Although it’s on the bay, Oakland’s weather is generally more balmy than western Bay cities, particularly in summer. Summers are warm and dry, with the sun just beckoning you to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.
It’s actually a bay estuary, but Lake Merritt serves as the city’s lake for all intents and purposes, complete with miles of running and biking trails and more waterfowl than you could count. It’s right in the middle of the city of Oakland, but there are some beautiful green spaces all around the lake that serve for a perfect picnic spot. You can rent a canoe or gondola from the boat house to get out on the lake, or take a walk through one of the gardens along the lakeshore. There is a Japanese garden, a Polynesian garden, and more.
A more hidden garden location is the Kaiser Rooftop Garden, located on top of the Kaiser Center parking garage (of all places). Right in the middle of downtown’s skyscrapers, there is a several-acre garden with winding paths, flowers, and fountains. It’s the perfect place for a mid-day picnic or nice view of the sunset over the city. And in the summer, there is a free concert series that takes place at mid-day on Fridays.
Interestingly, one of the city’s most beautiful spots is actually a cemetery. Mountain View Cemetery was designed by the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Olmsted, who also designed NYC’s Central Park, the U.S. Capitol Building grounds in D.C., and countless other classic national landscapes. Many of California’s most famous historical figures are buried here, including quite a few along “Millionaire Row.” Beyond its place as a cemetery, though, Mountain View is simply a beautiful park. Huge monuments can be seen around the park, including Civil War cannons, and there are impressive ponds and flower gardens. The real reason to come, though, is the view of the city from the highest points in the cemetery, which are hard to beat anywhere else in Oakland.
A spot that’s a bit more family-friendly is the Fairyland park, on the north-eastern side of Lake Merritt. Playgrounds, amusement park rides for all ages, a petting zoo, face painting – all the usual fun, but for a fraction of the cost of a Disneyland or state fair-type operation. The park retains a lot of the character from when it was built decades ago, but has been kept up nicely and there’s still lots of fun for the whole family. With lots of big old trees on the lakeshore, the scenery’s not bad either.
[photo courtesy of Monica’s Dad]