Saturday, December 14, 2013

Part I: San Fran's East Bay: 20+ Artsy Reasons To Visit Oakland, CA

Oakland City Center (A.Holdsworth)
By Jacquelin Carnegie - (Oakland, California); Illustrated by Anthony Holdsworth
San Francisco's East Bay, just 20 minutes from the city, used to be an afterthought for vacationers. Now, the East Bay--particularly Oakland & Berkeley--has become a go-to destination unto itself. As the weather is near perfect year-round, anytime is the perfect time to visit.

As rents rose in San Francisco, a number of top-notch restaurants and art galleries relocated to the more-affordable Oakland, sparking a cultural renaissance in the city. And, as new life was breathed into old neighborhoods, a festive feel took hold with year-round street fairs, outdoor art festivals, and farmers' markets. Come check out the festivities for yourself! 
Hot Spots & Artsy Neighborhoods
Oakland has several 
distinctive neighborhoods and, while a lot of the architecture is nondescript modern, throughout the city, there are architectural gems--beautiful Art Deco, Victorian, Arts & Crafts, and Millennial Modern buildings--now restored and turned into entertainment venues and restaurants. There are also two waterside highlights: Jack London Square on the Bay and Lake Merritt. Take a free Walking Tour to learn more about each one: 
Old Oakland (A.Holdsworth)
Jack London Square - The city’s historic seaport is now a lovely, waterfront destination teeming with restaurants, cafes, and shops. (Yes, famed author Jack London grew up here.)
Old Oakland - In the 1860s, this was the downtown area with beautiful Victorian buildings, recently restored and filled with new bistros and boutiques.
Uptown - Art galleries and beautifully-restored Art Deco gems include the Paramount Theatre, the Fox Theater, and Flora restaurant.
Temescal District - Among the 1920s-era bungalows, there's a hip scene with galleries and eateries along Telegraph Avenue and Temescal Alley. 

Lake Merritt (A.Holdsworth)
Preservation Park - A circle of 16 Victorian houses now used by nonprofit organizations and for public events.
Lake Merritt - The largest urban lake surrounded by a nice jogging track, gardens, and a nature refuge. Boating options include riding on a gondola!! There's a weekly farmers' market and a few restaurants with great views.
For a look inside some houses: Rockridge Kitchen Tour - Marvel at the Craftsman, Arts & Crafts, and Shingle-style homes in the lovely Rockridge neighborhood. Piedmont, Oakland: Heart of Home Tour - Peek inside several fabulous homes in the Piedmont neighborhood.
The Art Scene
All year long, there are artsy events throughout Oakland; a great way to discovery the art galleries and explore the different neighborhoods:

Art Murmur:
Telegraph Ave. (A.Holdsworth)
First Fridays (Telegraph Ave., btw 19th-27th St, 5pm-10pm): On the first Friday of every month, the art galleries stay open late and there's a street festival in Uptown with live music, food trucks, and vendors. Other events take place in Old Oakland and Jack London Square (Jack's Night Market).
Saturday Stroll (1pm-5pm): Every Saturday afternoon, most galleries host special events such as artists' talks, receptions, and film screenings. Once a month, there's a free, guided tour.
[Check out: SLATEVessel Gallery, Mercury20, 25th St Collective]
Temescal Alley First Friday (, 6pm-9pm): 
Once a month, art galleries, cafes, bars, and shops in the Temescal neighborhood team up to offer a lively night out on the town with live music in Temescal Alley & Telegraph Ave.
Fox Theater  (A.Holdsworth)

