Oakland, California, is a fun weekend destination where you can spend your morning at a museum, the afternoon admiring majestic redwoods, followed by a great meal at one of the restaurants, and an evening at the theater. The city is home to beautiful parks and diverse activities and unique attractions such as Chabot Space & Science Center where you can look at the stars through a telescope.
Best things to do in Oakland with kids include the Oakland Zoo which houses rare animals, and the USS Potomac where you can learn about the life of the 32nd President of the United States.
1. Chabot Space and Science Center
© Courtesy of Chabot Space and Science Center
Chabot Space & Science Center is one of the best educational centers in the U.S. and one of the top Oakland attractions, where visitors learn about the Universe and our planet. Originally founded in 1883 as an observatory, and named after the benefactor of the original observatory, Anthony Chabot, today the center offers an array of innovative exhibits and displays that explore life on earth and in the universe around us.
Surrounded by a beautiful forest of redwood trees in the hills above Oakland, Chabot offers scholars, students, visitors and amateur astronomers a range of interactive programs, activity-filled classes, hands-on workshops and special events, as well as a Space and Science Camp for enthusiastic learners. The center boasts three magnificent telescopes, namely Nellie, Rachel and Leah that are open to the public and allow visitors to experience the wonder of the distant stars, planets and comets that make up the universe around us.
10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, California 94619, Phone: 510-336-7300
2. Lake Merritt
© Courtesy of Crin - Fotolia.com
Home to the first official and oldest designated wildlife refuge in the United States, Lake Merritt is a large tidal lagoon surrounded by lush green parkland and urban city neighborhoods in the center of Oakland. Featuring several artificial islands, which are home to a variety of bird species, the heart-shaped lake in the center of the city has 3.4 miles of grassy-lined shoreline, along which wind paths and walkways ideal for walking, hiking and running.
If you are wondering what to do in Oakland CA with kids, this is a great place to visit. The lake features a modern boating center where rowboats, canoes and sailboats can be rented and sailing classes can be enjoyed, a themed amusement park for fairy-tale fans called Children’s Fairyland and a beautiful seven-acre collection of themed gardens known as The Gardens at Lake Merritt. Established more than a half century ago, the Gardens serve as a display of outstanding horticulture and historic preservation and provide a variety of enriching public programs.
3. Morcom Rose Garden
© Morcom Rose Garden
The Morcom Rose Garden is a beautifully manicured garden featuring intricate paths and walkways, a reflecting pool, cascading fountain and thousands of roses. Named after Mayor Frank Morcom, who planted the first rose in 1933, the garden has been a sanctuary of peace and tranquility, as well as a beautiful venue for special occasions such as weddings.
The Morcom Rose Garden is one of the best romantic things to do in Oakland. The roses are tended by a group of volunteers called the ‘Dedicated Deadheaders,' who care for the garden and help to keep it in pristine condition.
700 Jean Street, Oakland, California 94610, Phone: 510-238-3187
4. Things to Do in Oakland: Edible Excursions
© Edible Excursions
Uncover Oakland one bite at a time with a fun-filled foodie tour with Edible Excursions. Offering unique and intimate culinary strolls through some of San Francisco’s most famous districts, Edible Excursions is an award-winning food tour company that aims to educate visitors about the city’s fabulous foodie scene. Led by founder Lisa Rogovin and a team of expert epicurean guides, tours range from exploring the famous Ferry Building Marketplace, followed by a trip to the infamous Alcatraz, to a wander through the the historic district of Japantown and joining the fray in downtown's craft cocktail bar scene.
For gourmands and food aficionados, a tour of North Berkeley’s iconic Gourmet Ghetto is a must, as well as a walk through Uptown Oakland's theatre and arts-oriented neighborhood with a visit to Temescal. Tours include meeting the owners and artisans of well-known establishments en route, along with tastings of their delicious fare. Private tours for corporate functions and special events can also be arranged, as well as team-building activities.
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5. Fox Theater
© Fox Theater
Designed with an intriguing and mystical resemblance to an Indian temple, the Fox Oakland Theatre is one of downtown Oakland’s most fascinating attractions. Located on Telegraph Avenue, the former movie theater-turned-concert hall presented films through 1970, until it fell into disrepair and was closed for nearly 40 years.
After receiving a welcome grant, restoration work began on the theater and the newly renovated theater was opened again in 2009. Today, the 2,800-seat concert hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the Oakland School for the Arts. If you are looking for romantic date night ideas in Oakland, the Fox Oakland Theatre is a great place to visit. This prominent live concert venue hosts performances by notable artists, including Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Kylie Minogue, Alice in Chains and B.B. King.
