Though it’s known for being on the sunny side of San Francisco Bay, Oakland has long been shadowed by San Francisco’s reputation for all things cultural. Now the once-gritty city has emerged as the region’s most creative spot for arts, food, and fun. The revived Uptown district has become a walkable center where
long-shuttered architectural gems and scary warehouses are being reborn as thriving hubs for work and pleasure. The neighborhood is a mile from Jack London Square—new home to Sunset magazine’s offices and a gathering spot for locals and tourists.
A 20-minute walk from Jack London Square, the OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA puts the Golden State in perspective with a collection focused on art, history, and natural sciences. The fi rst museum exhibition on marijuana in California, “Altered States,” continues through Sept. 25, surveying the impact of “the world’s most provocative plant.” Fall will bring exhibits on the Black Panthers and Dorothea Lange (free to $15.95). A block from the museum, catch LAKE MERRITT’S 3-MILE WALKING TRAIL. In the Uptown neighborhood, the restored FOX THEATER OAKLAND lights up Telegraph Avenue with its mystical Middle Eastern decor and blazing-hot musical acts such as Young the Giant and Flogging Molly.
At the converted art deco flower market that’s now the Spanish-Basque restaurant DUENDE, chef Paul Canales turns out a sharable menu of tapas and pintxos ($8 to $16) and a glorious paella ($40 to $78) that will have you talking and tasting with diners at the communal tables. HOPSCOTCH makes its American-diner-via-Japan concept work with miso-accented chicken wings ($9), a burger with beef tongue and pickled onions ($14), and legendary homemade doughnuts
with butterscotch cream ($9). At HOMESTEAD, where prices include tip, a changing three-course Sunday supper goes for about $50 a person and might include asparagus and beet salad, pork schnitzel, and cherry kuchenstruesel.
The aptly named WATERFRONT HOTEL rises above Jack London Square and juts over the water, where kayaks and sailboats glide past. Done up with nautical motifs like oars and compasses, the 145-room boutique hotel ($289 and up) offers some balconies over the water, and the train and ferry are nearly at its doorstep. About half a mile from the Fox Theater and steps from the Oakland Convention Center, the OAKLAND MARRIOTT CITY CENTER ($180 and up) features a recently redone urban-industrial decor with raw wood accents and a fresh lobby.
In 1905, 11-year-old Oakland resident Frank Epperson inadvertently left his soda drink with a stirring stick outside overnight. It froze and inspired him to sell the treat, which wasn’t called a Popsicle until 1923.
Beach Blanket Babylon, a popculture musical extravaganza seen by more than 6 million people, shows Wednesday to Sunday in San Francisco’s North Beach. The New York Times calls it “No less a part of San Francisco than the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower.”
Southwest Airlines flies nonstop from John Wayne Airport to Oakland International Airport; JetBlue flies nonstop from Long Beach Airport.