Oakland Is an Underrated Bay Area Destination for Food, Culture, and Entertainment

This city should absolutely be on any Northern California travel itinerary

Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square 

For those traveling to Northern California, a word to the wise: Put Oakland on your list of places to visit. During my recent trip to the city, it was easy to see why Oakland is growing in popularity for everything from unique foodie spots to trendy nightlife, culture, sports venues, and housing. My four days in this diverse city by the San Francisco Bay were a whirlwind of activity.

I stayed in the boutique Waterfront Hotel, part of the Joie de Vivre resorts chain and home to the Lungomare restaurant and café. Located at the water's edge in Jack London Square, I was within a short walk to other restaurants, nightclubs, the Plank (a busy restaurant with outdoor bocce ball courts and bartop tables to hold your craft beers), and the Last Chance Saloon. If you haven't heard about the saloon, a quick online search of Jack London's time in the Oakland area will have you intrigued. The crooked bar and crowded décor are all part of its charm.

Donna Biroczky

Limewood Bar and Restaurant 

Another hotel to consider is the Claremont Hotel and Spa. In the hills on the edge of neighboring Berkeley, this high-end resort offers sumptuous suites, a newly renovated fitness building and three pools with views of the bay. The Limewood Bar & Restaurant is just one of several places to eat or enjoy a beverage on site.

Oakland is home to the Oakland Athletics baseball team and the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. Oracle Arena sits adjacent to the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum on a single huge property near the airport. Both opened in 1966 and were heavily renovated in the mid-1990s. We attended opening day for the A's, enjoying the rousing game from a comfortable suite complete with nachos, burgers, and a hot dog buffet and our choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

We also attended the game between the Warriors and the Indiana Pacers. Even with Steph Curry and other key players out due to injuries, the seats were still full. Sadly, the Warriors lost, but as a first-time attendee at an NBA game, I had a blast enjoying the fried catfish plate and a mai tai. Did you know that the mai tai was created in Oakland? It's a must-try in at least one bar you visit in Oakland, as they make it like no other place can.

Donna Biroczky

Dinner at Drake's Dealership

Speaking of beverages, Drake's Dealership in The Hive is a hip, fresh, and loud place to enjoy a meal or just craft beers or cocktails and some appetizers. Book a reservation ahead of time, though, as the line for this popular place was out the door when we visited. Whatever you get, try to get it “draked,” which is code for topped with a duck egg. It was fantastic on my spicy wood-fired pizza. Their menu is seasonal, allowing for frequent new favorites in addition to some of the standard regulars.

The Rosenblum Cellars, also in Jack London Square, offers wine tasting alongside a unique food menu all within view of the water. Enjoy your wine or Champagne flights on the outdoor patio in the soft bay breeze. We couldn't leave Rosenblum without trying the Blanc de Bleu bubbly, made from chardonnay grapes with organic blueberry added, giving it a vivid blue color. The photo ops with this gorgeous drink are too fun to miss.

Donna Biroczky

Detox Patriarchy at the Chop Bar

Another fun beverage was a special item in honor of Women's History month, the Detox Patriarchy at the Chop Bar. Not something you think of offhand, it's created with gin, honey, ginger, activated charcoal, and sparkling wine. Bold and flavorful, it's definitely a good way to enjoy the hair of the dog along with your delicious breakfast.

You may have heard of Bake Sale Betty's, a type of pop-up shop serving its signature fried chicken sandwich. The line is long but worth it; try to make time to enjoy the sandwich while seated at the ironing boards in front of the building.

Donna Biroczky

Off Road Segway

If you like outdoor activity or just want to try something new, hit up the Off Road Segway company for an offroad Segway lesson and guided tour through the redwood trees that grow in the hills high above the bay. Not only do you master the skills you need to safely ride this unique machine, but you do it in the shadow of some of the tallest trees in existence. Turn a corner from this peaceful hiker's haven and you're facing the bay with a view of four major San Francisco Bay bridges, including the Golden Gate far off in the distance. Though it lasts approximately two hours, you'll complete the Segway experience wanting more.

When heading to Oakland, be sure to make a stop at VisitOakland.com for their inspiration guide, a newsletter full of tips and a slew of resources designed to help you customize your Oakland getaway to fit all of your needs.

Travel expenses were provided by Oakland Tourism. Opinions are my own.


Donna Biroczy is a member of The Daily Meal's Culinary Content Network known for Dangerous Cupcake Designs. You can follow her on Instagram at @dangerouscupcakelifestyle.