Dec 15 2015

36 Hours in Oakland, California

Long overshadowed by its dolled-up big sister across the Bay, Oakland is its own town, and its cultural heterogeneity remains its greatest strength.


Long overshadowed by its dolled-up big sister across the Bay, Oakland is its own town. Even as its status as one of the most diverse cities in the country is threatened by tech-boom-era gentrification, its thrill­ing cultural heterogeneity remains its greatest strength. The city’s rather dull skyline belies its architectural splendor — from glamorous movie palaces to the Kevin Roche-designed midcentury-modern Oakland Museum of California to the 135-acre Mills College campus, where Beaux-Arts and Spanish Colonial Revival buildings are set among eucalyptus trees. The western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad and a thriving port, Oakland remains a proud working-class town even as new developments, like the huge Brooklyn Basin project, remake its waterfront.

Portal’s backyard patio. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times


1. GET HAPPY, 3 P.M.
For a California-centric selection of more than a dozen craft beers on tap and a human scale game of Jenga, head to Portal. Its backyard patio, ringed with sparkling white lights, has a view of Lake Merritt. The line for the fabulous brunch here is almost always long. So skip it and try the restaurant’s “garbage bread,” made from pizza dough, proofed overnight and rolled into a burrito-Stromboli mash-up stuffed with either pepperoni and sausage, herbs and ricotta, or vegetables ($14) at happy hour. Afterward, walk north around the lake, a wildlife refuge established in 1870. Look for rare white pelicans, including one year-round resident named Hank.

2. FIRED UP, 6 P.M.
For dinner, splurge at Camino, where the food is cooked by wood-fire, the seating is communal and tips are not accepted — an effort its husband-wife owners, Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain, have helped spearhead nationally. The restaurant (its prices, mainly) has its detractors, but as a direct descendant of Chez Panisse, where Mr. Moore, the chef, worked for two decades, it’s hard to find more emblematic Northern California cooking in its purest, casual-yet-refined form. With one fireplace and one wood oven continually burning, each night’s menu features three entrees: typically one meat (rib-eye steak and slow-cooked short ribs with grits, green beans and fried sunchokes, $42, for example), one fish (like local ling cod with green beans, tomato confit, cilantro and saffron broth, $37) and a vegetarian offering. Camino’s new cookbook, “This Is Camino,” makes a fine souvenir.

3. GET ARTSY, 8 P.M.
Once a month, the decade-old Oakland Art Murmur takes over the Uptown neighborhood. A First Friday art walk (6 to 9 p.m.) includes dozens of galleries and venues and a street party that embodies the spirit of this changing city. (Quieter afternoon “Saturday Strolls” are held every week.) In Uptown’s Fox Square, seek out the “Remember Them: Champions for Humanity” sculpture, a four-piece, 25-foot-tall bronze work that honors 25 humanitarians. The landing-place for generations of black migrants from the American South, Oakland has a storied jazz tradition. The Sound Roomhosts local blues and soul singers, Big Band and West Coast Latin Jazz groups and international acts. Tickets start at $10.

The Grand Lake theater. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times


By Cesar Chavez Park in a tiny orange stucco building in Fruitvale, Taqueria Campos feels like a modest Mexican home, where the tortillas are fresh and stockpots are simmering with the Jalisco specialties of pozole, menudo and goat birria — three meaty soups that provide a warming winter breakfast. Another East Side option is Saigon Deli Sandwich & Taco Valparaiso. With co-owners from Vietnam and Mexico, respectively, this banh mi shop and taco stand in one serves everything from pork combination sandwiches with pâté and head cheese to fish or lengua (tongue) tacos and Mission-style burritos. A meal at either cash-only restaurant runs less than $10.

The Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Mountain View Cemetery prides itself on “transcending the division between man and nature” with a parklike landscape of California live oak, Italian cypress, Lebanese cedar, Italian stone pine and palm trees in the Piedmont Hills. The cemetery, which dates to the 1860s, has tombstones of some of the state’s most influential residents, including Julia Morgan, who designed the nearby Chapel of the Chimes as well as Hearst Castle. On the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, there are free docent-led tours at 10 a.m.

Tucked away in the Temescal neighborhood, two pedestrian alleys are home to shops that feel as if they jumped off Etsy’s home page. Along with boutiques selling twee teapots and handmade coat racks, there’s Book/Shop, a tiny store and print design studio that treats its texts like art objects. At Marisa Mason Studio, the designer Marisa Haskell riffs on the hippie-era appropriation of indigenous jewelry, creating pieces that embrace bohemian California’s unselfconscious borrowing from Southwestern and Mexican folk art. Stop at the Kickstarter-funded Curbside Creamery, where five of the dozen or so varieties — from traditional mint chip to the wonderful Thai tea flavor — are vegan, made with cashew milk (scoops start at $3).

Trapeze Arts is one of a handful of circus schools in the United States. Founded in 1994, students have gone on to Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The 13,000-square-foot warehouse space is open to the public to try their hand at trampolines and trapezes, hoops and ropes, tight wire and unicycle. Single classes start at $35, reservations required. Nearby, the Crucible teaches three-hour “taster” classes ($135), offering introductions to industrial arts like welding and sand casting.

