Oakland: The Overlooked Sister City of San Francisco - My Family Travels

There is a lot more to Oakland than its convenient location- 30 minutes from San Francisco. Oakland should not be overlooked, and is a fantastic place to vacation and to live. I realize this often when we leave the area. Even 1 hour away, I see a lack of great restaurants, charming boutiques and shops, markets, cafes, and the unique, amusing, and community-driven atmosphere that is Oakland. It is also hard for me to get used to the temperatures Oaklanders like myself recognize as “extreme.” Oakland has a constant, comfortable climate; from Oakland, people can see across the Bay to the layer of fog over SF, while Oakland remains bright and sunny.


 An ideal place for families, for young people, for anyone, Oakland has a real sense of community while maintaining the atmosphere of a city. Oakland, a city of diverse cuisines, is a foodie heaven. Pick a country.

  • On 8th Street, try Tamarindo for authentic Mexican food.
  • One of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants is Shashamane, on Broadway in downtown Oakland. Ethiopian food, served family-style on a large platter with spongy Injera bread to soak up Berbere sauce, is delicious, comforting and something I would encourage any visitor to try. Another spot is “Little Ethiopia,” a stretch of a dozen restaurants along Telegraph Avenue.
  • For great food and a unique experience, try Tanjia on Telegraph Avenue, a Moroccan restaurant with belly dancing on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Go to College Avenue for Italian food (A16 is my favorite) and Thai (Soi 4).
  • For ceviche and pisco sours right on the water, head to Bocanova, a Peruvian restaurant in Jack London Square.
  • Luka’s on Broadway has delicious, fresh seafood. Oysters are $1 each on Monday nights!
  • Bakesale Betty on Telegraph, is a local institution that usually has a line down the street – completely worth it for fried chicken sandwiches and baked goods. A great place for lunch, I love to come here with friends whenever we get out of school early.

Another unique element of Oakland’s food culture is food trucks. Every week there are large “pods” of food trucks – with dessert options ranging from cupcakes to beignets, and cuisines from Indian to Mexican to Greek. There are even some eclectic combinations like Irish and Eritrean fusion. With food trucks, you can have a burrito with a Peruvian juice and a cupcake for dessert.

  Oakland is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors.

  • Enjoy a lovely walk through Oakland Rose Garden.
  • Explore Lake Merritt- rent boats or even take a Venetian Gondola Cruise!
  • The Claremont Canyon Reserve is a great hike in Berkeley (right by the UC Berkeley campus) Once you reach the top, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful panoramic view over the entire Bay. In the fall, a huge fenced area is filled with goats who devour all the dry brush and leave the area fire-safe.
  • Riding the steam trains in Tildon Park is perfect for kids and was always a fun experience for my brother and I when we were younger.
  • The Oakland Zoo is also great for kids, with rides and many animals you can see up-close.

The shopping in Oakland, a great escape from the mall, consists of mostly small, local shops. College Avenue and Piedmont Avenue are great streets that offer unique bookstores, clothing stores, salons, etc. It’s easy to spend the whole day in North Oakland, walking about from place to place.

Transportation is very easy through the local bus system, AC Transit, or the BART train.

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