Secret staircases, telephone gnomes, and off-the-beaten path eateries make this East Bay city a worthy getaway

Move over San Francisco, you’ve got some competition on the other side of the bay—where locals say the view is better anyway. Sunnier, more down-to-earth Oakland may not have the prestige of the big SF, but what it lacks in fame it makes up for in local flair. People from many cultures have left the Big City for its cheaper sibling, so Oakland has its own colorful characters and local pride that’s just as fierce.

If you’re wondering what to do in Oakland, just follow your feet. Will they take you beneath ancient, towering redwoods, or to the teeny, tiny trees in Lake Merritt’s Bonsai Garden? Unfortunately, the giant oak trees of the city’s namesake aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they used to be, but by alternatively growing and shrinking relative to other local flora, you’ll experience what locals already know: it’s all about perspective.

Want to know what’s going on in Oakland today? Go on an urban hike through Rockridge, Temescal, and Dimond districts, where local art, street fairs, and farmers markets give travelers such as yourself a crash course in what the city has to offer: local art in the form of cute gnomes attached to telephone poles and indulgent culinary creations like homemade mac and cheese and gourmet doughnuts. But first, fuel up with ridiculous amounts of free coffee samples on the Blue Bottle Factory Tour.

Looking for quirky things to do in Oakland? They’re not hard to find. There’s something mystical here in O-Town. The Mazzariello Labyrinth up in the hills and the shiny steel statue of the Bay Bridge gremlin are proof of that.

Visit them both—and a whole host of other well-kept secrets—with our Oakland vacation packages. The Bright Side of the Bay has never looked so lovely, and neither has your piggy bank.

Frequently Asked Questions about Oakland

How did Oakland get its name?

The area that is current-day Oakland was originally claimed by the Spanish crown in the 18th century and given to Spanish residents. The city's first name was "Encinal," a Spanish word that means "oak groves," due to the abundant oak forests in the area. Eventually, Encinal became Oakland.

What food is Oakland known for?

Oakland is a city of rich diversity, and its best food dishes showcase the roots of its residents. The city is known for its sizzling barbeque joints, soul food, a resurgence of great pizzerias, and its plethora of excellent taco trucks.

Is there a toll on the Oakland Bay Bridge?

Tolls are collected only on the westbound lanes of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The cost of the toll varies from $4.00 to $6.00, depending on day and time. The higher tolls coincide with rush hour during the week. FasTrak® systems are accepted.