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13 Oakland Attractions Not To Miss

13 Oakland Attractions Not To Miss

Whether you're looking for family-friendly fun or the best museums, here are 13 Oakland attractions to check out when you’re in town.

Roubina Al Abashian


5 min read

February 09, 2022

While the rest of the Bay Area was living the Summer of Love, the Black Panthers and Chicanos in Oakland were putting up a fight for social justice. To this day, you can sense the revolution in the air as you walk down the streets of Oakland. Something about the city is so attractive, but you can’t put your finger on it—let’s help you out. Oakland has history around every corner, and it’s about time you discover Oakland’s attractions and learn the secrets behind the city’s charm.

Jack London Square is home to stores, restaurants, hotels, an Amtrak station, a San Francisco Bay Ferry dock, and Jack London's relocated cabin.

1. Jack London Square

If you’re not sure what to do in Oakland, simply take a stroll at the waterfront neighborhood known as Jack London Square. This area has been the stomping ground for famous author Jack London, who worked at the docks of the Oakland Port. A replica log cabin where he lived on a wilderness expedition in Alaska can be found in the middle of the square. Walk the neighborhood’s waterfront trails and eat at one of the restaurants for a fun afternoon pastime.  

There's so much to experience in Oakland, and if you want to add educational to the itinerary then definitely stop by the Oakland Museum too.

2. Oakland Museum of California

Celebrate the Golden State’s rich heritage and culture by visiting the Oakland Museum of California. Get acquainted with the region’s social justice movements and history of political activism through engaging exhibits, permanent, and rotating collection. Don’t forget to tour the museum’s galleries for a better understanding of the state’s art, culture, and history.

The Morcom Rose Garden is a spa treatment for the eyes and nose, and here it is prepping for a June wedding.

3. Morcom Rose Garden

Between May and October, the colorful roses of Oakland bloom at the Morcom Rose Garden. The eight-acre garden comprises more than 6,000 rose bushes of different varieties. Boasting beautiful walkways, gorgeous stairways, fountain cascades, and a reflecting pool, the beautiful garden in California is a sight for sore eyes. If you have a special occasion coming up (wedding bells, anyone?), this top tourist attraction in Oakland will serve as the ideal location.

Children's Fairyland houses the Open Storybook Puppet Theater, the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the United States.

4. Children’s Fairyland

Ever wondered what it’s like living in your favorite fairytale? At Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland, you won’t have to anymore. Opened in 1950, the storybook-themed amusement park takes you to the imaginary worlds of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and much more. The amusement park in California inspired Walt Disney into creating Disneyland—now that’s an accomplishment.


5. Lake Merritt

Spending a day at Lake Merritt is one of the fun things to do in Oakland. The lake creates a welcoming environment for birds of all sorts—ducks, herons, geese, and egrets can be seen at this hidden gem in Oakland regularly. If you’re still not sure why Lake Merritt is always on top of every Oakland travel guide, wait till you go canoeing and boating here. 

With the beauty and tranquility that Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park has to offer, you might not even mind getting lost in the woods.

6. Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

If hiking under the shadows of massive redwood trees is your definition of fun, then this is the perfect park in the Bay Area for you. Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park boasts dozens of hiking trails, vibrant wildlife, and picnic spots. The 1,830-acre verdant space also features overnight camping spots, so don’t forget your tent.

The Oakland Zoo features more than 700 native and exotic animals and is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA).

7. Oakland Zoo

The Oakland Zoo is home to more than 600 native and exotic animal species, ranging from lemurs and river otters to local gray wolves and grizzly bears. These animals reside in natural habitats like the African savanna and the Australian outback. Like most of the best zoos in California, Oakland offers fun rides and jeep safaris to introduce visitors to the wildlife. Make sure to enjoy the rides and adventures, including the roller coaster and carousel. 

If you're around Lake Meritt, make sure to stop by this floating piece of history.

8. USS Potomac

USS Potomac, aka the Floating White House, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential yacht. Built in 1934, it first served as a US Navy vessel, but after Roosevelt’s death, it went on to have many owners during the years, including Elvis Presley. During the next few decades, the ship sank, was rescued, and was fully abandoned, until the Port of Oakland decided to restore it. Now, USS Potomac is open to the public for touring.

Take in the architecture of the Cathedral of Christ the Light - it is definitely a sight to behold with its dramatic contemporary glass design.

9. Cathedral of Christ the Light

The Cathedral of Christ the Light is a tourist attraction in Oakland, where you’ll see the coolest work of architecture in California. The 1,350-seat place of worship has a space-frame structure made of glulam and steel-rod skeletons covered in glass—it was designed to withstand earthquakes. Next time you’re in Oakland, pay a visit to the cathedral and admire the brilliance. 

Temescal Regional Recreation Area is a convenient urban oasis, popular for swimming, fishing, sunbathing, and picnicking.

10. Temescal Regional Recreation Area

On the outskirts of Downtown Oakland, you’ll find Temescal Regional Recreation Area. The tourist attraction in Oakland, California, is where people head for outdoor recreation. Swimming is popular in the lake during spring and summer, while fishing is a year-round activity people come to enjoy. Stretch your legs at the picnic areas, walk through the park’s paved roads, and explore a few of the best biking trails in California.

The African American movements of Northern California are also highlights in the history of America. Almonroth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

11. African American Museum and Library at Oakland

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) documents and preserves the African American movements of Northern California. Originally built for conservation and research purposes, the museum boasts more than 12,000 volumes of history and culture, works of African American authors, and the Eternal Voices video library—it contains over 80 years of African American history in the region. 

This historic estate will make for a beautiful addition to your Oakland itinerary, especially if you're an architecture lover.

12. Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate

Coal baron Alexander Dunsmuir hired architect J. Eugene Freeman to design his grand, turn-of-the-century Neoclassical Revival-style mansion in 1878. The mansion is set on 50 acres of land, featuring a Tiffany-style dome, 37 rooms, and 10 fireplaces. Dubbed the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate, the mansion also has a gazebo, pond, and well-groomed gardens. This top tourist attraction in Oakland is a city landmark that’s open to the public year-round.

The Aviation Museum is a great idea for aviation AND museum lovers alike.

13. Oakland Aviation Museum

The Oakland Aviation Museum is located in a vintage hangar at Oakland International Airport—it was initially constructed to train civilian pilots and aircraft mechanics. This space museum in California has aircraft, artifacts, and a giant flying boat on display. You’ll also find an Electra, just like the one flown by Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the Pacific days after she took off from this airfield to circumnavigate the globe. 

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