The 5 Hidden Gems of Oakland You Need to See to Believe

The 5 Hidden Gems of Oakland You Need to See to Believe

By Mackenzie Hutson
October 21, 2019

Oakland is an incredible city full of adventures just waiting to be had. While it’s easy to stick to your favorite eateries, boutiques, and entertainment venues in Oakland, there are so many places to explore that you might not even know exist. Classic destinations such as Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Piedmont Avenue, and the waterfalls of Joaquin Miller Park make for perfectly fun pastimes, but there are a few hidden gems in Oakland that you should see for yourself. 

The Secret Rooftop Garden

Location: 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland

One of Oakland's most interesting parks lies high above the ground on the Kaiser Center's parking structure. Enjoy manicured gardens and a glistening lake, if you're lucky.

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Though it’s easy to think Lake Merritt is the only body of water worth visiting near downtown Oakland, it’s not exactly the truth—there is actually a second lake perched atop the Kaiser Center. (I know, this revelation is mind-blowing.) The 3.5-acre plot lies at the very top of the center’s parking structure and comes complete with  landscaped gardens and a wooden bridge along with the beloved secret lake, which is still beautiful even when the water drained. And if you’re looking for more fun things to do in Oakland, you might as well head down to the world’s only natural saltwater lake contained entirely within a city: Lake Merritt

Chapel of the Chimes

Location: 4499 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland

While a columbarium might not be the first thing that comes to mind when finding things to do in Oakland, the Chapel of the Chimes is much more beautiful than you'd expect. 

Originally built in 1909 and redesigned by Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan in 1928, the Chapel of the Chimes is not one of your typical Oakland tourist attractions. This columbarium is full of exquisite stained glass, Gothic archways, and a labyrinth of passageways that lead visitors through stunning rooms and gardens to pay their respects. The structure’s polished marble, mosaic floors, intricate statues, and natural stonework are equally awe-inspiring. Tour the ground on your own or plan a trip to this unusual venue during one of their regular jazz performances and visiting this landmark might become one of your favorite things to do in Oakland. As the final resting place for many Bay Area legends—including baseball players William Frederick “Bones” Ely and Dick Bartell, blues musician John Lee Hooker, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, and explorer Harriet Chalmers Adams—this is one stop you won’t easily forget. 

Stairs to Nowhere

Location: Upper Merriewood Stairs, Oakland

San Francisco isn't the only Bay Area city with massive hills. Oakland has dozens of abandoned staircases that provide the perfect opportunity for a good workout. Photo courtesy of Abio Properties.

Similar to San Francisco, Oakland is full of hills, and the East Bay city was connected by Key System streetcars between 1893 and 1960. Given the number of stops throughout the transit system, 270-plus stairways were built to help riders get to and from each stop. Though these streetcars eventually disappeared, the stairways remain, appearing to lead nowhere in particular. With so many mysterious staircases to choose from, it’s easy to get a quick workout, so head into the Claremont Hills, Cleveland Cascade, or Merriewood Stairs to discover a slice of history. 

Leona Casting Pools

Location: The Oakland Casting Club, Elinora Avenue, Oakland

You don't have to go far to perfect your fly-casting. Head to the Oakland Casting Club to see the unexpectedly beautiful pools. Photo courtesy of Oakland Casting Club.

The Leona Casting Pools are among the most unexpected places to visit in Oakland. Since they were dedicated in 1958, these two world-class casting pools have provided the perfect place to practice fly-casting in the middle of the city. If fly-fishing is your jam, ponder becoming a member of the Oakland Casting Club, but even if it’s not, consider visiting these mesmerizing pools any day between sunrise and sunset. 

Port View Park

Location: 7th Street, Oakland

Nestled in the industrial section of Oakland, Port View Park offers stunning views. Photo courtesy of Pier Fishing in California.

Walking along Middle Harbor Shoreline Park—Oakland’s first public beach—you might expect to see industrial warehouses and endless shipping containers, but if you look a bit closer, you’ll find a quaint park with stunning city vistas. Port View Park is located right down 7th Street and is a worthwhile trip in itself. Not only is this expanse about as far west as you can get without leaving Oakland, but it also affords incredible panoramas of the Bay Bridge and the wide-open waters. So, if you’re looking for things to see in Oakland, this largely unknown park better make the list. 

Did your favorite hidden spot in Oakland make the list? Let us know what else we should check out in the comments below. 

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