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I’m an Oaktown girl. I wasn’t born there, but from the formative years of ages 14 to 27, it was home. And I’ll fess up: Sometimes I was ashamed of Oakland and when asked where in the city I lived, I would say that I was close to Lake Merritt, a pretty part of town, as opposed to East Oakland where I spent a couple years while in college. During that time it was known for drugs, drive-by shootings and urban decay. The reputation and stigma stung. And of course, it was in the shadows of world-class San Francisco across the Bay.

These days, nobody’s happier than me to hear all the Oakland buzz. And it’s not just the NBA’s phenomenal Golden State Warriors (though they surely give the city bragging rights, and a big morale boost), word of a renaissance has been the chatter for the last several years. In 2012, The New York Times named it the “#5 Best Place to Visit in The World.” It’s been lauded as hip, exciting, a rising star destination and on and on. Here’s everything you need to know about what’s doing in Oakland this days.

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Explore Temescal
Telegraph Avenue from 40th to 66th streets is funky and artistic, an explosion of creativity, be it in food or one-of-a-kind shops. There’s nothing typical about Temescal. Browse for antiques, art, or music. At 1-2-3-4-Go! Records, treasure hunt for vinyl, tapes and maybe even catch a live performance. Check out the Interface Gallery, an alternative art space dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging artists who are exploring the human relationship to the environment in diverse and engaging ways. Ruby’s Garden features cool kid’s clothes and shoes crafted by Bay Area local and independent artists, as well as toys, books and unusual gifts. Neighborhood boutiques offer handmade jewelry, scarves, purses and spiritual finds like crystals. Concept Forty Seven, for example, offers natural cosmetics, home goods, jewelry and unique items from more than 70 local makers, artists and artisans.

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Temescal Brewing | Flickr CC: Ethan Prater

When you’ve tired of shopping, take a load off to eat and drink. There are plenty of great choices. Expect to wait in line at Cholita Linda. This reasonably priced spot, boasting a charming backyard patio, is known for its Baja fish tacos, Cuban sandwiches and pulled pork shoulder. You’ll also find Ethiopian and Korean restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, baked goods, ice cream and the new Temescal Brewing—a brewery, taproom and beer garden. For drinks, there’s the White Horse Inn (the oldest LGBTQ bar in the country), The Avenue, and Kingfish Café & Pub. Once emboldened by liquid courage, belt out your favorite jam at Jaguar Karaoke.


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Go Uptown
Uptown, roughly 20th and Broadway, Telegraph, Franklin and Webster streets up to Grand Avenue, is a world of its own. Here you’ll find 3.4 mile-long Lake Merritt, perfect for walking, biking, running, kayaking, rowing, sailing and pedal boating (and burning off all the great food you’ll eat in the ‘hood). See how many of its 70 resident bird species you can identify, and check out the gardens. Youngsters will enjoy Children’s Fairyland, a 10-acre outdoor attraction inside Lakeside Park on the banks of Lake Merritt. Think sets, rides, animals, puppet shows and more with a storybook theme. Right near Lake Merritt is the Oakland Museum of California. That’s the place to be on Friday nights when visitors can browse the latest exhibits while enjoying an outdoor party, food trucks, drinks and live music.

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Uptown you’ll find the legendary Paramount Theater, home to touring Broadway shows, the symphony, comedy and concerts, as well as the historic Fox Theatre—a popular concert venue. There’s no shortage of good grub. The top breakfast spot is the Gastropig. You know a sandwich called the #baconslut (brioche roll, Applewood smoked bacon, over easy egg, sharp cheddar, smoky Aleppo aioli) is going to be good, or try the waffle iron hash browns with cheddar and onion, and avocado toast. What was once the parts and service department of a Dodge dealership along Oakland’s auto row is now Drake’s Dealership, a hot spot known for home grown brew and outrageous wood-fired pizzas. They are especially busy during sporting events. Expect a diverse mix of young professionals and hipsters.

See Jack London Square
This waterfront locale has long been a favorite for locals and visitors alike. But it’s been spruced up big time. Lovers of vino will be interested to know that Oakland has about half a dozen wineries, with most of them in Jack London Square. Skip Napa and instead wander the Oakland Urban Wine Trail (relax brew fans: Oakland also has an Ale Trail); catch live jazz at Yoshi’s, eat great barbecue at Everett & Jones; and dance it off to live R&B in an adjoining room. For as much fun as you can have with your clothes on, there’s Plank, 50,000 square-feet of indoor and outdoor space featuring a bowling alley, bocce ball court, video game arcade, beer garden and restaurant. Jack London Square also hosts a farmer’s market on Sunday, outdoor films, dance and food events.

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Flickr CC: Tony Webster

Truth is, Oakland hasn’t gotten any bigger, just better and more interesting, so it seems larger. The above itinerary only scratches the surface. There’s also Fruitvale, Piedmont, Chinatown, KONO, Montclair and so many other areas. Oakland’s strength is, and has always been, in its diversity and rich personality—and it’s just getting better.

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Tagged: California, San Francisco

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Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl is a writer and editor, specializing in travel, personal finance, business and career topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Money,,,, Upscale Magazine, Essence, Black Enterprise and others.

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