Everyone knows the Gertrude Stein quote about her hometown of Oakland: "There is no there there." Whatever it means (most likely she was talking about her return to find that her childhood house was gone) the negative connotation has attached itself to the city. Well, we have a motto for modern-day Oakland: "So there!" The city today still has its gritty (read: crime-ridden) areas but it also has a lively historic downtown area, a diverse population, the charming restaurant-and-shopping district of Rockridge and some of the priciest homes in northern California. It has popular Lake Merritt in the city center. It has far more pleasant weather than San Francisco. In all, visitors will find a great many attractions to enjoy here. (Or there.)
Jack London is another famous Oakland resident and the eponymous Jack London Square is now a thriving shopping, entertainment and residential district -- and one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the know. It has London's old Yukon cabin, brought in and reassembled and, next door, the very cool old Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon. It also has FDR's yacht, the USS Potomac, which is open for tours. City museums worth checking out include the Oakland Museum of California and the African American Museum and Library downtown. Take the kids to the Chabot Space and Science Center, where they can view the universe through refractor and reflector telescopes, and to Children's Fairyland, where kids' literature comes to life in shows and in scenes recreated from famous children's books. The Oakland Zoo and the historic district of Preservation Park should be on your itinerary as well.
San Francisco has the reputation for world-class restaurants and, while Oakland has fewer, it has a handful that match any you'll find across the bay. For cheap, good Asian food, head to Chinatown, where you'll discover delicious Japanese and Vietnamese fare too. Piedmont Avenue is home to a number of rising culinary delights, International Boulevard has famous taco trucks that foodies and locals flock to. Rockridge has many crowded cafes and high-end restaurants as well. Stop in at Rockridge Market Hall for some of the finest grocery and deli selections anywhere in the U.S.
Craft jewelry, gourmet sweets, clothing boutiques and other trendy gems can be found in the family-friendly atmosphere along College Avenue. Rockridge is the upscale shopping area and Jack London Square also has numerous shops and boutiques to slake the shopaholic in you. For a fancy a hat, head to the Hat Guys on Broadway -- which boasts of having the largest hat collection on the West Coast. Downtown Oakland has shops and other miscellaneous stores that offer great buys.
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