From left, fried chicken with plantains and collard greens at Miss Ollie’s; Korean fried chicken at FuseBox; the garbage bread at Portal. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

On a West Oakland sidestreet with graffiti and industrial lots, the sophisticated Korean restaurant FuseBoxopens at 2 p.m. on Saturdays for what the owners call an “extended happy hour” (through 5:30 p.m.). Try the spicy, rice-flour-battered “KFC” — Korean fried chicken — and a beer for $8, or the pig ear fries and beer or wine for $7. The beans used in the house tofu come from the nearby Hodo Soy Beanery. In the winter, FuseBox offers blankets and hot sake for those who sit outside beside fire pits.

At Umami Mart, a sublime Japanese kitchen and barware shop, food, drink and design intersect. Its Bottle Shop, which focuses exclusively on Japanese beer, sets it apart. Umami Mart’s sake club, Sake Gumi, delivers two bottles of sake, along with tasting notes and pairing suggestions ($29, or $75 monthly). Afterward, head to Swan’s Market, a historic “housewives’ market,” with an exceptional food court, from the Japanese set lunches at B-Dama to The Cook and Her Farmer’s mind-blowing oyster po’ boy. Miss Ollie’s is an Afro-Caribbean restaurant where the jerk shrimp are big and scorchingly spicy ($12.50) and the skillet-fried chicken (a generous portion for $17.75) is among the best in the Bay Area.

In a city with an abundance 0f Art Deco-era movie palaces, the Paramount has transformed itself into a multipurpose venue for everything from classics like “The Wizard of Oz” to performances of “The Nutcracker” and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. Alternatively, head to the New Parkway Theater, where there are love seats and vintage chairs and a cafe with local wine and beer. Shows ($8) range from blockbusters like “Straight Outta Compton” to viewings of the presidential debates.

The Alley is a well-worn piano bar with decades of business cards papering its walls and the famous (some might say notorious) Rod Dibble playing a selection of some 4,000 standards and show tunes. Mr. Dibble has been at his station since 1960, making him an Oakland institution. The crowd is as eclectic as they come, and all are invited to sing, making it karaoke meets cabaret in a time capsule. Then consider making a pilgrimage to Cafe Van Kleef. Its owner and namesake, known as the “Uptown godfather,” died in September, but his bar and its famed greyhound cocktails survive. Van Kleef’s location — walking distance from City Hall — made it a hangout for politicos, including the former mayor and current governor Jerry Brown. On weekends, live music ranges from Oakland Dub to folk to R&B.

Mind’s Eye Vintage at Temescal Alley. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times


Calling it brunch might be pushing it. Starting at 9 a.m., the Fat Lady serves breakfast with booze. Dimly lit, with dripped-wax-draped candelabras, mismatched paintings and a long bar, this 1970s-era Jack London Square institution is housed in a former (circa 1880s) brothel and built on myth and a mean corned beef hash ($14). After breakfast, walk to the waterfront to Sunday’s farmers’ market. You can take a docent-led dockside tour ($10) of the 1934 U.S.S. Potomac, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 165-foot “Floating White House.” Then drive through the industrial maze of shipping containers, idling trucks and towering cranes to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, where the views of San Francisco’s skyline are unbeatable.

Map data ©2015 Google

With a prime location in Jack London Square, steps from the ferry to San Francisco, Joie de Vivre’s Waterfront Hotel (10 Washington Street, 510-836-3800; has a retro nautical theme, a complimentary wine and cheese hour each evening and prices starting at $209.

Despite the rapid change in recent years, Oakland’s hotel offerings remain relatively meager. Just across the border in neighboring Berkeley, the Claremont Hotel Club and Spa (41 Tunnel Road, 510-843-3000; is an East Bay institution. Opened in 1915, the resort has two heated lap pools, tennis courts and a recently renovated 20,000-square-foot fitness center. Rooms start at $191.

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Dec 07 2015

Oakland Zoo ZooLights!


Visit Oakland Zoo for our annual holiday event, ZooLights!

Hundreds of thousands of sparkling LED lights illuminate the Zoo and night sky to celebrate the festive season. This year’s light display will feature an additional music-themed light show illuminating the Zoo’s African Veldt.

ZooLights will be closed on December 24 & 25

Dozens of colorfully lit animal-themed structures are situated throughout the Zoo for families to enjoy. Santa’s sleigh will arrive from the North Pole, on select evenings, dates to be announced soon. See the annual meadow show, featuring traditional animal characters and familiar holiday beats. The Zoo will be transformed into a fun-filled explosion of light, full of glowing animal structures and string lights of holiday cheer. The light show is designed to be entertaining for young children and the young at heart. Starlit pathways lead guests through the candy cane lane-themed Adventure Landing featuring the Outback Express Adventure train, a decked out train ride that’s sure to inspire a jolly time on a dark winter night.

