As Better Booch found its way up north at Whole Foods Markets in NorCal, late this summer, we knew we wanted to learn more about the bright side of the Bay from our new neighbors. Enter Jena Dominique and Selena Davant, Oakland locals and creative partners at Made In Color. The innovative duo have crafted the perfect Guide to Oakland that’s like a digital vacation you can take without ever leaving your living room.
The Golden State Warriors or the Black Panther Party. Maybe, MC Hammer or Pixar Studios. How about Fenton’s Creamery that was featured in the movie, Up?
There are so many reasons why Oakland is both special and unique.
What you will find in this city is a one-of-a-kind energy that’s discreet, yet so electric. There’s something about this place that converts people from tourists to residents. From the culturally rich community to the yummy eateries and rooted history,
Oakland has something for everyone.
Some of the major ingredients that make Oakland a uniquely special place are the people, colorful vibes, and culture.
As one of the most diverse cities in the United States, Oakland is a place where natives and newcomers alike bring their creativity and wildest dreams to life. The city of Oakland not only sets trends, but continues to influence global culture and history.
We hope that all of the magic we share in this Guide to Oakland will inspire you to check Oakland out. If you’re an adventurer, outdoor lover, or even an entrepreneur, Oakland has been designed for you. Pull up!
There are so many things we love about the city, so we made a list of our top favorite things about Oakland:
- The afternoon gatherings of friends at Lake Merritt, stimulating conversations and laughter.
- The tight-knit and thriving local business community.
- The freedom of expression and creativity.
- The variety of restaurants, bars, and eateries.
- The plethora of hiking trails with beautiful views, immediately submerging you into a field of eucalyptus or Redwood trees.
- The hyphy music and dance moves.
- Meeting newcomers and learning about their journey to the Bay Area.
- Walking around downtown Oakland and running into a friend.
- The balanced lifestyle – it’s not too busy or too quiet.
Some of Oakland’s best boutiques can also be shopped online.
Three of our favorite Oakland boutiques are Maker’s Loft, McMullen, and Blk Girl Green House.
Maker’s Loft is the perfect destination to shop for the Oakland craft community. The owners, Rachelle and Xela, curate a wonderful selection of products and events by local makers and independent brands.
At McMullen, you’ll immediately be swept into a world of high-end, luxury fashion. Curated by Sherri McMullen, this is your go-to boutique for luxury womenswear from emerging and established, international designers.
Blk Girl Green House is a beautiful space for plant lovers and creative spirits. Co-founded by a boss lady who also happens to be one of our great friends, Kalu, and her business partner J’Maica, this open-air plant nursery and specialty home goods shop is full of joy, freedom, and all-around good vibes.
Looking for good coffee in Oakland? Look here.
Julie’s Cafe is located in one of the coolest districts in Oakland called Temescal. This coffee shop is special for two reasons: their outdoor patio, which has that WOW effect once you wander upon it and their delicious Rooibos Chai Latte.
Also in Temescal is The Well, an organic kitchen and retail shop for delicious food and teas. Upon arriving, you’ll be welcomed with the warmest vibes, Mochi cupcakes, and a nice selection of vegan food. Everything is so tasty!
The best coffee award goes to Red Bay Coffee, a locally roasted coffee in the Fruitvale district, owned by Oakland natives. Keba Konte, CEO and co-owner, is one of the most thoughtful entrepreneurs we know in the Bay Area. Everything that he has done is intentional. You can visit the roastery to learn more about the history of coffee making or to simply kick it around good vibes and original art.
Bonus: You can also grab the creamiest Japanese Chai Latte at Cafe M in Berkeley!
The best spots in Oakland to get pizza, acai bowls, vegan options, and more…
The culinary scene here is expansive and our guide to Oakland could go on-and-on about some of our favorite eateries, but we’ve cherry picked a few of our absolute favorites. We love Arizmendi Bakery and The Star on Grand for pizza. We’d choose a custom sandwich and salad from Ratto’s Deli and Market any day of the week. We’re hitting up Rush Bowls for smoothies and acai bowls. Grandeur has a great selection of halal and vegan options that are to die for. Don’t forget to try their sauces that are all made in house! If you love tequila, tapas, and spacious patio vibes, Nido’s Backyard is exactly where you want to be.
No guide to Oakland is complete until we know the best spots to grab a cocktail.
