20 Top Things to Do in Oakland, California: A Guide to Explore the Vibrant City

Things to Do in Oakland
Things to Do in Oakland

Oakland, California is a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage and a wide range of attractions and activities to offer. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor, there are plenty of exciting things to see and do in Oakland. From exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods to enjoying its beautiful parks and waterfront, there’s something for everyone. In this article, we’ll highlight the top 20 things to do in Oakland, California, ensuring you make the most of your time in this captivating city.

1. Explore Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt is a must-visit destination in Oakland. Known as the “Jewel of Oakland,” this picturesque lake offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city. Take a leisurely walk or rent a kayak to enjoy the serene beauty of the surroundings. Don’t forget to visit the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge, home to various bird species.

2. Visit the Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California is a fantastic place to explore the art, history, and natural sciences of the state. With its diverse exhibits and interactive displays, the museum offers an immersive experience for visitors of all ages. Discover the rich cultural heritage of California through the museum’s extensive collection.

3. Take a Stroll in Jack London Square

Jack London Square is a lively waterfront area that offers a range of attractions and activities. Take a stroll along the waterfront promenade, enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants, or explore the unique shops and boutiques. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Jack London Square Farmers Market, where you can find fresh local produce and artisanal products.

4. Enjoy a Day at the Oakland Zoo

The Oakland Zoo is a fantastic destination for animal lovers. Home to over 750 native and exotic animals, the zoo offers a unique opportunity to observe and learn about wildlife from around the world. Take a ride on the zoo’s Sky Ride for a bird’s-eye view of the park and its inhabitants.

5. Discover Chinatown

Oakland’s Chinatown is a vibrant neighborhood filled with colorful shops, bustling markets, and authentic restaurants. Explore the streets adorned with traditional Chinese decorations and sample delicious Chinese cuisine. Don’t forget to visit the Pacific Renaissance Plaza, a cultural hub that showcases Chinese art and hosts various events throughout the year.

6. Visit the Chabot Space and Science Center

For a fascinating journey into outer space, head to the Chabot Space and Science Center. With its interactive exhibits and planetarium shows, the center offers an educational and entertaining experience for all ages. Explore the wonders of the universe and learn about astronomy, space exploration, and the history of the cosmos.

7. Attend a Show at the Fox Theater

The Fox Theater is a historic venue in Oakland that hosts a wide range of performances, including concerts, plays, and musicals. Step inside this beautifully restored Art Deco theater and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of a live show. Check the theater’s schedule to see what’s on during your visit.

8. Wander Through Redwood Regional Park

Escape the urban hustle and immerse yourself in nature at Redwood Regional Park. This expansive park is home to magnificent coastal redwoods, some of the tallest trees in the world. Take a hike on one of the park’s many trails, or simply find a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of the towering trees.

9. Visit the African American Museum and Library at Oakland

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and culture of African Americans in the Bay Area. Explore the museum’s exhibits, which include photographs, artifacts, and documents that tell the stories of the African American community’s contributions to Oakland and beyond.

10. Enjoy a Picnic at Joaquin Miller Park

Joaquin Miller Park is a beautiful park nestled in the Oakland Hills. Pack a picnic and spend a relaxing afternoon surrounded by nature. The park offers stunning views of the city, miles of hiking trails, and even a cascading waterfall. It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the outdoors.

11. Indulge in Culinary Delights at Temescal Alley

Temescal Alley is a hidden gem in Oakland, lined with charming shops, eateries, and cafes. Explore the alley’s unique boutiques offering vintage clothing, artisanal products, and handmade crafts. Treat yourself to a delicious meal at one of the trendy restaurants or enjoy a cup of coffee at a cozy café.

12. Explore the Oakland Aviation Museum

For aviation enthusiasts, the Oakland Aviation Museum is a must-visit attraction. Discover the rich history of aviation in the Bay Area and explore the museum’s collection of aircraft, including vintage planes and helicopters. Don’t miss the chance to step inside a real cockpit and experience the thrill of flying.

