For other places with the same name, see Oakland (disambiguation).

Oakland is a port city in the Bay Area of California in the United States of America. The city was rated by Rand McNally as having the best weather in the country. While Oakland has neither the concentration of tourist amenities present in its cosmopolitan western neighbor San Francisco nor the suburban safety of sprawling San Jose to the south, the visitor can easily spend a few pleasant days here. The often negative opinion of Oakland is sometimes exaggerated and should not deter you from exploring what is the Bay Area's most diverse city and underrated cultural center. The city gets its name because it has an abundance of oak trees.


Some of the distinctive skyline of Downtown, including the Kaiser Building and the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Often overshadowed by San Francisco, its larger neighbor lying directly to the west, Oakland has in recent years began to step out from under the shadows, playing upon the beautiful highlights of its own and its rise as the multicultural "hipster" city of the Bay Area.

Since the 1960s, Oakland has been a hub of radical culture, and is the birthplace of both the Black Panther Party and the Hell's Angels. Oakland's history in the arts and entertainment arena is notable as well, as Oakland has nurtured or been a second home to novelists Gertrude Stein, Jack London, Amy Tan, and Maya Angelou; actors Meryl Streep, Mark Hamill, Bruce Lee, and Tom Hanks; architect Julia "Butterfly" Hill; classical conductor Calvin Simmons; rappers MC Hammer, 2Pac, Messy Marv, and several other notables in the liberal arts and sciences.

Oakland as a city reflects the amazing diversity of its residents and long history. For many visitors, the first place they are likely to visit is Downtown, especially if they are in town on business, or simply do not know where to start. The center of transportation by BART and by bus is there, if one wants to branch out. And it is as simple as walking in a direction from there, for the first few neighborhoods, since Old Oakland is along 10th Street, just west of Broadway. Just east of Broadway and continuing north and south is Oakland's famous Chinatown, and that to get the real essence of "Chinatown," Oakland rather than San Francisco is your best bet. Many of the buildings and streets of Chinatown reflect the diverse nature of its history, in architecture and in the bilingual signs seen throughout the neighborhood.

The curious traveler can venture to take a bus southwards along Broadway, and come to Jack London Square. The unlikely mixture of warehouses and very expensive restaurants and posh atmosphere alongside some of the landmarks of the city's waterfront makes the Square an interesting place to visit and explore, even for locals. It's the home of the USS Potomac and the site of the namesake author's residence, still preserved and humbly standing not far from a saloon from the same era.

Just west of Downtown and slightly north of the Financial District is Uptown. In the evening it buzzes with art galleries, theaters and residents and Bay Area visitors coming into the area to see concerts. A popular area on the weekend with a mixed vibe of hipster and hip hop. It's a burgeoning neighborhood of performing arts ranging from nightclubs to music halls, avant-garde performance art, and even an improv theater company. Uptown also has some of the best in the city's vintage architecture, like the Gothic Revival Cathedral Building and the Art Deco Fox and Paramount Theaters, as well as several restaurants.

North Oakland is a sweeping term, referring to just about everywhere north of Uptown and Lake Merritt. Many of the neighborhoods are commercial centers and absolute heaven for foodies or those who seek quieter surroundings than the hustle and bustle of Downtown and Chinatown. Temescal is a neighborhood that lies north-northwest from Downtown, centered along the reach of Telegraph Avenue, at and near 51st Street. Until the 1960s, a dominantly Italian-American neighborhood, it is now a much more diversified neighborhood, home to many restaurants, including some of the city's best Korean and Ethiopian establishments. Northeast of Temescal and near the Berkeley border lies Rockridge, a neighborhood mixed with family friendly and artistic vibes. It has lots of local boutiques and a diverse range of food at all prices and styles. Open-air markets, bookstores, and a BART station all its own make Rockridge another of many pleasant stops in North Oakland. South of Rockridge, and southeast of Temescal lies Piedmont Avenue, a street extending from Broadway near 34th and Hawthorne and an area with a group of hospitals on a hill (Pill Hill) up and through a neighborhood bordered on both sides by picturesque hills, houses and trees. Another of North Oakland's group of foodie spots, home to the city's single Michelin-rated restaurant and many others; cafes, ice cream, coffee shops and pleasant walks complete the vision of this interesting and quiet neighborhood. East along I-580 and not far from Piedmont Avenue are two neighborhoods separated by a couple of blocks. Grand Lake and Lakeshore both share a friendly, suburban sort of feel. The Grand Lake Theater stands at the entrance to the neighborhood that bears its name, a matter of a few hundred feet from Lakeshore Avenue - both are diverse neighborhoods no matter what your budget, be it burgers or sandwiches or a full romantic evening, either of these twin-sister neighborhoods will make a pleasant time, by day or night.

