Though it’s only 7 minutes away from Embarcadero, Oakland offers a totally different set of opportunities and exciting experiences from those of San Francisco proper. Oakland can be best described as artsy, trendy, and diverse, and these 9 hidden treasures embody just that.
Inside the Japanese Garden of Lake Merritt, there’s a separate Bonsai Garden curated by the first non-Japanese bonsai master, Kathy Shaner. This permanent collection displays over 50 bonsai and stones. Some of these trees and stones are historically significant, such as the daimyo oak given to Abraham Lincoln by an envoy and a Japanese black pine brought to the West Coast over a century ago. Catch the Autumn Lights Festival this fall where the garden will be lit up with flowing blue lights, lanterns, and glowing honey bees.
Further past the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, there’s another public park on the tip of the Port of Oakland along 7th Street. Port View Park, or “the park at the end of the world,” has a port history museum, a path to the most western part of Oakland, and a quiet peacefulness to escape the city. Take a stroll to clear your head or to see one of the most interesting views in Oakland.
The Best Korean BBQ in San Francisco
Some of San Francisco’s best Korean BBQ can be found in Oakland. Bowl’d BBQ grills your protein on stone tablets and mixes it in for build-your-own rice bowls. Gogi Time has a $25 all-you-can-eat option where you can choose your own banchan (side platters) or even make a Korean BBQ “taco platter” with tortillas. Ohgane offers a high-quality, full Korean menu with BBQ, rice bowls, stews, and appetizers. It’s guaranteed that your Korean food cravings will be fully satisfied in Oakland.
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Every Saturday, year-round, rain or shine, Oakland’s Grand Lake Farmers Market features over 40 local farmers, 30 specialty food stalls, and several artisanal goods from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Named the best farmers market in the East Bay, this one isn’t a hidden treasure, but it’s one worth checking out and seeing how Oakland residents pick out their fresh produce and eat good food.
In the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, there are 2 labyrinths outlined with volcanic rock, preserving the mysteries of the universe right outside Oakland. Follow the Round Top Loop Trail to the Quarry Pit to find one large spiral maze, a pile of offerings and trinkets left by visitors, and a smaller heart-shaped labyrinth.
Though this Oakland classic reopened recently with new owners, their menu — specializing in wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastries, and delicious cocktails — is just as fantastic. You’ll definitely impress your date if you bring them here for dinner and a view on the outdoor patio. Walk to the Grand Lake Theatre nearby for a show too.
Head to the Oakland Museum of California on Fridays from 5 to 10 p.m. Not only is the gallery admission half-price, but there is also a DJ or a live band, handcrafted works by local artisans, hands-on art workshops, and rotating Off The Grid food trucks. You’ll cover everything from culture — the museum’s science and history lessons — to amazing food — Jamaican, Korean fusion, dessert. If you’re gathering up a big group, you can even reserve a picnic table or the Blue Oak café.
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Some #MuseumMusings for your Thursday: Bay Area artist and curator Susan O’Malley (1976–2015) asked people of all ages in Oakland and Berkeley, “what advice would your 80 year old self give you?” (Comment your advice ⬇️) – Susan O’Malley, “Advice From My 80-Year-Old-Self” series, 2014. Collection of Oakland Museum of California.
Named one of the top 25 must-try Chinese Restaurants in America, Shan Dong Restaurant is bound to impress you with their hand-pulled wheat noodles. You can get them mixed with spicy sesame paste, or pan-fried as chow mein, or topped with a spicy meat sauce — the choice is yours. You also won’t be disappointed by their salty, crisp Shandong beef.
Since 2006, Oakland Art Murmur has hosted an evening art walk every first Friday of the month. Over 50 art galleries contribute to this public open house and street festival to educate OAM-goers on creative expression, contemporary art, and different styles of art. You can walk along Telegraph Avenue between Grand and 27th Streets from 6 to 9 p.m. or receive a guided tour.