Oeste has all of the vibes for young professionals, especially on Friday nights (pre-COVID) when they have a pop-up DJ playing all of the hits! The rooftop offers sunset views. The food menu is delicious and fairly priced. Some of our favorite things to order are the anchovy fried olives, fried Brussels sprouts, and a Matcha Verde.
North Light Bar can easily be missed on the busy block of eateries, boutiques, and the like. It must be said that if you miss it, you will regret it. From brunch on weekends to “thick ass toast” served all day long, North Light has an atmosphere to accommodate any mood. Bring your laptop and work, grab a book from their curated shelves, or grab a cocktail with a friend. We highly advise to grab a seat on their outdoor patio. It’s a vibe.
If date night is on the table, we’re definitely grabbing drinks for two at Bardo, a swanky, upscale restaurant near Lake Merritt. The perfectly curated decor, fresh and seasonal menu, and craft cocktails make this supperclub a true delight.
If we weren’t working from home, where would be a good spot in Oakland to cowork?
Working from home, (or anywhere really) is a 2020 trend that’s here to stay. That being said, in addition to letting you know where we play, we want you to know where we work. 1528 Webster is a coworking space for startups, agencies, and freelancers. They offer the perfect combination of chilled vibes and an innovative atmosphere.
Farley’s East is where the cool kids go to work or meet clients and friends alongside a tasty coffee or good sandwich. The outdoor seating area is a nice spot to hang out and catch some great sunlight. Farley’s East has a productive and enjoyable atmosphere.
Other great coworking spaces include Impact Hub, The Port Workspaces, and At My Sphere.
If you love a good farmers market, Oakland has you covered
Oakland’s various districts, or neighborhoods, offer farmers markets almost every day of the week. We’ve picked our top two. The Urban Village Old Oakland Market on Fridays from 7 AM–2 PM is a great place to shop from local farmers and craftsmen.
You’ll find a decadent selection of fruits, veggies, honey, plants, and nuts. This is also a great place to come for lunch as there are a select number of food vendors on site, too.
If you’re looking for the place to be on Saturday mornings that doubles as a farmers market, look no further than the Grand Lake Farmers Market. Here, you’ll find everything from beautiful flowers to live music. If you’re hungry, you must stop by Tru Gourmet for the most delicious dim sum in the Bay.
Take a hike! (on some of Oakland’s best hiking trails)
The Bay Area offers so many options for wellness enthusiasts and outdoor goers alike.
When it comes to wellness, running along Alameda Beach or Lake Merritt are good places to start. Each are approximately 3 miles in distance and offer space to walk, run, or get a quick stretch in. Alameda Beach offers a gentle breeze and expansive views of San Francisco in the distance. Lake Merritt has a couple of added bonuses, the first being the Cascades, a set of stairs used for cardio and strength training. Or visit The Gardens at Lake Merritt, a seven-acre collection of themed gardens – it’s just like paradise.
Two of our favorite trails, just a few minutes outside of Oakland, are Wildcat Gorge, Meadows Canyon, and Curran Trail, a 3.3mi loop with great views, close to Lake Anza and fresh air; and Claremont Fire Trail, a 2.3mi loop with steep hills and panoramic views of the entire Bay.
How to find Oakland’s hidden gems, like a local
The history and culture of Oakland are some of the main reasons why people visit. You may arrive and ask yourself, “so where is it!?” That’s because it’s nondescript and has to be sought after. We suggest starting with a walk of downtown Oakland to encounter the murals and public art that sprawl across the sides of buildings and sidewalks first.
You’ll find sculptures of historic figures, powerful quotes, and cultural relics all around you.
You’ll want to be in town for the first Friday of the month so that you can attend First Fridays downtown Oakland. Oakland First Fridays doubles as an immersive art and community experience, where local businesses spill into the streets and galleries open their doors for a little longer. From 5 PM–9 PM street artists, musicians, dancers, and creatives reclaim the city for self-expression, exchange, and community.
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is a favored destination for art and culture not just on first Friday, but every Friday of the month. OMCA remains open until 9 PM for after-hour gallery access, live music sets, dancing, and a rotating list of Off the Grid food trucks.
Part 2 Gallery also needs to be included in our guide to Oakland. Since reopening in March 2018, Part 2 has exhibited works from Basil Kincaid, Yetunde Olagbaju, and Lenworth “Joonbug” McIntosh, to name a few. In addition to constantly showing work from local artists, Part 2 constantly pushes the boundaries of access to contemporary art.
We hope that our Guide to Oakland brings you a vision, in full color, of what it’s like to live and be in Oakland.