Oakland, CA


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The Bay Bridge isn't the only thing that separates Oakland from its storied neighbor, San Francisco. Named the most exciting city in the U.S. by real estate blog Movoto, Oakland enjoys racial, cultural, and economic diversity, as well as a booming restaurant and bar scene, a thriving arts community, and hundreds of acres of parkland. For sports fans, we have the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland A's, and the Golden State Warriors on our turf.

Must see in Oakland
Jack London Square is a vibrant dining, retail, and entertainment district that offers exciting events on both land and water. Peruse a farmer's market or arts fair, go bowling, or rent a kayak and paddle along the waterfront.

The Oakland Museum offers a wide collection of artwork, historical artifacts, natural specimens and photographs. In addition to rotating exhibits, the museum features permanent galleries of California history and natural science.

Considered Oakland's crown jewel, Lake Merritt is one of the largest urban fresh and saltwater lakes in the United States. It's also a gathering place for locals and a great place to walk, bike, run or just admire the birds and the foliage.

Where to stay in Oakland
Jack London Square offers several hotels at reasonable rates. It also means easy access to lots of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, as well as the Ferry Terminal, which can take you to San Francisco.

Nightlife seekers should stay in downtown Oakland for dozens of bars, restaurants, the Fox Theater, and hip music clubs in walking distance.

The budget conscious can find low rates near the Oakland International Airport and Oakland Coliseum, with most attractions a short BART train ride away.

Best and worst time to go to Oakland
The best times to visit are late spring and fall, when the weather is at its sunniest and warmest. Did we mention that Oakland enjoys more than 240 sunny days a year? Visit San Francisco if you crave fog. From November through February, the Bay Area sees quite a bit of rain, which makes trekking around town a bit soggy.

Where to get lost in Oakland
Walk up and down any portion of College Avenue to explore charming shops, boutiques, and cafes. Detour off the beaten path to stroll through the Rockridge and Claremont neighborhoods, where stately homes sit next to quaint cottages.

The best deal in Oakland
One can spend most of the day at Lake Merritt without spending a dime. Enjoy the lake, the bonsai gardens, and the birds, or join the locals for dancing, yoga or capoeira. On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the nearby Grand Lake Farmer's Market offers organic produce and food trucks galore. You may want to take out your wallet here.

Transportation in Oakland
AC Transit runs throughout the city, with busses arriving every 20 minutes on average. BART can take visitors from Oakland to San Francisco and to cities east of Oakland. To get to the Oakland Hills or more residential areas, it's best to rent a car.

Getting in from Oakland International Airport
Oakland International Airport offers easy access to many part of Oakland, including downtown, through the BART system, which costs a fraction of the price of a taxi. BART also runs from San Francisco International Airport to Oakland, which is a great way to avoid the always-congested Bay Bridge commute. If staying in Jack London Square, you may want to invest in a short cab ride from the 12th Street BART to your hotel unless you want to walk several blocks.

Author's bio: Heather Johnson is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California.