13. Unwind at Lake Chabot Regional Park

Lake Chabot Regional Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Rent a boat and go fishing on the lake, or take a hike along the scenic trails that wind through the park’s rolling hills. The park also offers picnic areas, a golf course, and a campground, making it a perfect destination for a day of outdoor fun.

14. Visit the USS Hornet Museum

Step aboard the USS Hornet, a retired aircraft carrier turned museum, and delve into the history of naval aviation. Explore the ship’s decks, hangars, and exhibits showcasing aircraft from different eras. Don’t miss the chance to participate in the museum’s interactive programs, such as flight simulators and guided tours.

15. Discover the Oakland Art Murmur

Every first Friday of the month, Oakland’s vibrant art scene comes alive during the Oakland Art Murmur. Explore the city’s numerous art galleries, which open their doors to visitors, showcasing a wide range of artwork by local and international artists. Immerse yourself in the creative atmosphere and meet artists in person.

16. Shop at the Grand Lake Farmers Market

The Grand Lake Farmers Market is a bustling marketplace where you can find a variety of fresh produce, artisanal goods, and local crafts. Browse through the stalls, taste delicious samples, and shop for ingredients to create your own culinary delights. The market is a vibrant community gathering spot, perfect for a leisurely Saturday morning.

17. Immerse Yourself in Nature at Tilden Regional Park

Tilden Regional Park is a vast parkland offering endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Hike through the scenic trails, have a picnic by the lake, or take a swim in the pool. The park also features a botanical garden, a steam train ride, and a carousel, making it a popular destination for families.

18. Cheer for the Oakland Athletics

Experience the thrill of a baseball game by attending a home game of the Oakland Athletics. Join the passionate fans at the Oakland Coliseum and cheer for the team as they compete against other Major League Baseball teams. The electric atmosphere and the love for the game make it an unforgettable experience.

19. Discover the Oakland First Fridays Street Festival

The Oakland First Fridays Street Festival is a lively monthly event that celebrates local art, music, and food. Explore the street vendors selling handmade crafts, enjoy live music performances, and indulge in delicious street food from diverse cuisines. The festival showcases Oakland’s vibrant cultural scene and is a fantastic way to spend an evening.

20. Relax at the Gardens at Lake Merritt

The Gardens at Lake Merritt is a tranquil oasis in the heart of Oakland. Explore the various themed gardens, including a Japanese garden, a Mediterranean garden, and a sensory garden. Take a peaceful stroll, admire the beautiful flora, and find a quiet spot to unwind and enjoy the serenity.


1. Can I swim in Lake Merritt?

No, swimming is not allowed in Lake Merritt. However, you can rent kayaks or paddle boats to enjoy the lake from the water.

2. Are pets allowed in Joaquin Miller Park?

Yes, pets are allowed in Joaquin Miller Park. Just make sure to keep them on a leash and clean up after them.

3. How can I get to Jack London Square?

Jack London Square is easily accessible by public transportation, including BART and bus services. There are also parking facilities available for those traveling by car.

4. Is there an entrance fee for the Oakland Museum of California?

Yes, there is an entrance fee for the Oakland Museum of California. However, they offer discounted rates for seniors, students, and children.

5. Are there guided tours available at the Chabot Space and Science Center?

Yes, the Chabot Space and Science Center offers guided tours led by knowledgeable staff. Check their website or inquire at the visitor center for more information.

6. What is the best time to visit the African American Museum and Library at Oakland?

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is open year-round. However, you may want to check their website for any special events or exhibits happening during your visit.

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Oakland, California offers a myriad of exciting experiences for both locals and visitors. From exploring the city’s vibrant neighborhoods to immersing yourself in art, history, and nature, there’s no shortage of things to do in Oakland. Whether you’re interested in cultural attractions, outdoor adventures, or simply enjoying the local cuisine, this dynamic city has it all. So, make sure to add these top 20 things to do in Oakland, California to your itinerary and create unforgettable memories in this captivating city.

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