Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt reflections at twilight

Things to do in  Oakland

As cool as it gets

These days, radical politics and working artists are more likely to flourish in Oakland, California, than the city across the bay—and it shows. There’s a creative spirit buoyed by ethnic diversity everywhere. From browsing the city’s museums, including the Oakland Museum of California, to eating your way through Chinatown and Jack London Square, there are plenty of things to do in Oakland. Choose a sunny day (Oakland is warmer and brighter than San Francisco) to walk around Lake Merritt, a lagoon and urban park smack dab in the middle of town, and you might fall in love.

Top 4 attractions in Oakland

USS Hornet (USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum)

Located aboard an actual military vessel, Alameda's USS Hornet Museum celebrates military history, and showcases what life was like for servicemen aboard the WWII ship. Visitors find permanent exhibits, Naval aircraft, and docent-led tours. Don't miss the military relics on display, and ready volunteers waiting to answer your questions.More


Home to the renowned University of California, Berkeley, this free-thinking college community across the bay from San Francisco is known for its liberal attitude, campus culture, and role in 1960s politics. Today, students and visitors alike are drawn to Berkeley’s bohemian shops, cultural festivals, and eclectic dining scene.More
Chabot Space & Science Center

Chabot Space & Science Center

Head into the Oakland Hills to visit the Chabot Space & Science Center, dedicated to educating the public about Earth and the universe. Visitors get access to several telescopes and an observation deck in a natural setting full of redwood trees. Don’t miss the chance for a night viewing or a laser light show in the planetarium.More
Oakland International Airport (OAK)

Oakland International Airport (OAK)

One of three main airports in the San Francisco Bay Area (the others being San Francisco International Airport and San Jose International Airport), Oakland International Airport (OAK) welcomes visitors on most major airlines in the US, as well as a few international airlines.More

Top activities in Oakland

Oakland Airport to or from Napa or Sonoma

Oakland Airport to or from Napa or Sonoma

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All about Oakland

When to visit

When fog drapes San Francisco, Oakland is usually sunny and warm. It's always a good time to visit, but spring invites locals and visitors to explore the green belt of hilly hiking trails in Redwood Regional and Joaquin Miller parks. Summer brings warm weather and festivals such as Art + Soul Oakland, Chinatown Street Festival, Pridefest Oakland, and Eat Real Festival, a celebration of artisan food held in Jack London Square.

Getting around

The Oakland-based AC Transit bus system can get you all around the city, the surrounding counties, and across the bay to San Francisco. For straight-line trips near the city center, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains are faster. Bike rentals, ferries, and ride-sharing services are solid options, while a free shuttle runs along Broadway to Jack London Square. If you want to visit the Oakland Zoo and parks in the Oakland Hills, driving makes the most sense.

Traveler tips

Travelers interested in hidden gems should visit Oakland’s secret gardens. The Morcom Rose Garden, a 1920s stunner featuring thousands of rose bushes and a cascading fountain, lies north of Lake Merritt off Grand Avenue on Jean Street. Another gem, the Bonsai Garden, is home to dozens of miniature bonsai trees and a Japanese-style garden in the heart of Lake Merritt.

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People Also Ask

Is Oakland worth visiting?

Yes, Oakland is worth visiting. Today, Oakland is San Francisco's cooler cross-bay sibling, with a vanguard art scene, diverse neighborhoods, and beautiful outdoor spaces near the urban center and in the Oakland Hills. Other highlights include the Oakland Zoo, with its wolf and grizzly bear habitats, and the art deco-style Paramount and Fox theaters.

What is Oakland most known for?

Oakland is most known for Lake Merritt, a saltwater tidal lagoon and urban park next to downtown, and Jack London Square, the historic waterfront at the south end of Broadway. The Paramount and Fox theaters in Uptown are two of the most popular concert and theater halls in the Bay Area.

How do I spend a day in Oakland?

Start with coffee along the waterfront at Jack London Square, then visit the Oakland Museum of California. Stroll around Lake Merritt, making sure to visit the Bonsai Garden, before grabbing lunch in Chinatown. Afterward, head for the hills, spending time in either Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park or the Oakland Zoo.

Is Oakland a walkable city?

Yes, Oakland is a walkable city. Jack London Square, Lake Merritt, and the Oakland Museum of California—some of the city’s top attractions—are all within walking (or biking) distance of downtown. Neighborhoods such as Fruitvale and Temescal are pedestrian-friendly but hard to reach on foot.

What is the best part of Oakland?

Lake Merritt is the crown jewel, but Oakland has many other compelling areas. Fruitvale has the best taco trucks and murals on this side of San Francisco, while Uptown is the place for live music. Temescal, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, is the heart of the Oakland revival, with great shopping, dining, and bars.

What is unique about Oakland?

Oakland is the only US city with a natural saltwater lake: Lake Merritt. This tidal saltwater lagoon is the oldest nature reserve in the US and home to silent black-crowned night herons, the official birds of Oakland. The surrounding park has bocce ball courts, a bonsai garden, and a public boathouse.

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