Being a Tourist in Your Home: 24 Hours in Oakland
Written by Minali Aggarwal
Contrary to what people who live in San Francisco and tourists who visit the Bay might believe, there’s so much to do in Oakland. While the threat of gentrification remains strong, Oakland has a unique cultural diversity that is unique to the Bay. Actually, Oakland is consistently rated one of the top 10 most diverse cities in America by the US Census. This diversity, along with its residents’ commitment to community, is truly what makes Oakland such an incredible place to live and visit. From incredible food, art, bars, coffee shops, and outdoor activities, Oakland has something to offer for every taste.
WSO was inspired to do a 24-hour tour of Oakland by Visit Oakland’s 100 Things To Do in Oakland list. We were so excited to be tourists in our home that we decided to share our itinerary and highlight our favorite spots.
After work on Friday the first thing we wanted was a hearty meal. We stopped at Champa Garden, a delicious, no-frills Laotian and Thai fusion spot near Lake Merritt. You won’t wait in long lines at Champa, but expect it to be a little crowded when you arrive. They have an extensive menu with a large selection of curries, soups, noodles, and meats, so grab a Thai beer while you wait and peruse the menu. We ordered Pad Thai and a creamy coconut-milk Yellow Curry with brown rice. You’ll be stuffed after a meal at Champa, but luckily Lake Merritt is close enough for an after-dinner walk.
CHAMPA GARDEN | 2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606
After walking around Lake Merritt and killing some time to digest all the noodles we ate, we headed over to The Cat House on Lakeshore. The Cat House is a perfect low-key and cozy spot for classy cocktails on a Friday night. We ordered the Lady Killer, which is a Mezcal-based twist on a classic Paloma. For a more full-bodied flavor, the bartender adds a house-made grapefruit syrup and a spicy chili tincture. We didn’t realize until after our trip to The Cat House, but the Lady Killer was recently featured in Oakland Magazine’s article about cocktails to try in Oakland.
THE CAT HOUSE | 3255 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610
Saturday mornings have to start with coffee. Lucky for us, Oakland has one of most vibrant coffee scenes in the country. Next to Seattle and Portland, Oakland is now ranked the third most popular city for coffee lovers. Visit Oakland provided us with so many options in every neighborhood including Red Bay Coffee in Fruitvale, Timeless in Piedmont, and Bicycle Coffee in Jack London Square. We settled on Bicycle because we heard about their CBD-infused cold brew and wanted to check it out. While CBD is all the rage in wellness right now, due to its calming and stress relieving qualities, Bicycle is actually the only cafe in Oakland that is making CBD-infused coffee. We recommend giving it a shot if you like the taste of coffee but get jittery or too caffeinated when drinking it normally.
BICYCLE COFFEE | 364 2nd St, Oakland, CA 94607
By 11am on Saturday we were finally caffeinated and ready to explore. Visit Oakland did an amazing write-up about the murals by Dragon School 99, so we headed over to Chinatown to check them out. Dragon School is a non-profit organization based in Chinatown that aims to help youth develop community ownership and unity through art. Dragon School regularly hosts mural sessions throughout Chinatown and invites a wide variety of professional artists and kids from around the East Bay to participate. In 2017, Dragon School collaborated with Oakland Art Murmur to create a mural tour in Chinatown. Starting at 8th and Madison, we followed the tour around Chinatown and tried to spot as many murals as we could find. We couldn’t believe how many times we had walked around Chinatown in the past two years without noticing the murals!
DRAGON SCHOOL | 288 11th St Ste e, Oakland, CA 94607
Walking all over Chinatown helped us work up an appetite for lunch. Since we had eaten Asian food the previous night, we decided to venture out of Chinatown in search of some tacos. Visit Oakland suggested a taco truck in Fruitvale called Tacos Sinaloa that we decided to check out. Guadalupe Bueno, an immigrant from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, founded Tacos Sinaloa in 1999. For the last 20 years, the taco truck has been a classic East Oakland destination for cheap and delicious food. Sinaloa is a coastal state of Mexico, so we expected a seafood-heavy taco selection. They have fish tacos, which were delicious, but the best taco we tried was the Carne Asada. We also loved their Agua Jamaica, or hibiscus water, which is a perfect sweet and refreshing complement to the salty and spicy tacos.
TACOS SINALOA | 2138 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606
We took our time moseying from Fruitvale up to Temescal in North Oakland. While they are well-known among locals and tourists alike, the Temescal pedestrian alleys are worth putting on this list for those who haven’t had the chance to visit yet. The alleys are tucked in the North corner of the neighborhood and are home to a few stores reminiscent of an Anthropologie catalogue. We walked through Marisa Mason Studio jewelry shop, Crimson plant store, and found ourselves at Curbside Creamery, an ice cream shop that serves a split selection of Strauss Dairy-based flavors and cashew milk-based flavors for its vegan customers. They also make ice cream sandwiches with your choice of cookies for those of you with an extra sweet tooth.
For a pre-dinner Saturday night movie, we stopped at The New Parkway Theater in Downtown Oakland. The New Parkway offers a unique movie-watching experience that feels as cozy as watching a movie at home in your living room. With mismatched, vintage couches to curl up on, you’ll have the chance to see “new releases, cult classics, and fabulous special programming.” You can also order food and drinks from the cafe located inside the theater, which offers traditional pub fare with options for vegetarians and vegans. Most of all, The New Parkway Theater is a perfect example of what we love about Oakland: it’s quirky, it’s independent, and it’s focused on community.
THE NEW PARKWAY | 474 24th St, Oakland, CA 94612