This post originally appeared on HaveHeart Magazine.
I’ve lived in San Francisco for over two years, and I have ventured into Oakland literally a handful of times. I’ve always been of the mindset that all the action is in the city, and the East Bay is SF’s less interesting cousin. But after traipsing around Oakland on a sunny Saturday, my mind is officially changed!
I love food, but on days when I’m out exploring I usually just grab something quick to go for breakfast. Well, folks, not this day. Instead, head over to Beauty’s Bagel Shop right by the MacArthur BART station for some wood fired bagels. They’re not as large as NYC bagels, so you won’t feel overstuffed afterwards, and there are some pretty impressive options. I went with a basic salt and pepper bagel with cream cheese, but spiced things up with some creamy beet coleslaw. It was the perfect amount for the big day ahead.
After breakfast, you’re going to take a morning/afternoon hike in Mountain View Cemetery. There are spooky slash interesting mausoleums (A pyramid? Word.) and the view from further up is spectacular. You not only see downtown Oaktown but a lovely SF in the distance. Even on a gloomy day, though, this is a must-see, and a great spot to wander around or just sit and ponder.
Oakland has some pretty cool shops to check out, and as you exit the cemetery be sure to enjoy the ones Piedmont Avenue. There were some fun boutiques, but the best store? Issues, a shop that has magazines on practically any topic known to man. Seriously. I could have spent the entire day in there. Aside from oodles of issues (I personally glued myself to the travel mags section), there’s lots of local and unique stationery and some interesting books.
Another great stop closeby is 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. Whether or not you normally purchase records yourself, it’s a well-organized store with lots to offer. And who doesn’t enjoy flipping through images of the music they listened to during their angsty years? I ended up purchasing the new TacocaT album, but almost as good as that is the old-school photobooth in the center of the store. I have a fierce love for photobooths, and this is a classic film one that only costs $3.
Now it’s time to check out the city center. Stop by Awaken Cafe for a small snack or drink–I’m a fan of their hot chocolate, and their house salad is crazy fresh. You can relax a little in the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, or if you’d like to be up on your feet you can take a walk around the beautiful Lake Merritt.
Also be sure to head on over to Oaklandish and check out some of the wonderfully weird items they have for sale. Maybe your East Bay feels run deep, or maybe it’s a new flame, but you’ll have many t-shirt options to choose from to profess your Oakland love. If you aren’t feeling quite ready to commit, they also have some shirts with fun California designs.
Okay, it’s about time for a drink, so head over to Make Westing. Aside from happy hour every single day from 4pm when they open to 6pm, the cocktails are insane. The Williamsburg Lemonade almost had me weeping, and the French Muse could have only been better if it were bottomless. They also serve beer and wine, if craft cocktails aren’t your thing. Oh, and did I mention there’s bocce ball?
After a couple of drinks, it’s time for a hearty dinner. Homeroom specializes in macaroni and cheese, but this is no Kraft or Velveeta. This mac means business. It was a hard decision since I wanted practically everything on the menu, but I ended up getting the Gilroy Garlic, and it was heaven. This place is perfect for basically anyone–there’s vegan mac, there are add-ons like chicken, bacon, or peas, and the menu was clearly designed by someone almost as much into cheese as I am.
Your last Oaktown stop is Beer Revolution. Not only was I impressed by how many beers they offer, but I was blown away by how kind and knowledgeable the bartenders were. I tried some delicious IPAs, but there’s a beer in there for everyone. All you have to do is speak with someone behind the counter, let them know what you like, and they’ll hook you up with a few different ones to try that they think you’d enjoy. Also take a gander at their sale section, where you might be able to snatch up some cool beer or even pint glasses on the cheap.
I can confidently say I’ll be back in the East Bay as soon as possible, and I hope you enjoy your Oakland adventure as much as I did!”