Oakland has been just across the bay for most of my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I began discovering how truly awesome it is.
Growing up, I would often visit my dad who worked in downtown Oakland. It seemed magical crossing under the bay on BART and coming up on the other side in a bustling downtown area that seemed worlds away from San Francisco. There were also frequent visits to Fairyland (a kid-oriented amusement park that is based around popular fairytales), deep-dish pizza at Zachary’s and ice cream at Fentons.
It wasn’t until I moved to the East Bay a few years ago that I began to reacquaint myself with this highly underrated city.
To me it was the diverse range of food, the outdoor spaces, and the strong sense of community that brought me back.
Meeting my dad once again for monthly lunches on Fridays in downtown Oakland, I truly began to understand the wealth of different cuisines that can be found throughout just one neighborhood.
Nearby Oakland’s Chinatown with its bakeries serving some of the best egg tarts this side of the bay, often became a go-to for dessert.
It’s a city where you can drive deep into a residential neighborhood and suddenly find one of the best Laotian restaurants operating out of the downstairs of someone’s house and the matching hospitality makes you want to linger as long as possible.
One thing that surprised me the most was the wealth of outdoor space within the city limits. Before I thought of Oakland as a pretty urban city, but Lake Temescal and Redwood Regional Park proved that I was very wrong. The Gardens at Lake Merritt was another spot that seemed miles away from any city, but was in fact in the middle of it all.
The sense of community and pride for this city runs deep and there’s no better place to see it then the Friday Nights at the OMCA, where people of all different backgrounds come to enjoy the live music, complementary dance lessons and the block-long queue of food trucks.
I feel fortunate now to have this city a quick drive or BART ride away, where I can escape the dullness of the suburbs. I’ve only started skimming the surface of Oakland and all it has to offer, but I am glad that I’m back on my own terms and am not sure what made me stay away for so long.