown in downtown Oakland.
Old Town/ Chinatown
Located within the downtown district area, the Chinatown neighborhood and Old Town feature historic architecture, interesting shops and food. 9th street will bring you into the small old town area. Friday farmers market. Closest BART stops: 12th Street and Lake Merritt.
"The jewel" of the city, the USA's first bird sanctuary, a former estuary that was dredged in the early days of Oakland. Ringed by parks and landscaped areas, the lake where the city comes. Due to the warmer weather inherent to the East Bay, vs San Francisco, people BBQ, picnic and hang out around the lake. Weekends are popular times to people watch, and you may encounter drum circles featuring the ethnic diversity of Oakland at the Pergola to the NE. Rent boats on the lake, or have a bite at the multiple restaurants and neighborhoods that front the lake. Accessible by BART from 19th or Lake Merritt BART stations by a quick walk or by bus from much of the city via the 57, 14, 29, 6, 51B, NL and other lines.
Truly a pride of the city and a great loop walk. Wonderful views of the hills to the east and a great place to spend part of an afternoon.
Jack London Square
While somewhat disconnected from downtown by the freeway, busses, and bike share and rideshare or walking can easily get you to Jack London; the waterfront district abutting the harbor. See the cranes at the port and access the Amtrak station as well as ferry port connection to San Francisco. Farmers Market, shops, restaurants and waterfront activities await. Across the narrow channel is the city of Alameda.
Quaint and leafy upscale neighborhood adjacent to a BART stop. Follow College Ave south to Broadway and north toward Berkeley to see various stores, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. Worth a stroll and visit to Rockridge Market Hall.
Trendy Temescal located just off of MacArthur BART along Telegraph from 40th Street northward to Claremont contains breweries (Temescal and Rose's taproom), trendy stores and restaurants and the super-trendy Temescal Alley shopping enclave tucked off of 49th St. Also see 40th and MLK for Arthur Mac's Tap and Snack for great outdoor seating with pizza and beer. Good spot for families with small kids in tow.
More 'family oriented' neighborhood due to slightly older demographic. Features Piedmont Theater, shops, cute stores, Timeless Coffee, Blue Bottle, and some great restaurants. Don't miss Mountain View Cemetery and the Chapel of the Chimes at the north end of Piedmont Ave. Featuring amazing westward and bay views, it was the place to be burried back in the day. Recognize famous names on fanciful tombstones in this park-like cemetery.
A lively 100 year old neighborhood bordering the north of Lake Merritt that features the historic Grand Lake Theater and Morcom Rose Garden. Take a stroll down Lakeshore Avenue, with its charming string lights, coffee shops, restaurants, and thrift shops. Or walk down Grand Avenue and take a Bikram yoga class followed by a slice of pizza.
Friday Night at the Museum
Every Friday, the Oakland Museum hosts a get together featuring food trucks, musical talents and guest speakers.
Art Murmur / First Fridays: Every first Friday of the month, in the Uptown Arts District, galleries and vendors come out along Telegraph Ave between Grand and 27th. See interesting art, street art, music and food trucks. Galleries are open in the winter months, while the street fair occurs during the (non rainy) months of the year.
Shows and Live Music
Oaklandish - local pride clothing and urban lifestyle brand that relishes in the hometown pride of Oakland! Storefront downtown and in the Dimond district.
Beer - many local breweries are available in Oakland
Coffee - many local roasters are HQ'd in Oakland (Blue Bottle, Red Bay, Bicycle, etc)
Oakland Spice Shop - wonderful selection of international spices and incredible variety. Located near the lake on Grand Ave.
Rockridge, Piedmont Avenue, Temescal and Temescal Alley, 40th between Webster and Broadway, Lakeshore, Grandlake, and the Dimond District all feature cute and one-off stores.
the Uptown District features many local artisans and art galleries Farmers Markets often feature local artisans as does the monthly Art Murmur street fair
Oakland is a multicultural city with a thriving food scene. Downtown Oakland, the Dimond District, Montclair, Rockridge, and Lakeshore are full of restaurants and cafes for every budget.
Oakland has health food stores in the Lakeshore and West Oakland neighborhood, and Dimond and Laurel district:
Taco trucks are located in almost every neighborhood and feature some of the best street food you can find in the East Bay. Some great trucks include:
• Chile Bravo in West Oakland.
• Taqueria El Cruzera frequently parks on Kevin Court on weekdays from 11:30-1:15pm
• Guadalajara in the Fruitvale neighborhood
• Taqueria Sinaloa on International Blvd
• Tacos Mi Ranchos stays open til 2AM on weekdays and 3AM on weeknights. Be prepared for potentially long lines.
Trueburger - local burger spot with two locations
Shangri-La Vegan has two locations, one in Emeryville and one in Temescal. They serve fixed menu with seasonal ingredients, with optional variations in size. Lunch will range $6-14, tea and soup included.
The Star - deep dish pizza. Grand Ave
Boot and Shoe Service - Italian/ Californian fare
Parlour - Uptown
Duende - Spanish/ Californian
A16 - Rockridge neighborhood
There are not very many budget options in the Bay Area in general. It is best advised that if you are looking for a good deal, you can explore Airbnb. However AirBnB is actually banned on stay durations shorter than 30 days (as of April, 2019) per city regulations. This is a rental platform that allows home owners to rent their furnished rooms out to guest for a day, week, or month. Be sure to look at the reviews prior to booking. Ranges can be from $50 or more. Be aware of regulations pertaining to AirBnB and be aware that your reservation may be subject to cancellation if the host is reported to the city.
There are some budget hotels near MacArthur and Telegraph near MacArthur BART.
Marriott downtown Oakland
Waterfront Hotel - Jack London Square
Courtyard Oakland - Downtown
Claremont Hotel - beautiful and historic old hotel in the foothills on the Berkeley border. Relatively close to Rockridge and Elmwood (Berkeley) neighborhood.
If you're staying in your vehicle, the East Bay will in general be easier than San Francisco. There are very few official RV parks but much of the industrial landscape is inhabited by the RV housed or other residents. Don't expect a beautiful lake-front spot, but there are certainly areas where one can find a spot to not stick out.
Oakland is generally a safe city, but just like any other city in the world tourists should take some basic precautions. Be careful of your belongings in the downtown as pickpockets do operate in crowded areas. At night stay in well-lit streets and don't enter dark alleys devoid of other pedestrians. West Oakland and Berkley are considered safer than East Oakland. The downtown is OK during the night but it's better to stay in crowded areas.