Located 15 miles east of San Francisco, Oakland is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor. Even though the two cities share the same stunning bay, Oakland sees only a fraction of San Francisco's tourist visits. Historically, Oakland has always been the more working-class town, with an economy based around car and other manufacturing. Oakland is also home to the busiest port in the Bay Area. Just like San Francisco, it has long been a center of immigration, giving it a lively culture worth exploring.
Sports fans know Oakland as the former home of both the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors. The city is also becoming increasingly famous for its use of renewable energy, leading the way in this evolving technology. Oakland provides a grittier and in some senses more authentic counterbalance to heavily touristed San Francisco, while still being within striking distance of that city's most famous attractions. Drop off your bags at an Oakland luggage locker and see what the city has to offer.
A weekend in Oakland
With a weekend to explore, you'll be able to take part in some of the best of what Oakland has to offer. While a city as big as Oakland rewards deep exploration, a couple of days is enough to hit the highlights.
- See the country's first official wildlife refuge at Lake Merritt. An unexpected sight in the middle of the city, this tidal lagoon is home to dozens of species of birds and other animals. It's also a great place to go for a walk or even rent a boat and head out on the water.
- See FDR's floating White House, the USS Potomac. After the 32nd president's death, the boat was bought by Elvis Presley, who later donated it to a children's hospital. It is now open for tours and still cruises the bay at times.
- Take a walk around one of Oakland's wealthiest neighborhoods in Rockridge. The streets here are packed with independent restaurants, stores, cafés, and bars. The close-knit community feel makes this a great place to explore at your own pace and duck into anywhere that strikes your interest.
Oakland hasn't always enjoyed a reputation as a safe city. Although the touristy parts of Oakland are perfectly safe to visit, crime rates in the outer suburbs can be high. Protect yourself by leaving your belongings at a suitcase storage in Oakland, where they will be safely looked after. Knowing your things are protected will give you peace of mind while you explore.
Off the beaten path in Oakland
In a certain sense, the entire city of Oakland is off the beaten path. Although Oakland has plenty to see and do, you simply won't find the crowds of tourists here that you do in nearby San Francisco. With that said, once you've seen Oakland's main sites, there are some more unusual attractions that are worth exploring.
- Step back in time at the Pardee Home. This house was once the property of three generations of a wealthy California family. Perfectly preserved, the house is now a museum that offers guided tours, high tea, and even ghost tours.
- Get some serenity at Oakland California Temple. This striking building is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks and is a great place to enjoy views over the city. There's even a rooftop garden where you can really get above it all.
- Learn more about the Golden State at the Oakland Museum of California. This institution explores California's geology, natural history, and human culture. Exhibits cover everything from the gold rush to the history of the Black Panthers, so you'll feel like an expert in California by the time you leave.
What to do alone in Oakland
Whether you come to Oakland on business or for vacation, you’ll find lots to do both alone and in a group. Drop off your bags at an Oakland suitcase storage and immerse yourself in the life of the city.
- Rub shoulders with the locals at Jack's night market. Held every Friday night, this lively market is full of fascinating stalls, unusual street performances, food, and drink. It's the ideal start to the weekend in Oakland.
- To see more of the natural wonder of coastal California, head to Redwood Regional Park. Located within the city limits, this park is a perfect place to breathe fresh air and unwind in the shade of tall trees. Stretch your legs on the many trails and take a break from the bustling city.
- Take in a show at the legendary Fox Theater. Founded as a movie theater in the 1920s, this theater has been lovingly restored to maintain its period details. It now functions as a concert venue and is regarded as one of the best places in the Bay Area to catch a show.
The best souvenirs in Oakland
Because Oakland isn't the tourist city that San Francisco is, it can be a better place to get unique souvenirs. T-shirts emblazoned with "I Hella Love Oakland" can be found just about anywhere and are more or less an essential keepsake. You can find something far more unique at Viscera. This boutique cells 3D-printed jewelry and high-quality clothing with a nod to California's tech industry. On the other hand, if you want something a little more old-school, visit 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. This nostalgic record store even contains a phone booth and a photo booth, and is a great place to pick up some classic vinyl. Or if you're looking for something more culinary, Oak Town Spice Shop is a perfect place to buy seasonings and cooking tools from around the world.