Oakland, California, is a vibrant city on California’s NW coast, a short ferry ride from San Fran, with plenty of exciting activities. From exploring the local cuisine through a food tour to visiting the Oakland Zoo and even taking a beer flight at Drake’s Dealership – there’s something for everyone in this Bay Area city. Read on for 11 fun things to do in Oakland California, whether you have a day or just a few hours.
1. Have a Beer Flight at Drake’s Dealership
Are you a fan of craft beer? Then head over to Drake’s Dealership – an old bank building turned brewery – and sample some of their finest brews, indoors, or out. Their famous beer flight allows you to see how the beers are made and allows you to taste several different varieties all in one go.
My top picks were Black Robusto and Hefeweizen.
If that’s not enough, why not stay for dinner? Drake’s Dealership features classic pub grub alongside some truly unique creations that are sure to tantalize your tastebuds! The wood-fired pizzas are sensational!
Pro Tip: Dogs are welcome though they must remain leashed on the patio.
2. Visit the Exciting Oakland Zoo
The Oakland Zoo offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with animals from all over the world. This family-friendly destination has 750+ native and exotic residents ranging from exotic birds and reptiles to playful primates and majestic mammals like lions, tigers, and bears.
The gray wolf pups and white-handed gibbons were my favorite, but you have to admire the handsome grizzly bear.
The zoo also hosts special events throughout the year so be sure to check online before planning your visit!
3. Take a Local Food Adventures Tour
For an exciting introduction to the many flavors of Oakland California, join Lauren of Local Food Adventures on their Taste of Temescal food tour. Discover neighborhood’s hidden gems and mingle with other food-lovers as you sample delicious dishes from some of the best restaurants in town.
From pizza and down-home barbecue to donuts and boba tea, this is definitely an experience that you don’t want to miss out on!
Pro Tip: Wear stretchy pants.
4. Tour the Progressive Oakland Museum of California
If culture is more your speed then make sure you pay a visit to the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). Here, visitors can explore galleries featuring works by local artists as well as educational exhibits about natural history, science, art, and more.
OMCA also offers hands-on activities such as art classes or interactive demonstrations that will keep kids entertained for hours!
On Fridays nights from 5 PM to 9 PM, join in for a food truck frenzy, live music, and an all-around good time as the OMCA offers after-hours gallery access.
5. Visit the Jack London Sites
An intriguing thing to do in Oakland is to visit the Jack London sites. Jack London is a famous American novelist responsible for White Fang and Call of the Wild. He spent a significant amount of time in Oakland. Visit a place he loved, the Jack London Cabin, or see the young Jack London bronze statue sitting along the picturesque waterfront.
Be sure to take in the photo-ops along the way through Jack London Square, a well-liked part of town, and have drinks at Jack’s favorite bar, Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, a National Literary Landmark.
6. Stay at the Waterfront Hotel
For those looking for luxurious accommodations during their stay in Oakland, look no further than the gorgeous Waterfront Hotel. This boutique hotel offers stunning views of San Francisco Bay, as well as stylish nautical-themed rooms equipped with all modern amenities. Plus, there are plenty of entertainment options nearby including restaurants, bars, shopping malls, theaters – even an aquarium!
I was a sucker for the waterfront pool, a great place to relax and spend some time at, and the inviting lobby with a copper fireplace and intimate seating areas. Don’t miss the sunset view from this location.
7. Take Oakland A’s Elephant Mascot Selfies
Oakland’s fun-loving elephant statues celebrate 50 years of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. See “Stomper in the Town,”, 50 artfully painted and designed statues around town that you can take adorable selfies with.
Learn more about the artists and meaning behind the sculptures in the Stomper in the Town art bios. I loved this unique thing to do in Oakland, but since you are here, you might as well catch an Oakland A’s (Athletics) baseball game over at 7000 Coliseum Way.
8. Get Your Mexican Fix at Doña
Ah, Mexican food never tasted as good as it does from Doña, a cool Oakland eatery with a highly sought after bougainvillea-lined patio, partially covered and heated.
If you go for lunch, Chiles Rellenos is an excellent choice, with guacamole & salsa to kick things off. Try the Mezcal tastings or delicious margaritas. Save room for cinnamon-sugar churros.
Reservations are not accepted.
9. Entertain the Kids
There are many fun things to do in Oakland that kids will eagerly approve of. If you haven’t heard of or made it to Children’s Fairyland, I encourage you to do so. After all, this park inspired Walt Disney, himself. Kids can enjoy some amusement rides and the 40 storybook sets that are geared toward ages eight and under.
At the Chabot Space & Science Center, kids can experience hands-on learning exhibits, a planetarium show, or even slumber under the stars in a museum overnight.
Experience the great outdoors in a pedal boat on majestic Lake Merritt, or rent a canoe, kayak, or rowboat.
10. Follow the Jack London Trail
Last but not least is Jack London Square – one of Oakland’s most popular attractions. Located on the waterfront near downtown Oakland, you’ll find an arsenal of fun at this famous address.
Check out the cafes and restaurants overlooking the bay where you can enjoy a tasty meal while watching boats pass by, live music performances, yoga classes, boutiques, and kayak rentals. Jack London Square even has its own farmers market open every Sunday morning.
11. Indulge in Southern BBQ
I wouldn’t have believed I would find southern BBQ on the West Coast, but here I was at Everett & Jones Barbeque on Broadway chowing down on an amazing assortment of Mississippi or Alabama-inspired side dishes and hearty offerings of sauced up meats. It was scrumptious!
Chose from smoked chicken, beef brisket, sausage links, and pork ribs. Like the BBQ sauce? You can order it online. For me, the collards, macaroni salad, and cornbread muffins made me feel like I was dining back in Jackson, MS, or Charlotte, NC. That’s a high compliment.
Save room for some “Sock it To Me” cake. Everett & Jones is closed on Tuesdays.
No matter what type of activity you’re looking for—whether it’s learning about local culture or sampling delicious cuisine—you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Oakland California. So come explore what makes Oakland so special today!
Thanks to Visit California, Visit Oakland, and IPW19 for hosting my travels. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.