Guests may also ease the chill of the evening with a cup of warm cheer, such as hot cocoa or specialty coffee drinks. Back by popular demand, the cafes will serve holiday fare, ZooLights “Go Bites,” a selection of $5 walk-around snacks for the whole family to enjoy. ZooLights is a family oriented evening, filled with traditional holiday activities, designed to help one make merry memories of the winter season.

ZooLight’s Daily Details:
December 4 – January 3, 2016 from 5:30pm to 9:00pm (Closed December 24 & 25)
Oakland Zoo animal residents will be in their night houses and not visible to the public.
ZooLights will be open 7 days a week (except 12/24, 12/25) dependent on weather conditions.
Meet Santa on the Sun Bear deck and enjoy performances by local companies (select nights, tba)

Admission Prices
Adult: $8.00
Children (2-14) and Seniors (65-79): $7.00
Members: $1.00 off regular ticket prices
FREE Member Mondays: December 7 and December 14 ONLY*
Parking: Free
Please buy your tickets at the door. We are not selling online tickets this year. We apologize for any inconvenience

*ZooLights will be open 7 days a week (except 12/24 & 12/25) dependent on weather conditions.

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Nov 18 2015

Moonlight Kayaking

Moonlight Kayaking

California Canoe & Kayak – Full Moon Paddle
Wednesday, November 25th

Moonlight paddling is enchanting! The water is calm and glassy on the Oakland Estuary and the city lights add to the ambiance. We enjoy a leisurely pace as the sun sets and the moon rises, illuminating a delightful evening.

Enjoy an evening of moonlight paddling on the Oakland estuary with California Canoe & Kayak. Everyone is invited to experience the calm waters and city lights on this leisure adventure that starts at sunset. For more information, visit

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Nov 05 2015

Uber announces major expansion into Oakland’s Sears building

Uber announces major expansion into Oakland's Sears building

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) —
After a massive growth in San Francisco, Uber is now making a big time expansion into Oakland. Up to 3,000 employees are expected to move into six floors of the newly renovated Sears building. Real estate experts say the deal puts downtown Oakland on the map.

It certainly looks like a big win for the city and the Uptown neighborhood, bringing in thousands of new jobs. But some worry that the upside will come with much higher rents.

“Uber is an innovative game-changing company and its move to Oakland is game-changing for us,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

The mayor called it a great day for her city. The announcement that Uber is expanding its Bay Area headquarters to Oakland’s Sears building.

“It’s home actually to many of current our employees,” said Renee Atwood with Uber. “But today we are doubling down on our growth here and deepening our roots across the bay.”

The ridesharing company has purchased the old Sears building from Lane Partners, which will stay on as the developer of a project that includes 50,000 square feet of retail on the bottom with office space above.

Uber expects to bring in 2,000 to 3,000 employees. Housing them without pricing out current residents is part of the equation for Oakland city leaders.

“We believe that having great jobs in this city is part of that solution,” said the mayor. “And encouraging development of additional housing units, which an investment like this can also encourage, is part of that solution.”

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Kevin Best.

Best just opened his gourmet ice cream shop, Little Giant, across the street from the newly dubbed Uptown Station.

“We knew something was going to happen, we weren’t sure at what level,” he said. “So to hear someone of Uber’s size is definitely reassuring.”

Uber expects to begin renovation next year, with project completion set for 2017.

For more stories about Uber, click here.

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Oct 19 2015

USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier: Haunted Hornet

Published by under Things To Do Oakland CA

USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier: Haunted Hornet

What is the Haunted Hornet?
-The Haunted Hornet is a high impact, actor driven haunted attraction located on board the Historic aircraft carrier USS Hornet. 
After being decommissioned in 1970, the USS Hornet aircraft carrier was used to house a secret research facility specializing in deep sea research and Bermuda Triangle phenomena. Undergoing secret and extreme retrofitting, the ship and its crew set out to document what they find. While out at sea, the crew were involved in the discovery of an unexplained occurrence which began to affect the entire team and the ship. Immediately after, the program was cancelled, items locked into storage and the ship was returned to Puget Sound for final mothballing. 
Now 45 years later, we are finally able to access these secret parts of the ship…

What was the aircraft carrier USS Hornet?
– The aircraft carrier USS Hornet is a national treasure, having participated in two of the greatest events of the 20th century — World War II and the Apollo 11 manned space mission when the first humans in the history of mankind set foot upon the moon. The Hornet was decommissioned on the 26th of June 1970.
In October 1998, the ship was opened to the public as a museum moored at the former Naval Air Station Alameda (currently known as Alameda Point) on San Francisco Bay. She is a registered State and National Historic Landmark and is not funded by any governmental agency.


On board the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier
USS Hornet Museum
707 West Hornet Ave. Alameda, CA 94501

October 2nd – October 30th & November 1st 2015
Thursdays & Sundays – 7pm-11pm
Fridays & Saturdays – 7pm-12am

HALLOWEEN 10/31/2015:
Monster Bash – Limited Hours; Must have ticket to Monster Bash Event for access to the Haunted Attraction


Tickets: $40 ($38 + $2 Historical Preservation Fee). 

(Online tickets can be used on any night with the exception of Halloween 10/31)

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