7 Things You Should Know About Oakland, CA

When you’re not from the area, a trip to “California” sounds perfect! The beaches, the waves, the celebrities …

What you quickly realize as you begin planning your vacation is that “California” is a really big state. And what you’ll find in one area is not necessarily the same thing an hour away.

Of course, the Sunshine State has plenty of tourist traps. But if you want a taste of Cali without the mobs of people, Oakland is the way to go. From the redwoods to the history to the food, there’s always something to do or see here.

If you’re not familiar with the city, a few minutes of research will convince you it’s a place to add to your bucket list. These seven little- and well-known facts about Oakland are all reasons why it’s one of America’s best off-the-beaten-path cities.

1. It Has a Lot of “Claim to Fame”s

Los Angeles is always the first place people list when they think about “famous” cities in Cali. But Oakland has a lot of its own reasons to be included.

Multiple celebrities are tied to the “bright side of the Bay,” as Oakland is often called. One of the official spokespeople is MC Hammer, a native of the area. 

Working with Visit Oakland, a local non-profit, he helped put the city on the map. His video series spotlights important historical landmarks and current hotspots.

Beyond Hammer, you’ll see a lot of references to Bruce Lee, Tom Hanks, and Clint Eastwood, who all have ties to Oakland.

Bruce Lee’s martial arts experience wouldn’t be the same without his time fighting and teaching in Oaktown. Hanks and Eastwood attended high school here as teenagers.

If classic writers are your interest, you might recognize previous Oakland-ites Gertrude Stein and Jack London. 

And if you look closely at Disney/Pixar’s hit animated film “Up,” you’ll see an ice cream shop inspired by a real location in Oakland. The film’s directors were residents of the city and loved visiting the actual creamery when they lived here.

Who needs to push through the crowds of L.A. to see celebrities and visit movie locations? There are just as many in Oakland, but with fewer people to get in the way of your camera!

2. Lots of Things Started Here

Not too many cities can boast that they were the starting point for anything world-famous, but Oakland can.

Have you ever been at an event and gotten caught up in the crowd’s excitement as “the wave” hit the stands? Well, the first-ever “wave,” now popular in sports and concerts, got its start at the Oakland Coliseum. 

Alcohol menus wouldn’t be the same without Oakland, either. In 1944, the very first Mai Tai was mixed in one of the restaurants here. It’s now a popular drink on menus everywhere. 

One more “first” that is tied to Oakland quite possibly changed the entire world:

Walt Disney’s theme park Disneyland is said to have stemmed from his time on Lake Merritt at Children’s Fairyland. Where would we be today without Disney?

3. It’s Urban, but It’s Full of Trees

Oakland is a city, but it’s also a sprawling forest of redwoods. You can literally walk through the woods without passing the city limits.

Oakland’s Redwood Forest and other natural beauties are hidden just beyond the busy streets. Spend the day immersed in the ferns and wild vegetation of the tranquil parks. There are numerous hiking trails and places to picnic and relax.

Because this area of California is known for its hills, be prepared for a lot of elevation changes. But since it’s also close to the general population, you don’t have to worry about encountering predatory animals during your visit.

4. It’s Connected to San Francisco

Oakland’s history overlaps substantially with San Francisco’s, but that’s not what we mean by “connected.” In this case, it’s literally attached to San Fran via the Bay Bridge.

This is an important piece of information to know if you plan to visit the “Golden City” but don’t have a lot of “gold” to spend. Oakland is much more affordable and within driving distance to its affluent sister city.

A lot of hotels in Oakland offer shuttle service to San Fran, or you can use public transportation. With this alternative solution to your vacation plans, you can stay at a luxury hotel for the same cost as a less fancy one across the bay.

5. Oakland’s Role in Social Justice is Major

Oakland has cemented its name as a diverse melting pot full of culture, history, and eclectic shops and restaurants.

It has a history as a powerful force in resistance to oppression. Activism began here decades ago after a series of social injustices wiped out tens of thousands of people. The people in Oakland had enough, and they made sure their voices were heard. 

Many social justice organizations, like the Black Panther Party, got their start in Oakland, and the city’s activist movements stand strong today.

6. Historic Landmarks Are Everywhere

In some cities, the life of the area surrounds the landmarks. But in Oakland, you can unexpectedly run into a historical landmark almost anywhere you go.

The cemeteries in the city have culture and history hidden in them. One of the most visited sites, the Mountain View Cemetery, has what is considered to be the best view of San Francisco Bay. 

As you explore the area, you’ll see places like the California Temple, Jack London Square, and the Cathedral of Christ the Light. All of these landmarks are easily accessible to the general public.

With so many historical sites, you’ll have plenty of picture-perfect opportunities for your social media posts!

7. You Won’t Go Hungry

The variety of food in Oakland is comparable to that of much larger cities. Oakland residents swear their restaurants and diners are much tastier than neighboring San Fran’s.

In fact, Oakland is proud to have earned the title of the “West Coast’s Best Local Food Scene.” Visitors to the city should come hungry because they’re going to want to sample a dish from every restaurant they encounter.

Diversity is everywhere in Oakland, including its food scene. Home to its own Chinatown, you’ll have your fill of delicious eastern cuisine. 

Before you head out on your trip, find out which restaurants are in the area where you’re staying. It’s completely worth changing your itinerary to plan it around the food!


San Francisco gets much more attention, but Oakland has become a popular destination city in its own right. People who want the conveniences of big-city living without the large crowds find that Oakland is just the right size.

You won’t go hungry, and you won’t be bored when you visit, so be sure to add a trip to Oakland to your bucket list!

[Author Bio]

Angus Flynn is the business manager for Broadstone Axis. With over five years of experience in the multifamily industry, he is one of the most dedicated managers in his field. He loves to help others and takes great pride in working in a community so many love to call home.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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