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Rolling hills, respected restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene: San Fran’s little sister is shining bright, and our guide uncovers the top spots for foodies, thrill-seekers, and families alike. Oakland, here we come!
By Amanda Gleason
Waterfront Hotel Pull up a chair at this nautical-themed spread’s new Italian restaurant, Lungomare, or enjoy the free weekday wine-and-cheese hour in the cozy lobby.
The Claremont Hotel Mani-pedis, massages, facials, and healing sea-salt baths await at this historic spa getaway nestled in the Berkeley Hills.
Marriott Oakland City Center Popular jazz-themed cocktails, such as “The Blues” and “Dixieland Revival,” are the specialty inside this downtown hotel’s Twelve Bar Lounge.
Relish the Flavor
More than 60 restaurants opened in Oakland last year, which, by our calculations, adds up to a burgeoning culinary capital. Sample some of the city’s best grub on a Savor Oakland food tour. These guided excursions lead gourmands to six esteemed eateries, including Forge, which serves Neapolitan-style pizza, and Miette, a pastry shop where the cakes and macarons are almost too artful to eat. En route your guide will dish on local landmarks, such as Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon . Since this legendary watering hole is not an official tour stop, swing by afterward to see where Oakland native Jack London met the sailors and explorers whose likenesses often showed up in his writing. Notice the floor sloping? Relax. It’s a result of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, not the heady libations.
Step Right Up To:
Yoshi’s Musical acts ranging from blues to Afro-Cuban take the stage throughout the week at this iconic jazz club, which has hosted greats like Max Roach and Oscar Peterson.
J World Performance Sailing Hop aboard a 36-foot sailing yacht for a skippered charter along the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, with views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate in the distance.
If you’ve ever dreamed of joining the circus…
Get Carried Away
It’s easy to get into the swing of things at Trapeze Arts , where even amateurs are welcome in the aerial and circus arts classes, including flying trapeze. After a brief warm-up on a stationary bar, you’ll ascend a 25-foot ladder to your launch pad and prepare for takeoff—shoulders down, back arched, and don’t forget to smile before snagging the bar for your cruise through the air! After a seasoned instructor coaches you to the knee-hang position, you’ll graduate to a catch: A pro trapeze artist grabs your hands mid-flight, and you release your legs to swing with the catcher. If flying high isn’t your style, put your own twist on things during a trampoline or contortion class. “The common thread among our guests is the willingness to try,” says co-owner Lili Gaudreau. That we can do.
Treat Yourself to a Stop At:
Picán Offering more than 100 varieties of bourbon, this Southern-style restaurant is famed for its Old Fashioned, made with bacon-infused whiskey.
Sweet Bar Bakery Chocolate-dipped peanut butter cupcakes are just one reason sweets lovers can’t stay away from this new shop, which also bakes vegan and gluten-free goodies.
Era Art Bar & Lounge Contemporary paintings by local artists deck the walls of this bustling hangout, which hosts a rousing after-party following the city’s monthly art walk.
Immerse yourself in nature as you…
Green acres is the place to be—but who knew you could find them so easily in Oakland? The East Bay Regional Park District offers 65 public green spaces spanning more than 113,000 acres. March your hiking boots to Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and scale Round Top, a 2,000-foot-tall dormant volcano that’s covered with eucalyptus trees and yellow monkey flowers. Partial to fauna? Then you’ll be thrilled to discover the three-hour llama experience at Redwood Park: You’ll groom, feed, and lead the social creatures through the peaceful forest under the guidance of an experienced handler. And if two-wheeled travel is more your thing, cycle along the redwood-studded paths in Roberts Park. Here, you can even strut your stuff Robin Hood–style by signing up for an archery class. Sounds like a bull’s-eye to us.
Fox Theater Everything from alternative to blues to rock ’n’ roll is performed at this historic live music venue, which originally opened in 1928 as a movie palace.
East Bay Winery Bike Tours Ride to four of the East Bay’s most buzzed-about wineries with this company’s guided tasting tours.
The Gardens at Lake Merritt Nature lovers can continue their outdoor quest at this botanical haven in Lakeside Park, a seven-acre collection of themed gardens including bonsai and rhododendron.
You’ve seen the art of others, now it’s time for you to…
Paint the Town
Ever wanted to learn how to deejay, design a website, or paint with acrylics? How about how to make shoes out of sweatshirts? Well, you’re in luck, because downtown’s Rock Paper Scissors Collective is tapping into these creative ventures in an effort to make the arts accessible to everyone. Formed in 2004, this volunteer-run organization offers low-cost (sometimes free) classes designed to let your imagination run wild. “We embrace the creativity that comes from Oakland’s gender, racial, and socio-economic diversity,” says Kristi Holohan, the youth, internships, and community director. And if your inspiration can’t be contained to just one class, visit the drop-in lab, where sewing machines, clay, a letterpress, and other tools are free to use to your art’s content.
Getting There Fly into Oakland International Airpor t (OAK), about 10 miles southeast of downtown.
Getting Out Every Friday night from May through October, food trucks gather for Bites off Broadway , an event with lawn games and live music.
Watch This To see some of our adventures come to life, visit our YouTube channel, SWASpiritMagazine .
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