1807 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612, Phone: 510-302-2250
6. Oakland Museum of California
© Rue Flaherty/Oakland Museum of California
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is dedicated to ‘telling the story of California’. Established in the mid-1960s with the aim of inspiring all Californians to create a better future for themselves and their communities, the museum showcases nearly two million objects dedicated to the natural science, art and history of California. Situated in downtown Oakland, close to Lake Merritt, the museum has an array of exhibits, displays and programs featuring historical artifacts, natural specimens, ethnographic objects and photographs that explore the factors that shaped the state of California into what it is today.
Explore magnificent natural landscapes, unique cultures, and the rich history of migration that is an important part of California’s heritage.
1000 Oak St, Oakland, California 94607, Phone: 510-318-8400
7. Bellanico Restaurant and Wine Bar
Located in the Glenview district of Oakland and sister to the ever-popular Aperto in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill, Bellanico Restaurant and Wine Bar serves rustic Italian seasonal dishes made from locally sourced, sustainable and organic products.
Bellanico’s brunch, lunch and dinner menus feature Fulton Valley Poultry, natural Australian Lamb, and wild-caught fish and shrimp. Bellanico has a wine bar that offers Old World wines with an emphasis on indigenous Italian varieties. Wines are served by the glass or in various flight sizes so that they can easily be tasted and compared.
4238 Park Blvd., Oakland, California 94602, Phone: 510-336-1180
8. Oakland Zoo
© Oakland Zoo
The Oakland Zoo is a beautiful animal sanctuary in southeastern Oakland that is home to 440 animals. Covering 100 acres, the zoo features modern exhibits and natural habitats in which the animals live, as well as interactive displays and educational programs for visitors to learn about the zoo’s inhabitants.
Nationally known for its excellent elephant exhibit, where the stately giants roam freely, the zoo also features the Valley Children's Zoo, which boasts interactive play structures for children and is home to a range of unusual animals, including ring-tailed lemurs, century-old Aldabra tortoises, pot-bellied pigs, and bats. The Children’s Zoo has a modern Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room and Bug Room, which is a favorite with younger visitors.
9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, California 94605, Phone: 510-632-9525
9. Hive Oakland
© Hive Oakland
Hive Oakland is a unique mixed-use gathering place in Oakland's hip Uptown District, known for its clever specialty restaurants, holistic fitness options, and inviting co-working spaces. The local favorite dining, retail, and work space repurposes historic buildings along the district's Broadway corridor, including the former Drake's Dealership Dodge car dealer space, which has been converted into a delicious 32-tap beer garden and modern gastropub dining spot. Other dining options include Mexican restaurant Calavera, noted for its extensive mezcal and tequila lists, one of the largest and most acclaimed liquor selections of its kind in the country. Visitors can work out at the Truve wellness center or attend a wide variety of events at the Impact Hub Oakland, including events held in conjunction with the city's First Friday art and community evenings.
2335 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
10. Things to Do in Oakland: USS Potomac
© USS Potomac
Known as the “Floating White House”, the USS Potomac served as the official presidential yacht for Franklin Delano Roosevelt until 1945. The USS Potomac, now a National Historic Landmark, was opened to the public in 1995 and is only one of three presidential yachts that still exist today.
Standing as a memorial to one of America’s most influential presidents, the USS Potomac offers guided cruises to different islands in the bay, including The Bridges of the Bay, Angel Island, the Islands of the Bay, and The Bay Model. Learn about the history of San Francisco Bay and the vital role Franklin Roosevelt played in its development, as well as that of the nation as a whole.
540 Water Street, Oakland, California 94607, Phone: 510-627-1215
11. Pro Arts Gallery and COMMONS
© Pro Arts Gallery and COMMONS
Pro Arts Gallery and COMMONS is a unique multi-use art space and gallery in downtown Oakland, originally founded in 1974 as the Alameda County Neighborhood Arts Program. Since 1981, the gallery has focused on showcasing experimental works following in the tradition of the alternative arts organization movement of the 1970s. All exhibitions are created as collaborations between artists, activists, and art commoners, rejecting the traditional model of gallery curation for one emphasizing critiques and commentary on the region's social issues. Visitors can view site-specific works on display or attend a wide variety of special event programming throughout the year, including film screenings, literary events, symposia, and community debates. Culture and art-related workshops and courses are also offered throughout the year, along with open maker space time for visitors.
150 Frank H Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
12. Art and Soul Oakland
© Art and Soul Oakland
Art and Soul Oakland is an annual summer festival that celebrates local art, music, and food. Held at the Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland, the festival runs for two days and features a variety of local music artists and bands, as well as exhibitions of various visual art elements and dance.
