Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Oakland, CA

  • Published 2022/08/19

Sometimes, you do not need to go far and travel a thousand miles to visit the country or the beaches.

Taking a trip to the city can be equally inviting and exciting.

Oakland, California, is undoubtedly not an exemption.

This city is the seat of Alameda County, California, and is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Every traveler should visit Oakland at least once for its rich history dating back to the 18th century and its chill urban ambiance.

Likewise, you might want to explore its stunning forests filled with towering trees.

Saying that Oakland has a couple of notable attractions is an understatement.

There are so many great destinations, must-try food, and fun places in Oakland that you might not even think of leaving.

Check out the 15 best things to do in Oakland, California, because this enchanting city awaits you.

Take an Exciting and Educational Tour of the Oakland Zoo

Elephants at Oakland Zoo

Iv-olga /

With all the unique and cute animals at the Oakland Zoo, nobody has the guts to resist the chance of seeing them.

Located on Golf Links Road, the zoo features over 650 species of exotic and native animals for the guests.

They also have a wildlife theatre and an educational tour and program for a fun learning adventure.

Established in 1922, the zoo has become one of the nation’s pioneers in animal rescue, conservation, and welfare.

Condor on a tree at Oakland Zoo

Iv-olga /

Visitors of all ages would marvel at the beauty of the animals within the zoo.

Check out the lions, bears, kinds of snakes, fabulous birds, rare invertebrates, and much more.

The Oakland Zoo also hosts fun events that fuse learning and entertainment, such as reading programs and camps.

Bond with the animals for a memorable wildlife experience.

Wild pigs at Oakland Zoo

Meyta /

Marvel at the Giant Redwoods at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

Tall trees at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

Mohammad-amin asareh /

Gigantic redwood trees that seem to touch the heavens are a California signature.

The Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is the home of groves of staggeringly tall redwood trees.

The park gets its name from Dr. Aurelia Henry Reinhardt, one of the notable civic leaders chosen in 1934 to serve on the park district’s first Board of Directors.

Back then, the board also offered their services for the park’s preservation.

Trail at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

Mohammad-amin asareh /

Most stately coastal redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) stand 150 feet, giving shade, making it perfect for relaxing.

While visiting, you can witness the beauty of the trees while walking the well-kept trails of the park or chilling at the picnic and campsites.

Visit Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park and wonder at the beauty nature holds.

Have a Fun Outdoor Entertainment Experience at Jack London Square

Road arch of Jack London Square

SnapASkyline /

Do you fancy shopping, dining, and having fun on a whole day trip?

Then you will love Jack London Square, where you can shop, dine, and get entertained with different events and activities, all in a waterfront setting.

Jack London Square gives life and excitement to the Water Street area with its quality shops, vibrant restaurants, and pubs.

Night scene at Jack London Square

BondRocketImages /

If you want to feel the place’s heartwarming maritime ambiance, you should also try the kayaking experience.

As a well-known waterfront landmark, it does live up to its name.

Enjoy fun events and promotions you can join and stop by the shops and restaurants.

Paved grounds of Jack London Square

BondRocketImages /

Admire the Exhibits of the Chabot Space and Science Center

Exterior of the Chabot Space and Science Center

The original uploader was Daniel Olsen at English Wikipedia., CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Unleash the science nerd within you at the Chabot Space and Science Center.

See the glory of outer space!

The Chabot Space and Science Center boasts a large research-level observatory complex, a dome planetarium, and rare space artifacts.

You can also check out hands-on and interactive exhibits, and a giant screen theater.

Mercury capsule in Chabot Space and Science Center

Don DeBold from San Jose, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a beloved family destination, children and adults would have a great time here.

Wonder at the fantastic exhibits, exciting events such as telescope viewings, and educational planetarium shows.

Mark this destination on your map and visit the space and science center for a fun and inspiring trip to outer space.

Bill Nye climate lab in Chabot Space and Science Center

Don DeBold, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Admire the Scenic Natural Views at the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Labyrinth maze at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Bernadette Stafford /

If you want to hike and tour the great outdoors with terrific scenic views, then go to the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.

