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 Latinx 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 sizeable numbers of affluent, educated African-American, Latinix, 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
A lively 100 year old neighborhood boardering 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.
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.
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.
There isn't that 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. 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.
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.