Past festivals have seen the likes of Lisa Loeb, Toni Toni Tone, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, The Lost Prophets and Vintage Trouble, to name but a few. Food vendors offer homemade snacks, light meals, and beverages. An array of activities make the festival suitable for the whole family.
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, California 94612, Phone: 510-444-2489
13. Swans Market, Oakland, CA
© Swans Market
For more than 60 years, Swans Market was the heart of Old Oakland and its major shopping destination. After closing in 1983, the city block that housed the market stood abandoned and dilapidated until the developer EBALDC came up with an award-winning and inspired redevelopment design of the entire block. Today’s Swans Market has once more become the place where the neighborhood gathers, eats, celebrates, and shops. Swans contains 18 affordable rental apartments, market-rate condominiums, and a range of businesses. Some of Swan’s renowned residents are the innovative Mexican Cosecha Cafe, Japanese Izakaya, Rosmunde and Taylor’s Sausages, and so much more. It now has the best Bay Area food court and is not only the heart of a revived neighborhood but also a destination for foodies from all over town.
538 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607, Phone: 510-287-5353
14. Things to Do in Oakland: Grand Lake Kitchen
© Grand Lake Kitchen
Featuring locally sourced meals served in a casual space, Grand Lake Kitchen is a favorite sport for gourmet deli in Oakland, CA.
Perched right at the tip of Lake Merritt, the dog-friendly friendly neighborhood deli is a very convenient spot for those who are looking for breakfast, a good sandwich, or to pick up some goodies to go.
576 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, Phone: 510-922-9582
15. Rockridge Neighborhood Heritage & Walking Food Tour
© Rockridge Neighborhood Heritage & Walking Food Tour
The Rockridge Neighborhood Heritage & Walking Food Tour is a three-hour guided tour that covers one and a half miles and stops at six Rockridge eateries. Visitors learn about the food culture, the architecture, and the history of the European-inspired area as they walk through the area and taste the samples.
Established in 2014 by Lauren Herpich, the company offers both public tours as well as private tours. Some of the food you can sample during the walking tour includes French pastries, Italian delicacies, dishes prepared by a local butcher, local and international cheeses, Chicago-style pizza, and ice cream.
3527 Mt. Diablo Boulevard #430, Lafayette, California 94549, Phone: 510-604-6546
16. Things to Do in Oakland: Esqueleto
Esqueleto is a hip boutique opened in 2011 by popular New York City jewelry designer Lauren Wolf, offering two locations in downtown Oakland and in Los Angeles' Echo Park. The store strives to showcase the unique works of trendy independent jewelers and artists throughout the United States, many of whom are personal friends of the store's owners and employees. All of the store's staff are artists, carefully selecting merchandise according to their own artistic eye based on what they would wear and display in their own homes. In-house custom design services are offered by the store, along with personalizations of designs sold by artists.
482A 49th St Suite A, Oakland, CA 94609, Phone: 510-629-6216
17. The Terrace Room
© The Terrace Room
The Terrace Room is one of Oakland's best-kept dinner secrets, housed within the gorgeous 1927 Lake Merritt Hotel building in a space originally opened in 1934 as the Cascade Terrace restaurant. Throughout the 20th century, the historic venue became known as one of Oakland's trendiest nightlife destinations, attracting major celebrities to listen to broadcasts of its live KLX radio shows and dance to performances by big band artists such as Count Basie. Today, the Art Deco-style supper club offers some of the city's most beautiful lakefront views and serves up reinvented American classics prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. Delicious land and sea fare served up at dinner ranges from gourmet fare such as petit filet mignon and health-conscious options such as Impossible burgers to Cajun-inspired options such as blackened catfish and Creole red beans and rice.
1800 Madison St, Oakland, CA 94612, Phone: 510-903-3771
Hopscotch is a charming Japanese-American-fusion diner in Uptown Oakland, originally opened in 2012 by owners Jenny Schwarz and Kyle Itani. The diner, which has been acclaimed as one of the Bay Area's top 100 dining spots by The San Francisco Chronicle, serves a seasonally-changing menu of classic American fare infused with traditional Japanese flavors and cooking techniques, highlighting favorites such as griddled beef tongue burgers with sesame aioli and buttermilk fried chicken prepared with chicory, fennel, and pomegranate. Brunch platters are served up daily during the morning and early afternoon hours, including soba biscuits and sausage gravy, pork belly Benedict with jidori eggs and yuzu-infused hollandaise, and tonkatsu sandwiches with cabbage slaw. Craft cocktails favor Japanese influences as well, with a full menu of coffee, tea, and sodas available as non-alcoholic options.
