Grit and splendor across the bay
Oakland is beginning to outshine San Francisco
A 30-minute ferry trip from San Francisco, Oakland is equal parts grit and beauty, flanked by a major working port to the west and a hilltop redwood forest to the east. In 2012, the New York Times ranked it above San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles as one of the best places to visit. Since then, young professionals and celebrity-chefs have moved there in droves, driving up housing prices and cachet.
The city is battling to keep up with its gentrification. Littleused industrial backroads house makeshift shelters for the growing homeless population within a few blocks of grand cocktail bars and luxurious restaurants. Metro takes a tour of some of the most authentic treasures in a rapidly-changing Oakland.
This converted laneway houses a dozen carefully curated shops featuring the works of local designers and artisans. It’s also home to an old-school barbershop and the always-lined-up Curbside Creamery, an ice cream parlor that serves cashew-creambased vegan soft serve.
Redwood Regional Park
A network of hiking trails guide you through this peaceful forest less than 20 minutes from downtown Oakland. You won’t find any trees much older than 100 years as they were cleared after the 1906 earthquake to rebuild San Francisco. Still, the towering giants create one of the quietest acoustic spaces, with only the occasional resounding creak of a swaying tree.
Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon
This waterfront bar, opened in 1883, was supposedly the last stop for a sailor to grab a drink before their seafaring journey. Lit by gaslight, the bar retains much of its original charm, including slanted floor boards and a clock that has stood still since the 1906 earthquake.
Urban Wine Trail
Forget sprawling vineyards, Oakland’s urban wineries are housed in renovated warehouse spaces. Taste California’s finest grapes, blended, barrelled and bottled right here.
Catch a new release in a relic from Hollywood’s Golden Era at this restored 1926 cinema. A milkshake from Fenton’s.
Brown Sugar Kitchen
Celebrity chef Tanya Holland is best known for hosting Soul Food on the Food Network and guest appearances on the Today Show. But here in West Oakland it’s all about her food. Sit at the bar and watch chefs lather chicken in dough and press meltin-your-mouth waffles.
Grand Lake Theatre
Take in a recent release at this historic movie palace. Real butter for your popcorn. No advertising or previews. Plus, on Friday and Saturday nights guests are treated to a pre-show performance on the theatre’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ.
Established in 1894, you won’t find any vegan soft serve here. It’s allegedly the birthplace of Rocky Road ice cream, inspired by tough times during the Great Depression. Sundaes made up of mounds of ice cream, smothered in sweet sauces and topped with bits of peanuts, whipped cream and a cherry harken back to a bygone era. The author was hosted by Visit Oakland, which did not review or approve this story.