West Oakland was once a burgeoning working-class neighborhood with its roots tracing as far back as the opening decades of the 19th century. It has seen a period of decline between the 1960s and the more recent past. Strangely, twice in its history the neighborhood has seen benefits from major earthquakes. After the 1906 earthquake, many San Franciscans relocated there, and the industrial development of the 20s and 30s saw its population in the hundreds of thousands. With Loma Prieta in 1989, the effective barrier of the Cypress Street Overpass was destroyed, and the decades since have seen the rebuilding and refurbishing of many of the neighborhood's original Victorian houses, and there is a burgeoning performing arts community growing near the center of the neighborhood. Though there are a few draws for the traveler, West Oakland is dominantly a very poor working-class residential neighborhood with a less than spectacular reputation.

Get in

By plane

Oakland or Auckland?

It's not just Full House's Stephanie and Michelle Tanner that have ended up in Auckland, New Zealand instead of Oakland, California. Several incidents have been reported of tourists destined for Oakland ending up on the wrong side of the Pacific, either due to ticketing agent errors, or because they misheard an Air New Zealand flight attendant saying their London to Los Angeles flight was continuing to "Oakland". It may pay to double check your airline tickets and the destination screens before you board your flight; otherwise, it will be an expensive flight home.

Oakland International Airport (IATA: OAK) is served by many domestic and international carriers. There is private shuttle service ($10–25) to hotels in Oakland and San Francisco. The airport is also served by the "BART to OAK" people mover to the Oakland Coliseum BART Station, from where you can continue onward to central Oakland or San Francisco, or transfer to the similarly named Amtrak Capitol Corridor station. The people mover runs every 5 minutes during the day, and ticket pricing is integrated at e.g. $7.85 to central Oakland or $10.05 to central San Francisco. This replaces the earlier AirBART buses, which have now been retired.

Other air travel options include the San Francisco (IATA: SFO) and San Jose (IATA: SJC) International Airports. SFO, with its BART station, is the more convenient of the two and also sits closer to Oakland. Those flying into SJC may have to battle significant traffic, pay for an expensive van or taxi ride, or take VTA's Airport Flyer (Route 10) to the Santa Clara Caltrain Station, then Caltrain to the Millbrae Intermodal Station, and then BART toward Oakland. (From SFO and Millbrae, BART provides direct service to West Oakland, Lake Merritt, Fruitvale, and Coliseum stations; those traveling to other Oakland stations, such as Oakland City Center/12th Street, must change trains no later than West Oakland.)

For private pilots, Oakland Airport (IATA: OAK) has a separate General Aviation area "North Field", essentially the equivalent of another airport to the north of the commercial facilities, with separate tower, taxiways, and radio frequencies. Its long runway is frequently used for jet travel, and Oakland makes a far better GA destination than SFO's complex, heavily trafficked field.

By train

Amtrak has two stations accessible from Oakland, Jack London Square Station (At Alice and 2nd street, not far from the Square itself) and the much larger Emeryville Station (At Horton and 59th Street, in Emeryville). It's always a good idea to get to your train at least 30 minutes early, to allow for lines, security and so forth.

By car

From San Francisco, Highway 80 east over the beautiful Bay Bridge leads to Highways 580, 880, and 980, which go to east, west, and downtown Oakland respectively.

From Marin, Sonoma, and other counties along the northern coast of California, take US-101 to Highway 580 and cross the Richmond Bridge. 580 leads directly into Oakland.

From Monterey, Salinas, and the Central Coast, follow US-101 to San Jose and connect to Highway 880, which leads to Oakland.

From Tracy, Modesto, and San Joaquin Valley's southern portion (Southern California, too), take the scenic Highway 580 over Altamont Pass.

From Stockton, either follow the Altamont Pass route or take Highway 4 through Contra Costa County to Highway 242, then to Highway 680, which connects to Highway 24.

From Contra Costa County, Highway 24 through the Caldecott Tunnel leads to north Oakland.

From the northern East Bay, Vallejo, Fairfield, and the greater Sacramento, Highway 80 west leads directly to Oakland.

Alternatively, one can connect to Highway 123 and San Pablo Avenue in Richmond, and follow it to Oakland, if there is trouble on the parallel Highway 80. It's city streets, so will likely take extra time, and it will mean driving into and through everything between Richmond and West Oakland, including both El Cerrito and Berkeley.

Most northern entries to Oakland go through the heinous MacArthur Maze, a spaghetti-like mashup of four freeways trying to merge and pass each other. It's got terrible traffic during commute times (7AM-10AM, 4PM-8PM), so you might want to avoid driving on the freeways at these times.