This preserve is a top-hiking destination in Oakland that sits atop an ancient volcano.

Through the nature trails, visitors can see the park’s features, such as the Sibley Labyrinth and the Round To.

The latter is a peak standing 763 feet above sea level comprising volcanic debris and lava left over from the park’s 10-million-year-old volcano.

Landscape of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Sarah Stierch, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From above, the sight will take your breath away as you see the vast growth of trees and the park’s wildlife.

Bring your peers or family for a nature getaway at the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.

Enjoy a Unique Movie Experience at the Grand Lake Theatre

Exterior of the Grand Lake Theatre

E Fehrenbacher /

Cinephiles and theater lovers should visit the Grand Lake Theatre.

This theater will be the highlight of your Oakland vacation.

The Grand Lake Theatre is one of the country’s most famous vintage theaters, thanks to its long history and sophisticated themed auditoriums.

Since 1926, this movie theatre has continued to give its guests get a reasonably priced elegant movie experience like no other.

Lobby of the Grand Lake Theatre

BondRocketImages /

Moreover, the Grand Lake Theatre has won “The Best Place to See a Movie” East Bay EXPRESS Readers’ Poll for six consecutive years.

What are you waiting for?

See the latest blockbuster films at the Grand Lake Theatre.

Building sign of the Grand Lake Theatre

BondRocketImages /

Capture the Dynamic Oakland Atmosphere at Lake Merritt

Beautiful rose graden at Lake Merritt

cdrin /

Oakland’s lively and picturesque districts surround Lake Merritt, attracting both residents and tourists alike.

Witness the lush greenery of the gardens and lawns by the lake, such as the Bonsai Garden and the fragrant plants of the Sensory Garden.

A three-mile scenic path also lines the coast of the lake, which is perfect for strolling and jogging.

Paved lakeside pathway at Lake Merritt

Iv-olga /

Lake Merrit also brims with wildlife, as different species of birds and several fish flock to the lake.

You can see them by renting kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, or row boats.

Lake Merritt is a comfortable, must-visit haven, an excellent place to leave the busyness of the city.

Aerial view of Lake Merritt

Donovan Jugarap /

Dine in a Vintage Landmark at Quinn’s Lighthouse

Quinn’s Lighthouse is open to all the foodies who want to dine in a historic lighthouse with a fantastic view of the sea.

Built in 1890, the lighthouse became a stylish restaurant and bar, serving a mouthwatering menu that fuses American and ethnic cuisines.

It serves well-known seafood specialties that will surely take your taste buds to heaven.

The upper deck pub also serves 26 kinds of draft beers and foreign bottled beers that will surely help you unwind.

Visit Quinn’s Lighthouse and enjoy a hearty and special meal overlooking the ship dock.

Visit the Historic Oakland Aviation Museum

Aircrafts displayed in Oakland Aviation Museum

DreamArt123 /

The achievements of aviation have forever changed the world.

If you want to learn more about the development of aviation on the West Coast, visit the Oakland Aviation Museum.

This museum houses different exhibits and aviation artifacts.

Likewise, its hangar contains a vast collection of preserved historic aircraft.

A plane in Oakland Aviation Museum

DreamArt123 /

The museum is on the site of a former school, the famous Boeing School of Aeronautics.

In the early 20th century, this school taught and raised aircraft mechanics, pilots, and aviation personnel.

The school eventually shut down in 1943 and became a military training site.

Today, the Oakland Aviation Museum displays a fascinating history and stories that entice curious visitors and guests.

A helicopter in Oakland Aviation Museum

DreamArt123 /

Enjoy a Break at Joaquin Miller Park

Daytime view of Joaquin Miller Park

Jordankraemer, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Did urban life wear you out, and now you need to take a break and have a date with nature?

Then drive to Joaquin Miller Park for your well-deserved rest.

This 500-acre woodland park tucked away in the hills of Oakland has a lot of different trails, picnic spots, and campsites for any hiker seeking refuge.

Welcome sign of Joaquin Miller Park

Midnightdreary, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The fantastic flora and fauna living in the park will stun you with their beauty and grace.

You can also bring your pet dog for a walk around the beautiful environment.

