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8 Fun Things to Do in Oakland, CA

8 Fun Things to Do in Oakland, CA

Oakland is a fun-filled city on the Northwestern coast of California, only a short ferry ride from San Francisco. When I visited, I was impressed with the high level of tasty food, local shopping, fantastic cultural opportunities, and unique attractions offered in this city with many facets. From restored Victorian architecture to art-deco theaters, high-end galleries to boisterous bars, Oakland is a treasure trove of awesome things to do. Here are 8 fun things to do in Oakland, California, whether you have a day or just a few hours. 

things to do in oakland california beautiful flowers

1. Have a Beer Tasting at Drake’s Dealership

Drake’s Dealership is a relaxed restaurant and taproom with indoor and outdoor space, a killer menu, and dynamic beer scene. Drake’s had initially been an auto shop, which adds to the unique look and setting. Try a flight with 1500 Pale Ale, Black Robusto, and Hefeweizen, and add a sensational wood-fired pizza topped with creative ingredient combinations.

Chef David Tu Joined, a contestant on season 15 of Bravo’s Top Chef and James Beard award nominee, oversees the restaurant’s menus. Dogs are welcome though they must remain leashed on the patio.

beer drake's dealership
Photo by Alina Gheorghiescu of Familia Hai Hui.
beer tasting drake's dealership
Photo by Alina Gheorghiescu of Familia Hai Hui.

2. Visit the Oakland Zoo

It’s always a great option to visit the local zoo, and the Oakland Zoo is no exception. With a wide range of animals (750 native and exotic) and fun gondola ride, the opportunities to learn more about our animal planet have never been so enjoyable. Be sure to see the gray wolf pups and the white-handed gibbon couple, so stinking cute. Other animals to see at the Oakland Zoo include bison, alligators, African elephants, and grizzly bears. The butterfly gardens are favored, too. 

Oakland california zoo funicular ride
oakland zoo cheetah and bear

3. Chow Down on a Food Tour

Join Lauren, the owner of Local Food Adventures, on a walking tour of Oakland with delicious stops at several restaurants. You can start this tour from here (Oakland) or in even in San Francisco, which brings you by ferry over to Oakland as part of the journey. From pizza to down-home barbecue, donuts to craft beer, your taste buds will be in heaven with the tasty bites. Local Food Adventures also includes some history along the way and photo-ops. Lauren was a great guide and delivered historical info and local lore excitingly. Wear stretch pants!

Oakland california walking tour
local food adventures tour Oakland California

4. Tour a Progressive Museum

At the Oakland Museum of California, you’ll be privy to museum exhibits (art, history, and sciences) that touch on the often censored issues in our country such as bullying and discrimination. Fear not, as the museum has a fantastic way to display and deliver information, and to showcase the sometimes sensitive subjects, such as the Queer California: Untold Stories exhibition running this summer, which had materials for all ages.

oakland museum of california temporary exhibits

On Fridays nights at OMCA (Oakland Museum of California), join in for a food truck frenzy, live music, and an all-around good time as the museum offers after-hours gallery access. 

oakland museum of california exhibits
food truck frenzy at museum of California

5. Follow the Jack London Trail

An intriguing thing to do in Oakland, California 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.

jack London statue in the Oakland harbor
jack London square Oakland

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6. Stay at the Waterfront Hotel 

Oakland, California has so much to see and do; you may as well make a weekend out of your visit. The Waterfront Hotel is an excellent choice for your Oakland accommodations, with stylish nautical-themed rooms, comfy beds, and a gorgeous waterfront pool. From the Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square (West Oakland), you’ll have the best views of California’s stunning sunsets. Pay close attention to the beautiful lobby, adorned with a copper fireplace and intimate seating areas. 

waterfront hotel Oakland california jack London square pool
waterfront hotel Oakland california jack London square

7. Take Elephant Selfies

Known as “Stomper in the Town,” these fun-loving elephant statues celebrate 50 years of the Oakland Athletics baseball team going strong in the community. All in all, 50 statues were created and displayed in everything from the team uniform to “art is life” clothing. 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, California. 

Learn more about Visit Oakland (the tourism department) with the link. 

oakland california elephant selfies

8. Get Your Mexican Fix

Ah, Mexican food never tasted as good as it does from Doña, a cool Oakland eatery with a highly sought after bougainvillea-lined patio. Try the Mezcal tastings or delicious margaritas. If you go for lunch, Chiles Rellenos is an excellent choice, with guacamole & salsa to kick things off. A brunch menu is available from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM on the weekend, with menu items like Huevos Benedictinos and Carnitas Hash. 


Awesome Oakland: A California Must-See

Though I only spent 24 hours in Oakland, it is a city I’d like to return to and learn more about. I recommend arriving from San Fran via ferry because it is a scenic ride and wonderful way to start your journey. These 8 things to do in Oakland should get you started on a memorable (and yummy) trip. 

things to do oakland California after ipw19
Oakland california harbor

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fun things to do in oaklandca
fun things to do in oakland California pin

Thanks to Visit California, Visit Oakland, and IPW19 for hosting my travels. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased. 

Read more about California with these posts: 

How to Spend 24 Hours at Buena Park

Tips for the Hornblower Champagne Brunch Cruise

Driving California’s Pacific Coast Highway 

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Linda (LD Holland)

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

We have been to San Francisco many times. But have never spent time in Oakland. We are heading that way in December again. So now I have some new things to see. Hubby would definitely want to try beer tasting at Drake’s Dealership. The Jack London Trail certainly sounds like an interesting thing to do. But I would be lining up to take an elephant selfie!

Melody Pittman

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

LOL Those elephants were too cool. Oakland was a fun time and Drake's was very high on my list of things I loved. Have a marvelous time!

Adonis Villanueva

Monday 9th of September 2019

I've been to Oakland several times back when it was a bit seedier than it is now. Gentrification has definitely transformed this SF neighbor! The Jack Landon trail is a classic, I've been there a couple times as well. Dona Tomas has great food - can't argue there!

Melody Pittman

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

Awesome! I'm so glad you've been. I've gotten several private messages from people who didn't know Oakland had stepped up its game. That is good to know. ;) Thanks for reading.


Sunday 8th of September 2019

Great post Melody. I actually think Oakland is a hidden gem. We did a housesit in Oakland a few years ago and were so surprised at how much there is to do. We missed the zoo and now I really regret missing the museum as well. I guess another trip to Oakland is needed soon. The proximity to San Francisco is a great plus as well.

Melody Pittman

Monday 9th of September 2019

Awesome! I'm so glad you are familiar. I love how you can just zip over to San Fran and Alameda in minutes. ;) Thanks so much for reading. The zoo was very nice and we loved the funicular.

Chris Bloomfield

Sunday 8th of September 2019

I love the first picture, with the Birds of Paradise flowers! We haven't explored Oakland yet and this article will be helpful when we visit next spring. The Jack London trail looks cool. I like that is goes down by the ships. For only visiting one day, you certainly packed a lot in!

Melody Pittman

Monday 9th of September 2019

Thanks! Such is the life of a travel blogger. LOL Safe travels!


Sunday 8th of September 2019

Aaah, I did not know that a place like this existed only a short ferry ride away from San Francisco. When I visited a few years ago, I had some time on hand to explore, would have loved to make it to Oakland. I am not a beer drinker, nor a fan of zoos but I would have loved to try the food tour. Also, a waterfront hotel would have been the perfect choice for me. Elephant selfies? Hell yeah!

Melody Pittman

Monday 9th of September 2019

LOL Great! I love learning about new places like this. Thanks so much for reading. ;)

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