By bus

By ferry

The San Francisco Bay Ferry has departures from both Pier 41 and the Ferry Building in San Francisco, weekdays year-round and weekends except for mid-winter. Its Oakland terminal is at the foot of Clay St. in Jack London Square. (On summer weekends there are also trips to Angel Island, an island park in the middle of the bay, formerly an immigration station.)

Get around

Oakland is a good-sized city, with attractions more than a fair distance from the center of town. Car rentals tend to be more expensive than other locations in the country, and streets are frequently lined with meters, unless they're in completely residential zones. Some of the larger attractions have their own parking of course, and some of the more visitor-friendly neighborhoods have sizable parking lots - some paid and some not. Most residential areas allow parking for only a limited time for non-residents, so the wise traveler is best-advised to use public transit of some kind.

The distinctive lime green B shuttle

By bicycle

Oakland has a wide and increasing infrastructure of bicycle lanes. If you need a bike, rental shops are close to nonexistent. Oakland enjoys a pumping bike culture, with lots of bike parking, and especially at some "parklets" at many of the city's coffee shops. If you like mixing bikes with your nightlife, you can join the 300+ people that cycle together monthly at East Bay Bike Party.

By bus

By subway

By taxi

Taxi services in Oakland tend to be a very mixed experience. Prices tend to be high, and even the more reliable taxi companies can be very hit and miss for reliability and prompt response time. There are a large number of companies with "Yellow" and "Cab" in their name, without being the same company.


Contrary to the belief fostered by popular culture and the media, Oakland has many attractions to the eye and for the mind. Where some believe that it is a city of run-down Victorian houses or endless stretches of urban blight, this is very far from accurate. Oakland is a city with roots as far back as the earliest years of the admission of the State of California, and as such, it has architecture extant from many different eras. The Victorian architecture preserved and restored in Old Oakland, the Art Deco glory of Uptown, and the history of the Port of Oakland itself are among the many things to see. New York City has Manhattanhenge, towers of glass and steel; Oakland has the valleys of stone. Eight different walking tours are offered by the City of Oakland, with eight different paths to explore the city, from the historical landmarks of Jack London Square and the Waterfront, to the cultural sights and experiences of Chinatown, and the history of African Americans that grew and made their marks in civil rights and the history not only of the city but of the nation, just to give a small sample of three of the tours' itineraries.

For more walking tour information: Oakland Walking Tours,  +1 510 238-3234, e-mail: . Tours are offered Wednesdays and Saturdays from May to October at 10AM. Reservations are recommended but not required. Free.

Art galleries

News on many of Oakland's fine arts exhibitions can be found at Oakland Art Murmur.


Chabot Space and Science Center.
The view from the Mormon Temple.

Parks & gardens

Public parks are a very common sight no matter what part of Oakland you are in. From green gardens to athletic fields and playgrounds to the massive open space of the Oakland Hills, if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle for a breath of fresh air or the like, there are plenty of places to relax in. A more complete list of the city's parks may be found at the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation


Oakland is a city of passionate interests - among the strongest of them are the love of the performing arts. Theater, live DJs, nightclubs, concerts, dance and even more unusual avant-garde activities are common sights and experiences in the city. Not just the obvious locations like the convention center or the Oracle Arena are home to the passion of performance. The Fox and Paramount Theaters both host live concerts; the Paramount in particular is home to Oakland's East Bay Symphony, but that is by no means the end of the list. The nightlife of Oakland swings to the beat too, with popular spots like the Uptown and Yoshi's (Found in the Bar/Nightclub section under Drink) keep the music moving far into the evening hours. And that is only the beginning.

Performing Arts

Nels Cline performing at Yoshi's


Oakland is an amazingly diverse city, with roots in a range of cultures and traditions. Reflecting this, many annual events are held in Oakland usually but not always centered around Downtown.

Recreation and Film

Visiting the Raider Nation

Things to know when in the city with some of the craziest football fans:

  • There is a long history of tension between Raider fans and San Francisco 49er fans.
  • Be careful. Wearing the wrong team colors in some places in Oakland can lead to confrontations with some of the more wild fans.
  • The Raiders' reputation as outlaws started during the 1970s and early 1980s, under John Madden, during which time they won three Superbowls, and then-manager Al Davis moved the team to Los Angeles.
  • The present-day 'Raider Nation' is associated with the Coliseum's 'Black Hole' section, and during games, many fans wear elaborate and bizarre outfits.

Maybe a night of dancing or shaking yourself to the beat isn't quite what you had in mind. Three major sports teams and a whole host of theaters offer a distinct alternative, or even a prelude to a dip into the city's diverse nightlife. Oakland's tradition of movie theaters goes as far back as the First World War, and most of the theaters are in preserved and carefully restored style that can take the breath away.

The Raiders on O against the Falcons.
The Grand Lake Theater.

