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Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California/Photo by Matthew Millman

5 Amazing Things to do in Berkeley and Oakland

5 Amazing Things to do in Berkeley and Oakland
The East Bay’s vibrant cities attract a young, free-spirited crowd with avant-garde art and culture, a ridgeline graced by tree-lined parks, and a revolutionary food and cocktail scene

San Francisco’s other bridge—the Bay Bridge, not the Golden Gate—stretches about 4.5 miles between Oakland and Berkeley, cities that lay claim to a world-class university, lively music venues, legendary bookstores, groundbreaking restaurants like Alice Water’s Chez Panisse, and major bragging rights. In 2019, National Geographic Traveler rated Oakland as one of 28 must-see destinations around the world. All that, plus the East Bay’s weather is famously sunnier and warmer than San Francisco, so pack your shorts and T-shirts.

Jack London Square

Browse waterfront boutiques, graze on global cuisine, tour a historic ship, and fully immerse yourself in bayside splendor at Jack London Square, south of downtown Oakland. This nautical neighborhood, now a stylish bastion of condos, cocktail joints, and entertainment hot spots, was where adventurer and writer Jack London caroused in his younger days. Check out the replica of London’s Yukon cabin and the next-door Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, an 1883 watering hole where London was a regular. (The 1906 earthquake torqued Heinold’s into a permanent slant—the bar floor has a jaunty 20-degree grade.) Dine on modern Arabic food at Dyafa, bowl a few rounds at Plank or mingle in its sunny beer garden, and take a tour of the USS Potomac, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht (the “floating White House”). Jack London Square is a lively spot any day or evening, but it’s especially bustling during the weekly Sunday farmers market.

Tilden Park 

The hills above Berkeley and Oakland are graced by a 20-mile string of East Bay Regional Parks, and their crown jewel is 2,000-acre Tilden. The park’s huge array of activities caters to every kind of nature-loving urbanite: Families with young kids have fun feeding the pigs, chickens, and goats at the interactive Little Farm and riding Tilden’s miniature steam train and hand-carved antique carousel. Plant lovers make a beeline for the beautifully landscaped botanic garden featuring 10 acres of California natives, including rare and endangered species. For swimmers and sun-worshippers, spring-fed Lake Anza has a sandy beach and warm water. For calorie-burners, the summit of Wildcat Peak is a solid workout. And for anyone who enjoys a lovely view, the paved Nimitz Way Trail travels to Inspiration Point. It’s an easy walk to a spectacular ridgetop overlook—a fine spot to watch the sun set over San Francisco Bay.

Oakland Museum of CA

This fascinating museum provides a window into California’s culture, its three floors documenting the state’s art, history, and environment. In the Gallery of California Natural Sciences, wander through models of California’s extraordinarily diverse ecosystems to learn about the Coachella Valley’s palm trees, Yosemite’s granite peaks and domes, and Point Reyes’ nutrient-rich coastal waters. In the Gallery of California History, view exhibits dedicated to California’s past, including Hollywood moviemaking, the Black Panthers, and the Gold Rush. In the Gallery of California Art, admire photographs by Dorothea Lange, Eadweard Muybridge, and Imogen Cunningham; sketches made by Gold Rush pioneers; and Barry McGee’s vivid acrylic assemblages. Don’t miss the rooftop sculpture garden with views of Oakland’s Lake Merritt and the city beyond. On Friday nights, the museum buzzes with food trucks, dance performances, DJs, and late-night gallery hours (open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.).

Claremont Club & Spa, a Fairmont Hotel

This posh 1915 hotel is the East Bay’s gleaming white fairy-tale castle, a dreamy spot to hold your wedding or anniversary party, celebrate a romantic weekend, or savor luxurious spa treatments solo or with friends. Surrounded by the wooded Berkeley Hills, the Claremont is perched high enough to enjoy lavish views of San Francisco Bay (for the best view, splurge on an upper-floor room). Three heated pools, 10 tennis courts, four on-site restaurants, a 20,000-square-foot fitness facility, and the luxurious Fairmont Spa at the Claremont are spread across 22 landscaped acres. Take a walk at Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve directly behind the hotel, then sit down to a house-crafted cocktail and regionally sourced cuisine on the bay-view patio at Limewood Bar & Restaurant.

Comal

Berkeley is considered the birthplace of ingredient-driven cuisine—thank you, Alice Waters—and that influence shows up at almost every eatery in town. Comal, an airy 170-seat restaurant in downtown, is a perfect example. Upscale south-of-the-border favorites—tamales, ceviche, fish tacos, and mezcal-drenched cocktails—are prepared with fresh, seasonal, local, sustainable ingredients. A lofty warehouse-style dining room with concrete walls and recycled-wood tables gives Comal’s modern Mexican cuisine a chic, cosmopolitan accent, but the most popular seats are outdoors on the intimate back patio, where flames dance in the fire pits and servers push around margarita carts.

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Erica Davis/Getty Images

Northern California

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

A crimson bridge, cable cars, a sparkling bay, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes—San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great cities. Located along the Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine.

"I left my heart in San Francisco, High on a hill, it calls to me." —singer Tony Bennett

The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches, and the tech-savvy southern end of the bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook, and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation. 

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Erica Davis/Getty Images

Half Moon Bay

This delightful little beach town possesses serious surf DNA and is just a short drive from San Francisco

Half Moon Bay is situated 45 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1, but it might as well be half a world away. Home to the world-famous...

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Eiojo Torpe/Getty Images

Sausalito

Explore this quaint town that’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep hillside covered in chaparral and eucalyptus drops from Highway 101 to a flat, sunny shoreline, two...

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4 Awesome Wine Country Resorts

Luxurious spas, farm-to-table dining, and easy access to dozens of wineries—these Napa and Sonoma resorts offer the indulgent getaway you need

Ready for some “me time” amid decadent surroundings? Reserve your spot at one of these spectacular Wine Country resorts.

Farmhouse...

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Chao Kusollerscharlya/Shutterstock

Spotlight: Berkeley

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See a stunning museum, shop, and feast in the Bay Area’s most outspoken city

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Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

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CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo

The co-owner of the wildly popular Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa shares her story, along with a few Golden State favorites

Natalie Cilurzo will never forget the day everything changed for the Russian River Brewing Company. It was February 5, 2010—the first Friday in...

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San Francisco's cable cars are the country's only mobile National Historic Landmark.
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Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

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San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave.
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Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

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World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

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San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.
William Saroyan
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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, golden-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers markets are...

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Courtesy of Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Performing Arts

Museums, music, and a hint of bohemia

Nested near the city’s cupola-topped City Hall, impressive performance spaces in San Francisco present some of California’s—and the world’s—...

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Spotlight: San Jose

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Tech savvy, international flair

The first hit of this city’s unmistakable techy-ness starts right off the bat—if you get here by plane. Meet Space Observer, a 26-foot/7.9-meter-...

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Livermore

Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

With warm sun and wide-open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine-country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just...

It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. ... Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?
Julia Child
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Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures—smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play.  These smaller parks offer old-...

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Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

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Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

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San Francisco Bay Loop

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Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

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