1915 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA 94612, Phone: 510-788-6217
19. East Bay Regional Park District
© Courtesy of Yuval Helfman - Fotolia.com
East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is a vast system of pristine public parks and trails covering the Alameda and Contra Costa counties on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. Spanning more than 120,000 acres, the district boasts 65 parks, some of which are wilderness areas, while others offer a variety of outdoor activities such as swimming, boating, camping and fishing.
The parks offer more than 1,200 miles (1,900 km) of trails, which link the parks together and are ideal for hiking, biking and horse riding. Within the East Bay Regional Park District is the Redwood Park, which is a tranquil, hidden redwood forest, which offers a peaceful place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, California 94605, Phone: 888-327-2757
20. Duende Restaurant & Bodega
© Duende Restaurant
A slice of Spanish heaven in the heart of Oakland, Duende is a cozy restaurant that serves authentic regional Spanish cuisine in a warm and friendly setting. Combining traditional and local influences with contemporary flair, a dynamic menu includes a variety of Spanish favorites such as Tapas and Pintxos, selections of Raciones and pans of Paella and Fideua.
Striving to capture the spirit of Duende in a glass, the bar offers an impressive cocktail program made with fresh juices, a carefully selected list of Spanish-based wines and beers, and over 20 sherry offerings served by the glass. In addition to sublime Spanish cuisine and fine wine, Duende has a specialty café and retail shop called Bodega, which can be booked for private lunches, parties, and special events, and where Duende’s collection of Spanish wines, coffee brewing gear, and delicious olive oils can be purchased.
468 19th Street, Oakland, California 94612, Phone: 510-893-0174
21. Gray Loft Gallery
© Gray Loft Gallery
Gray Loft Gallery has been acclaimed by Kenneth Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle as one of Jingletown's don't-miss spots, originally founded in 2012 on the third floor of one of Oakland's most prominent live-work warehouse spaces. The gallery space, which was named as Oakland Magazine's Reader's Choice best art gallery in 2016 and 2017, strives to provide an alternative to the traditional gallery model for artists living and working in the Bay Area, showcasing rotating exhibitions in a non-traditional art space. Works by emerging, mid-career, and established artists are presented throughout the year as an attempt to engage the Bay Area community and promote the idea that art belongs to all. More places to visit in the Bay Area
2889 Ford Street, third floor, Oakland, CA 94601, Phone: 510-499-3445
22. Things to Do in Oakland: Minimo
Minimo is one of Oakland's premiere independent wine shops. Named after the Italian word for "minimal,” it focuses on natural wines and ciders from small, independent producers. A 12-foot communal table offers space for consuming purchased wines on site, with corkage fees waived on bottles over $20. Wines by the glass are offered daily. Visitors should note that the shop's tasting area is for guests 21 and older, and that walk-in groups of more than eight will be accommodated based on seating availability. Themed wine tastings are held on certain days. Guests can also rent the shop's tasting area for private events.
420 3rd Street, Oakland, CA 94607, Phone: 510-891-1024
23. Chop Bar
© Chop Bar
Located near Oakland's Jack London Square, Chop Bar is a neighborhood favorite serving breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch and dinner. The menu features dishes made with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients from local vendors, farmers, and producers, supporting and giving back to the community where they can.
A comfortable bar serves unique custom-made cocktails using seasonal ingredients, fresh juices and a selection of craft beers and drafts, while a new wine-on-tap system offers a choice of fine wines.
190 4th St, Oakland, CA 94607, Phone: 510-834-2467
More trip ideas: Top 10 Things to Do in San Francisco & Oakland with Kids.
24. Johansson Projects
© Johansson Projects
Johansson Projects is a contemporary art gallery located in Oakland and housing a rotating array of exhibitions from local and regional aspiring artists, as well as internationally renowned creators working in a variety of mediums. The gallery is well-known for offering a truly one of a kind space for the display of visual arts and innovative exhibitions due to the unique design and architecture of the gallery itself.
Exhibitions here are typically displayed and organized in inventive, out of the box ways so as to provide visitors with unparalleled experiences that cannot be found anywhere else in the Bay Area. A true curatorial laboratory, Johansson Projects is a premier destination for curators, artists, collectors, and general art enthusiasts to appreciate, connect, reflect, and discuss great works, while also engaging with the wider art community on both a local and national level. The Johansson Projects contemporary art gallery is located at 2300 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612. The gallery is located in the Uptown neighborhood, easily accessed off I-980. If you're traveling to the gallery by public transport, there are several bus stops in the local area, only a few minutes away from the gallery entrance. Phone: 510 444 9140
TrueBurger, Oakland, California
Owned by two local Bay Area cooks, Greg Eng and Jason Low, TrueBurger is a stylish, contemporary burger bar that serves classic American burgers, fresh milkshakes and crispy fries. Made with daily ground and hand-formed pasture-raised beef without hormones or antibiotics, seasoned and seared ‘diner-style’ on a fresh bun, it’s no wonder that TrueBurger is one of the best in area.
