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11 Fun Things to Do in Oakland

11 Fun Things to Do in Oakland

Forget everything you think you know about the city—there are plenty of fun things to do in Oakland than meets the eye.

Roubina Al Abashian


5 min read

April 24, 2024

Welcome to Oakland: San Francisco’s neighbor which has a powerful history and a vibe of its own. The East Bay city has always been home to change—the Black Panthers and Chicano Movement can attest to that. Today, Oakland is the cumulative result of diversity; it has grown to have a character, one that can’t be found anywhere else. 

History lessons, water-related activities, wonderful parks, and a diverse community make fun in Oakland inevitable. Forget everything you think you know about the city—there are plenty of fun things to do in Oakland than meets the eye. 

Oakland Attractions to Check Out Now

Lake Merritt is the oldest wildlife refuge in North America and lucky for you it is located right here in Oakland.

1. Lake Merritt 

Lake Merritt is a unique tidal lagoon and the jewel of Oakland. As the oldest wildlife refuge in North America, the lake has a mixture of freshwater and saltwater, creating a welcoming environment for birds of all sorts—ducks, geese, herons, coots, and egrets call the lake home. Visitors enjoy canoeing, boating, jogging, and feeding the birds here, which is why you should totally visit this place in Oakland.

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2. Preservation Park

What screams history more than a Victorian house? An entire neighborhood of them. Preservation Park is a collection of 16 historic residences arranged to look like a 19th-century Oakland neighborhood. Sitting in the heart of the downtown district, the park is used as an event center and wedding venue. Other significant structures include the bandstand and the Latham-Ducel Fountain; the latter was created in Paris featuring the moon goddess Diana with acanthus leaf ornament.

Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park contains the largest remaining natural stand of coast redwood found in the East Bay.

3. Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

If a picnic under massive redwood trees followed by a good hike is your definition of a unique date, then Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is the perfect destination for you. Every inch of the 1,830 forested acres is worth strolling through—surprises come in the forms of rabbits, deers, eagles. The pristine redwood forest has sites for overnight camping as well, so don’t forget to bring your tent along.

Redesigned in 1928 by renowned architect Julia Morgan of Hearst Castle, Chapel of the Chimes Oakland is an architectural gem.

4. Chapel of the Chimes

Oakland features a lot of architectural masterpieces, but nothing comes close to the historic columbarium Chapel of the Chimes. Originally designed in 1909, this hidden gem boasts stunning natural stonework, mosaic-tiled floors, polished marbles, and fine sculptures. Gothic archways and passageways lead visitors into stunning rooms and gardens, where they can pay their respects. The columbarium is the final resting place for many Bay Area legends including blues musician John Lee Hooker, and baseball player William Frederick.

Oakland was the birthplace of many African American movements. This museum is a must-see for visitors who appreciate the cultural experience.

5. African American Library and Museum

No visit to Oakland is complete without checking out the African American Library and Museum (AAMLO). The city was the birthplace of many African American movements, and this Oakland attraction preserves and shares these historical and cultural experiences in California and the West for present and future generations. You’ll find 12,000 volumes of African American history and culture, as well as the works of African American authors. Visitors are also welcome to explore the Eternal Voices video library, which contains more than 80 years of African American East Bay history.

6. Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) unveils the rich heritage of California, but its main focus is the East Bay city. The museum’s galleries are dedicated to natural sciences, California art, and the history of the state. Special exhibits tell the story of Oakland’s social justice system and the Black Panther movement. But, this Oakland attraction saves the best for the weekend. From Friday to Sunday, free events take place, where good music, gourmet food trucks, and dance lessons entertain visitors. As far as things to see in Oakland go, this one is worth checking out. 

Activities in Oakland To Keep You Busy

7. Live Your Magical Fantasies at the Children’s Fairyland

Ever wondered how Alice felt when she went into the rabbit hole? You won’t have to anymore; a visit to Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland will answer your questions. Opened in 1950, the amusement park actually inspired Walt Disney into creating Disneyland. Join your kids as they watch their favorite storybooks—and yours—come to life. 

8. Visit the Exotic Animals at the Oakland Zoo

More than 660 species of local and exotic animals make Okland Zoo one of the most visited places in Northern California. Zebras, meerkats, camels, and African elephants are just a few of the animals you’ll get to meet at this vibrant zoo. Your kids will have a blast at the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo, where they can view their favorite animals up-close. Children know how to have fun, so why not join them?

9. Hike the Famous Sequoia Bayview Trail

We can’t think of a better way to explore East Bay wildlife than hiking one of the area’s most beautiful trails. The famous Sequoia Bayview Trail is always a good choice, considering it’s just a short and moderate hike with redwoods and wildflowers scattered all around. And to make things better, the trail is dog-friendly—your pup won’t have to wait at home. 

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10. Have a Morning Cup of Joe at Red Bay Coffee 

In Oakland, you don’t need to wonder where to get your morning cup of coffee. The answer is simple—Red Bay Coffee is always your go-to. Keba Konte started Red Bay Coffee in his garage, and today, it has five different locations, including one in San Francisco and even a mobile coffee van. Here, coffee beans are roasted in small batches to produce quality brews with high standards, making Oakland mornings better than they already are. What we love most about this minority-owned business is that Konte uses his cafe space to host panels and workshops for entrepreneurs of color. Red Bay Coffee is your new favorite coffee shop and you know it. 

11. Eat and Shop in Temescal 

Shopping is that one activity in Oakland you can’t forget—Temescal is where all the coolest restaurants and boutique stores are located. A walk down the neighborhood’s Telegraph Avenue introduces visitors to different types of ethnic cuisines; picking a favorite is very difficult here. You’ll shop till you drop at the many stylish clothing and jewelry shops because you just won’t be able to resist. Set the shopaholic in you free as you tour Oakland’s favorite neighborhood. 

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