It is difficult to imagine that a radically urban place such as Oakland, California has a history that can be traced back to Native Americans that inhabited the area for more than 5,000 years. Spanish explorers visited as early as the 1770s, settling the area in the early 1800s which ultimately led to the founding of the city in 1852. Eventually, the California Gold Rush brought people of Asian, African and Northern European descent to the area.
Located six miles across the bay from San Francisco, Oakland was chosen in the 1860s as the site of the western Transcontinental Railroad terminal. The establishment of the city as a major destination, along with the fact that many San Franciscans relocated to Oakland following the devastation of the historic 1906 San Francisco earthquake, had a significant impact on the growth and development of the city.
Today, Oakland is a major city on the west coast of the United States, and the third largest city within the San Francisco Bay Area. It is home to the busiest port in the region, and the Port of Oakland is the fourth busiest container shipment port in the country. The varied and diverse history and economy has made Oakland into one of the most ethnically-integrated cities in the United States, with residents that now speak more than 100 languages and dialects. From the downtown area, to the waterfront, to cultural attractions, to the many hillside neighborhoods of Oakland, to the merely-minutes-away proximity to both Berkeley and San Francisco, there is much to see and do.
Must See: Eclectic neighborhoods, as well as a bird’s eye view of the San Francisco Bay make many Oakland spots impossible to miss. The hip, yet old-time, Rockridge Neighborhood, which borders nearby Berkeley, features hundreds of shops, coffee houses, bookstores and restaurants. For a broader sense of the place of the state of California, visitors should make time to see the Oakland Museum of California, established to create a connection to the cultural and environmental artistic, historical and scientific heritage of California. On the waterfront, Jack London Square is a popular destination that was once the heart of Oakland’s port operations, linking the industries of shipping and agriculture. It is now dotted with parks, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.
Lodging: The ultimate Oakland experience in terms of an overnight stay requires a stop at The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa located high in the hills above Oakland and Berkeley. This landmark hotel and resort, built in the 19th Century as a fantasy in a young prospector’s mind, boasts a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay. Later, in 1915, it was reopened as a grand hotel with 279 rooms. For those that desire a setting closer to the waterfront and Downtown Oakland, the boutique Waterfront Hotel is a Joie de Vivre property that celebrates the spirit of Oakland’s Jack London Square, blending the unique atmosphere of the Oakland waterfront with a vibrant, nautical mood.
Cuisine: Located adjacent to Berkeley, a taste of Oakland would seem incomplete without a stop at Chez Panisse founded in 1971 in Berkeley by Alice Waters, inarguably one of the pioneers of California cuisine. Along with her business partners, Waters has always done things the way they would be done when preparing a dinner party for special guests at home, laden with generosity and attention to detail. Over the decades, many renowned food professionals have learned at Chez Panisse. One local result is the delicious, rustic Camino Restaurant in Oakland, established by Chez Panisse veteran Russell Moore, who cooks much of his cuisine over fire. Another long-time Oakland dining establishment is Bay Wolf restaurant, which opened in 1975, just as the modern food scene in California was born.
Ground Transportation: After arriving in your private jet, Oakland is accessible by car; however there is also plenty of public transportation. In addition to standard hotel shuttles, taxis and private drivers, there is easy access to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains as well as plenty of transportation options to and from Oakland International Airport.
Packing Tips: Because of Oakland’s Mediterranean climate, varied cultural attractions, abundant parks and open spaces, vibrant waterfront and lakefront, pack both active wear and comfortable, layered urban attire to feel at home. Evenings and mornings are typically cool due to the close proximity to the San Francisco Bay.
Recommended Book: Telegraph Avenue: A Novel, by Michael Chabon, a New York Times bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, dives into two families (one black, and one white) in Oakland, California. Chabon examines a culturally rich world full of art, pop culture, music, friendship, race and history. Another option would be to read The Call of the Wild, White Fang or The Sea Wolf by American author Jack London (1876-1916) who spent several of his formative years along the Oakland waterfront, which inspired many of his stories.
Currency: The U.S. dollar is the local currency.
Calling Code United States: 1
Best Travel Dates: Oakland experiences dry summers, with intermittent rain normally falling from October through May. Because of the Mediterranean climate, it is a pleasing destination throughout the year with temperatures that range from fifty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and spring, and right around seventy degrees Fahrenheit during summer and fall.