Conventional wisdom says that when you visit the East Bay, there are a few things you must do: Have a meal at Chez Panisse. Listen to jazz at Yoshi's. Browse Temescal Alley's indie shops. Get lost in Moe's Books. Nosh your way through Swan's Market.
Here’s a suggestion: Look beyond the famous attractions and you'll discover fascinating spots that aren't on everybody's radar. Explore these 13 destinations in Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda, and neighboring cities, then fill up your Instagram feed with images that will blow the minds of your coworkers and friends who think they "know" the East Bay.
Mount Round Top, Oakland
Hike to the top of a volcano in the Oakland-Berkeley hills. Mount Round Top in Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve was formed by lava from a 10-million-year-old volcano. Follow the Round Top Loop Trail for panoramic views, or just walk the park's rock-lined labyrinth to feel the geothermal vibes.
Tail of the Yak Trading Company, Berkeley
Enter the Tail of the Yak Trading Company and you've stepped into a parallel universe of artsy vintage ephemera—paper garlands and flowers, costume jewelry, bright spools of ribbon, Ukrainian textiles, beeswax candles, and lots more stuff you absolutely don't need, but positively cannot resist.
Urban Wine Trail, Oakland
Travel the Urban Wine Trail and sip at up to seven city wineries in one day. They're close geographically, but each is distinctly different: Brooklyn West hand-crafts Tempranillo and dessert wines. Prima Materia specializes in lesser known varietals like Aglianico and Nebbiolo. Rosenblum Cellars pairs its Zinfandels with a blue-water view on Jack London Square's waterfront.
Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline
In 1983, landslides forced the closure of Carquinez Scenic Drive between Crockett and Martinez—closed it to cars, anyway. Now bikers, hikers, and joggers take to the old road perched 700 feet above Carquinez Strait. The payoff? Nonstop views of this important waterway and its parade of boats, from container ships to tiny sailboats.
University of California Botanical Gardens at Berkeley
Every local knows about this acclaimed botanical garden, but how many have actually paid a visit? The 34-acre garden features more than 10,000 species, including many that are rare and endangered, plus a major collection of California natives. Plants are grouped geographically into nine regions, from Italy to South Africa.
Cupcakin’ Bake Shop, multiple locations
With outlets in Berkeley and Oakland, Cupcakin' Bake Shop is Instagram's sweet-tooth darling. Artisan-style cupcakes and cakes are made with top-notch ingredients like Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract and French Valrhona cocoa powder. Each pastry is pretty enough to launch its own modeling career.
Victorian Home Tour, Alameda
Take a walking tour of Alameda's Victorians. Sure, San Francisco is famous for its Painted Ladies, but the island of Alameda has more Victorian buildings per capita than anywhere in California. Whether you prefer Queen Annes or Colonial Revivals, you'll find plenty of ornate gingerbread cottages to covet, many designed in the 1880s and 1890s by Alameda builders Marcuse and Remmel.
Fenton’s Creamery, Oakland
Little known fact: Rocky Road ice cream was invented at Oakland's Fenton’s Creamery, a family-owned and operated soda fountain. The signature black-and-tan sundae (caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and toasted almond ice cream) is perfect for sharing.
Taco Tour, Fruitvale
Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood is a taco lover’s paradise. Start with carne asada and carnitas tacos at Mi Grullense before heading to Aguachiles El Tamarindo for birria tacos. Next, try the chorizo or lengua tacos at Tacos Sinaloa (2019 Best of Oakland Taco Truck winner). Then hit up Tacos El Gordo for steak or pastor tacos. Dessert? Fried and cinnamon-dusted Churros Mexicanos, of course.
Viks Chaat, Berkeley
This family-run Indian eatery and market has been a Berkeley foodie favorite since 1989. Owner Amod Chopra and his employees knead fresh dough every morning and prepare each samosa by hand. Weekly specials like spinach dahl or curry are served with heaping servings of basmati rice and chapati bread.
Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland
Head to the Grand Lake neighborhood and let your nose guide you to the American Rose Society-accredited Morcom Rose Garden. Thousands of summer-blooming roses cover this eight-acre park graced with winding walkways, stone staircases, and a cascading fountain and reflecting pool. If you need a reason to hang out here, volunteer as a "dead-header."
Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round, Berkeley
Tilden Regional Park offers breathtaking bay views, a spring-fed lake, a miniature steam train, and a 10-acre botanic garden. But for parents with young kids (or dreamy-romantic adults), its biggest draw is the Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round. The 1911 carousel is populated by four rows of hand-carved horses, lions, tigers, toads, giraffes, sea monsters, and more. If you've been waiting your whole life to grab the brass ring, here's your chance.
Artis Coffee, Berkeley
Get your morning wake-up at Artis Coffee, where caffeine culture is taken to a whole new level. Honey-lavender lattes are a Berkeley favorite, but you can't go wrong with a pour-over. After a few swallows, have a nerdy chat with the baristas about acidity levels, sourcing, and why "live roasted" beans taste better. Watch uber-fresh beans roasting in tiny one- to three-pound batches.