Just for the kids



Bike shops

Bike shops are a reasonably easy find in Oakland - used as an alternative means of transportation, to say nothing of exercise, throughout the city.






Shopping Centers

Though once a common sight in Oakland, with Eastmont Mall (the last operating fully enclosed mall) being used almost exclusively for other services, large enclosed malls are a thing of the past in Oakland. There are however a few open-air spots.


The third great passion after art and music that is shared by residents and visitors to Oakland alike is food. Oakland is foodie country. No matter what your budget is - if you want to find something to eat from a hamburger to a full-course meal, you're going to find both and just about everything in between. Though any city would look spartan and lackluster next to San Francisco, Oakland is not found wanting.










Grand Ave



Grand Lake / Lakeshore



Jack London Square



Old Oakland




Piedmont Ave








Upper Telegraph






West Oakland








Bars and nightclubs

Coffee, Tea and Chocolate

  • Peet's Financial District, 1111 Broadway,  +1 510 844-0061. M-F 5:30AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-4PM.
  • Peet's Dimond, 3401 Fruitvale Ave,  +1 510 842-0203. M-F 5:30AM-8PM, Sa 6AM-9PM, Su 6AM-7PM.
  • Peet's Lakeshore, 3258 Lakeshore Ave,  +1 510 832-6761. M-F 5:30AM-9PM, Sa 6AM-9PM, Su 6AM-8PM.
  • Peet's Montclair, 2066 Antioch Ct,  +1 510 339-6075. M-Th 5:30AM-8PM, F 5:30AM-9PM, Sa 6AM-8PM, Su 6AM-7PM.
  • Peet's Piedmont Ave., 4050 Piedmont Ave,  +1 510 655-3228. M-F 5:30AM-9PM, Sa 6AM-9PM, Su 6AM-8PM.
  • Peet's Temescal, 5095 Telegraph Ave. Suite #1,  +1 510 899-6230. M-Sa 5:30AM-8PM, Su 5:30AM-7PM.





Stay safe

Oakland has some problems with both property and violent crime, especially toward the eastern part of the city. The parts of the city with the most serious crime problems are unlikely to be interesting to tourists, but be careful when you venture into areas where there are not many people on the streets, keep your wits about yourself, and be aware of where you are at all times. At the same time, there is no reason to be paranoid, just judicious. The hills of Oakland are safe when it comes to violent crime but there is still property crime there. Think twice about going to West or East Oakland at night.


The area code for Oakland is 510. You need to only dial the seven digit phone number for calls within the city. For calls within the US or Canada, dial 1+area code+number, and for international calls, dial 011+country code+city code(if applicable)+number. Pay phones are getting less and less common with the increasing popularity of mobile phones. Unfortunately, broken phones and empty phone booths are also a common sight. When you do find one, keep in mind that they only take coins and phone cards with a dial-to-use number. Local calls start at $0.50.

Internet access is available for free or with a fee in cafes and coffeehouses in several neighborhoods throughout the city, most notably the Financial District, Piedmont Avenue and Rockridge. Internet cafes, though once a common sight in Oakland, have in recent years dwindled down to nothing. The best bet for finding free wi-fi Internet is to find one of the larger hotels, one of the branches of the Oakland Public Library, or one of the more well-known coffeehouses especially Starbucks or Peet's.

USPS Mailboxes are a common sight throughout the city, and the distinctive blue mailboxes may be found virtually anywhere. Other packing and shipping companies are also easy to find, for wider options than postage stamps and plain envelopes.



Parks are a common sight in Oakland, ranging from the small green with attached baseball field to the large wilderness of Redwood or Joaquin Miller in the hills. They are therefore easy to find, and if one needs some time away from the hustle and bustle of city streets and traffic, especially in the case of Lake Merritt, they may be a short walk away.



As with the rest of California, tobacco-friendly venues are very rare in Oakland. State labor laws prohibit smoking in places of employment with only a few exceptions. Hotel lobbies may have a smoking section, and many hotels and motels have rooms and areas specifically for smokers. There are a handful of tobacco shops in the city, and the laws permit smoking in places such as privately-owned casinos and bingo halls and such, but by and large, smoking in public is very rarely permitted.

Go next

Routes through Oakland

San Francisco  W  N  Emeryville Sacramento
San Rafael Emeryville  N  S  Piedmont Livermore
END  N  S  San Leandro San Jose
END  W  E  Orinda Walnut Creek
Richmond Emeryville  N  S  END
Millbrae/SFO San Francisco  W  NE  Orinda Pittsburg
Richmond Berkeley  N  S  San Leandro Fremont
Daly City San Francisco  W  SE  San Leandro Dublin/Pleasanton
Sacramento Emeryville  N  S  Hayward San Jose
Bakersfield Emeryville  N  S  END

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 05, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.