Accompanied by piles of crispy, golden, thinly-cut fries, and freshly whipped milkshakes made with premium ice cream and unique ‘mix-ins’ such as toasted marshmallows, peanut butter, Twinkies, and Oreos, this is real American dining at its best.
146 Grand Ave., Oakland, California94612, Phone: 510-208-5678
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Attraction Spotlight: Chabot Space & Science Center
The Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California is dedicated to inspiring and educating the community about the wonders of the Universe, space, and Planet Earth. Founded as an observatory in 1883, Chabot features an array of interactive, hands-on exhibits and displays, a digital planetarium with a large screen theater, educational workshops and classes, camps, community outreach programs, and special events throughout the year.
Set in the beautiful redwood parkland in the hills above Oakland, Chabot Space & Science Center features three state-of-the-art telescopes, named ‘Leah,' ‘Rachel,' and ‘Nellie,' which are the largest of their kind on the West Coast. The telescopes are open for the public to enjoy every week to gaze at the distant stars and planets and explore the wonders of the cosmos. The Center is named after Anthony Chabot who was known as the ‘father of hydraulic mining’ and was the benefactor of the first Oakland Observatory.
The Chabot Space & Science Center features several attractions, including The Planetarium - a digital planetarium with a "full dome digital projection system" that presents daily shows, and the Tien MegaDome Theater, an IMAX-like theater with a 70-foot dome screen auditorium that also offers various shows. The Center is also home to the Challenger Learning Center, which is an immersive space mission environment where teams work together to complete a space mission, as well as plenty of evolving exhibits and displays that showcase and highlight space and science topics.
The main attraction of the Center is the three impressive observatory telescopes, named ‘Leah,' ‘Rachel,' and ‘Nellie.' The largest of their kind on the West Coast, ‘Leah’ is a refractor telescope that was built in 1883, ‘Rachel’ is refractor telescope commissioned in 1914, and ‘Nellie’ is a reflecting telescope housed in a unique rolling roof observatory. Visitors can explore the skies during the day or night on observatory tours, which include evening, day and solar viewings. Daytime viewing visitors can observe the sky through special telescopes which see the Sun, the Moon, and Venus, while the solar viewing tours feature special solar viewing aids, including Sun-watching scopes with filters, satellite images, and movies. Some exciting things to see on the Solar viewing include living solar events such as flares, prominences, sunspots, and coronal mass ejections, that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The observatory’s viewing deck also offers breathtaking views from 1,500 feet above the Bay.
The Chabot Space & Science Center is one of the leading centers for informal science education in the country and offers a variety of educational programs, classes, workshops, and camps in the fields of space, geology, chemistry, biology, environmental science, and climate change for all ages. The Center presents an array of opportunities to learn about science and space in fun and engaging ways from interactive online games such as Lunar Landing and Bill Nye’s Climate Lab and after school activities to corporate team building and summer camps.
Workshops and classes are offered for students and families alike and include the educational and engaging Tykes Explorers Workshops for children between the ages of two and five, Telescope Makers Workshops, which shows learners how to make their own telescope, and other award-winning Teacher Workshops and Seminars.
QuantumCamp is a fun-filled math and science camp for all ages of students from Grades 1 to 8 and includes hands-on, experiment-based activities that explore the fields of science and maths.
Tales of the Maya Skies is a digital show that explores the world of the ancient Maya. The show takes viewers back in time to the tropical jungle city of Chichén Itzá and explores how this ancient civilization learned to understand the world around them by developing a sophisticated understanding of science, math, and astronomy, much of which has had a distinct influence on learning today.
Chabot Space & Science Center is located at 10000 Skyline Boulevard in Oakland and is open Wednesday through Sunday at various seasonal hours. Chabot has on onsite café called Bean Sprouts that serves a family-friendly menu of healthy cuisine and drinks and offers catering for special events. The Space Café is located on the main floor of the Spees Building and followed the Center’s hours. The Center also has a retail store – the Starry Nights Gift Shop, which sells an array of souvenirs, gifts, books, toys and space-related items.
10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, California 94619, Phone: 510- 336-7373
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