Oakland Museum: First Friday/Off the Grid
1000 Oak St., Tel: 510/318-8400,
On the First Friday of each month, this wonderful museum is open until midnight and there's a wide selection of food trucks on the 10th Street side entrance, along with live music and other festivities.
East Bay Open Studios (June)
During two weekends in June, you can visit over 400+ local artists' studios showcasing an amazing array of talent in all mediums of the creative arts.
[Check out: Cleo Vilett, Lynne Cunningham, Lisa Jacobs
Anthony Holdsworth]
Creative Growth
355 24th St., Tel: 510/836-2340;
Creative Growth is the oldest and largest art center for people with disabilities. The quality of the artwork done here is so phenomenal, several CG students have work in prominent museums. Stop by to view the changing exhibitions and/or arrange a tour of the site to get a better understanding of the scope of CG's services.
The Street Fairs & Festivals Scene
A host of street fairs, art festivals, and outdoor markets keep things lively all year long. Many of these events take place in Jack London Square. Here are just a few:
Farmers' Market (A.Holdsworth)
Farmers' Markets (Year long): On different days of the week, outdoor markets overflowing with fresh produce pop up in a number of locations: Jack London Square, Old Oakland, Temescal, and along the shores of beautiful Lake Merritt.
Oakland International Film Festival (April): To promote independent filmmakers in Oakland and worldwide. (During the summer, there's free Waterfront Flicks at Jack London Square on Thursday nights.)
Pedalfest (July): Fun for the whole cycling family: bike rides, bicycle rodeo and parade, eats and a beer garden.
Art & Soul (August): A street party with live entertainment, local bands, art installations, and food trucks with tasty offerings.
The Food Scene
Foodies and wine aficionados are flocking to Oakland for all the hot, trendy restaurants. In just a few short years, some 60+ top-quality, restaurants have opened, including startups by several of San Francisco's top chefs.
Dining: There are so many excellent choices you need to do a bit of research before making a reservation. Here's a small sampling: 

 (3859 Piedmont Ave.) - Chef James Syhabout's Michelin-starred restaurant.
Cosecha (907 Washington St.) - Farm-to-table Mexican food.
Le Cheval (1007 Clay St.) - French-inspired, Vietnamese cuisine and, go figure, very popular with Oakland cops.
Flora (1900 Telegraph Ave.) - American cuisine & prohibition-era cocktails in a stunning, cobalt-blue, Art Deco building.
Sweet Bar Bakery (2355 Broadway) - Soups, sandwiches & sweets; owner Mani Niall was once Michael Jackson's private chef.
Tamarindo (468 8th St.) - Traditional Mexican cuisine in a modern setting.
Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill
 (1520 Lakeside Dr.) - On Lake Merritt, go for the views.
Chinatown: For some cheap & tasty eats, head to Oakland's bustling Chinatown. Try New Gold Medal (389 8th St.).
Oakland Restaurant Week (January) - A great way to sample all Oakland has to offer with $20, $30 & $40 prix-fixe menus.
Foodie & Wine Favorites:
Foodie Phenomenon: In addition to the thriving restaurant scene, several, small, artisanal food companies making everything from chocolates to jams to kale chips and cured meats have set up shop in Oakland. Try some locally-made snacks with a sample pack from Little Shop Artisan Box.
Inner-city Wineries: In Oakland alone, there are some 10+ urban wineries. Check out the East Bay Vintner's Alliance to discover them all. Start with two good ones: JC Cellars & Dashe Cellars (55 4th St.): Go for a Tasting and sample the local varieties.
East Bay Winery Bike Tours: A fun way to discover the wineries as well as the beautiful East Bay area and get some exercise at the same time.
The Entertainment Scene
Along with the growing arts and restaurant offerings, there's a vibrant, nightlife scene in Oakland in some spectacular settings:
The Paramount (A.Holdsworth)
Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave.) - This former movie palace, opened in 1928, has been restored to its original Art Deco glory and now hosts top music acts from rock and R&B, folk to rap.
The Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway) - Restored to its original, 1930s movie-palace splendor, The Paramount is now home to the Oakland East Bay Symphony as well as a venue for popular music concerts, variety shows, theatre, and classic films.
Yoshi's Jazz Club (510 Embarcadero West) - Oakland's legendary jazz venue, has two areas: the concert room and the dinning room with great sushi and a jazz quartet.

Where To Stay: Hopefully, you're now convinced to plan a trip to Oakland.
Choose from any number of nice accommodations
Lake Merritt (A.Holdsworth)

Oakland Marriott City Center (1001 Broadway, Tel: 510/451-4000) - Simple and centrally-located. 
The Washington Inn (495 10th St., Tel: 510/452-1776) - Nice boutique hotel.
Waterfront Hotel (10 Washington St., Tel: 510-836-3800) - Great Bay views.
Getting There: Fly directly into Oakland. Or, fly to San Francisco, then take the BART (Pittsburg/Bay Point line) to downtown Oakland (12th St/City Center station), or take a Ferry or drive over the stunning Bay Bridge.


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