Pack your picnic needs and camping gear, and bring your family or friends for a camping experience in the Oakland hills.

A small waterfall at Joaquin Miller Park

Benjamin Chun, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Oakland Museum of California

Building sign of Oakland Museum of California

Yginger Lee /

Prepare for an exciting trip back to the past at the Oakland Museum of California.

Located on Oak Street, this museum boasts artifacts and interactive displays that feature modern science and the city and state’s history, art, and culture.

The museum celebrates the beauty of California from its humble beginnings through its progress into a globally renowned state.

Vintage coach displayed in Oakland Museum of California

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum also invites students, scholars, and children to attend their exciting events.

Inspire your kids and teach them to build a more vibrant community for the future.

Perfect for a great family getaway, the museum’s doors are always open for visitors seeking knowledge and fun.

Exhibit in Oakland Museum of California

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring Your Kids to Children’s Fairyland

Colorful exterior of Children’s Fairyland

cdrin /

If you are traveling with kids, bring them to this next destination so they can enjoy fun and cute and thrilling activities.

Children’s Fairyland is a vivid children’s amusement park inspired by fairytale storybooks.

It offers amazing theatrical shows and exciting rides.

Kids will surely love the inviting environment of the park and the entertaining shows and events that will put a smile on their faces.

A musical play performance in Children’s Fairyland

Ross Stapleton-Gray, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With the fantastic scenery, Children’s Fairyland is the best venue for hosting birthday parties and gatherings.

Bring your kids to a theme park getaway they will never forget at Children’s Fairyland.

Enjoy an Extravagant Meal at the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill

Evening view of The Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill

cdrin /

Are you looking for an exquisite restaurant to enjoy a great meal with an astounding view of the famed Lake Merritt?

Then the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill will give you a dream dining experience you will not regret.

This bar and grill serve mouthwatering seafood dishes and unique cocktails to match.

Exterior of The Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill

Daniel Hartwig, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Promising to serve the freshest sustainably sourced seafood, their menu features a burst of flavor in every bite.

No wonder visitors and guests always fill the premises.

Strap in for a delectable seafood ride from crab sandwiches and lobster rolls to fabulous and delicious entrees.

Bring a date to the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill!

Admire the Bay Area at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Bench overlooking the waters at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Chris LaBasco /

You will find a 38-acre shoreline park lined with well-maintained pathways, a wide BBQ area, and a theater at the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park.

Likewise, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the San Francisco Bay and skyline.

This park will please people seeking a more quiet place in the city to cool down.

Enjoy the fresh breeze, and take a laidback stroll with good scenery.

Daytime view of Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Sheila Fitzgerald /

The Port of Oakland operates the park, ensuring the visitors’ safety and the park’s preservation.

Hence, the community has a great place to gather and socialize while enjoying the view of the sea.

Bring your family and friends for a tranquil stopover at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park.

Playground at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Oleg Alexandrov, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the African American Museum and Library at Oakland

Exterior of the African American Museum

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This destination carries much cultural significance to the city of Oakland.

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland devotes itself to promoting the lived stories of African Americans in the West.

Likewise, the museum focuses on the African American experience in California.

Learn how they have contributed to Oakland’s diverse and vibrant culture.

Interior of the African American Museum

Almonroth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum and library collections conserve the community’s historical and cultural artifacts and experiences.

Researchers and students should find much to learn here; the place also holds information for future generations.

Broaden your horizons with the beautiful and inspiring tales and narratives at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland.

Exhibit in the African American Museum

Almonroth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

People flock to California for many reasons, like its colorful, diverse, unique, and attractive culture and history.

You can see the city’s closely-knit community and its alluring aura in every museum, park, and famous landmark.

Immerse yourself in the city’s culture and beauty and discover the best things to do in Oakland!

Discover More of Alameda County, CA

Things to Do in Fremont, CA

Things to Do in Berkeley, CA

Things to Do in Livermore, CA

Things to Do in Pleasanton, CA

Things to Do in Alameda, CA

Things to Do in Castro Valley, CA

Things to Do in Dublin, CA

© All rights reserved.