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Oakland CA
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Oakland, CA

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Ranked fifth in the New York Times’ 45 Places to Go in 2012, Oakland is gaining traction on it famous, foggy neighbor. Just six miles across the bay but a world away from San Francisco, Oakland graces its guests with about 260 sunny days a year and laid-back escapes like a 155-acre natural saltwater lake. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists Oakland’s climate as the best among U.S. cities. Visitors will find no shortage of indoor and outdoor entertainment and top restaurants in Oakland.

Lake Merritt reflects a dynamic between freshwater creeks and saltwater tidal flows from San Francisco Bay. Its calm, slightly saline waters are perfect for sailing. Designated as the United States’ first wildlife refuge in 1870, the lake features a 3.1-mile scenic trail around its perimeter. Keep on the lookout for Canada Geese, Black-crowned Night Herons and American Coots, all of which make their home here year round. Things to do with kids on this Oakland lake include a visit to Children’s Fairyland, U.S.A., the very first kid-oriented amusement park in the nation, built in 1950. Families may want to return in the evening to catch a glimpse of Lake Merritt’s wrap-around “necklace of lights.”

Two miles to the west lies Jack London Square, named after the man who penned The Call of the Wild. The downtown square boasts the author’s Klondike Cabin, relocated here from Alaska in 1970, as well as bountiful food shops and fine dining establishments such as Daniel Patterson’s Haven. Head next door after dinner to Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, a favorite hangout of London that has been serving drinks since 1883, or opt for a Sunday-morning visit when the farmers’ market is in full swing.

Oakland’s upscale Rockridge neighborhood highlights California’s bungalow architecture. The quaint tree-lined streets and understated homes create a decidedly different atmosphere for sampling Oakland’s wares and cuisine. The Italian, Mexican, Indian and Asian eateries here are among the top restaurants in Oakland and reflect the city’s diverse ethnic history.

Eclectic cultural influences are evident in the city’s many annual events, which include the Oakland Greek Festival, Germanfest, Korean and Chinese celebrations, and the Black Cowboy Parade. In addition to these family-friendly scenes, visitors will find things to do with kids at the Oakland Museum. Among the collections of fine art and exhibits of natural science and history are artifacts from the Gold Rush area and 100,000 fascinating specimens of animals, bugs, and shells.

Sports fans and music lovers find plenty of recreation around town. During football season, the Oakland Raiders hit the gridiron, while baseball season sees the Oakland A’s strive to be Major League’s best, both at the Oakland Coliseum. Basketball’s Golden State Warriors play next door at the Oracle Arena. Oakland’s vintage 1928 Fox Theatre re-opened its Art Deco doors in 2009 after a $95-million renovation. National acts like John Legend, Counting Crows and Fiona Apple have all played to crowds of adoring fans at this stunning 2,800 seat uptown venue.

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