Oakland, California, is embracing its diverse history and blue-collar roots to create a vibrant future full of culture, art, cuisine and much, much more. “We are a city in renaissance right now,” says Rhanee Palma, vice president of sales and services at Visit Oakland. “We want everyone who visits to experience the unique qualities of our city.” Here are five ways to dive in.
Meet the artists.
The city of Oakland has more artists per capita than any other in the nation. This includes visual arts, spoken-word poetry and dance. Several art walks and gallery spaces highlight that artistic diversity. Vessel Gallery is a converted horse stable near the city center, and at The Compound Gallery, you can only explore the art and the studios where it was created. Both are available to host groups. “We provide opportunities for people to create street art with artists who started out tagging buildings and now create murals for the A’s,” says Palma. “You also could try a hip-hop dancing workout with MoMo LeBeau from ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’”
Breweries have been a part of Oakland since its incorporation more than 150 years ago. Now you can experience the new crop of brewers with the ale trail guidebook. More than a dozen brew houses are featured with beer types made with locally sourced ingredients. Foodies can enjoy Oakland’s myriad dining styles, including twists on classics like chicken and waffles. “I was impressed by the number of chef-driven restaurants in the city,” says Brett Sterenson, president of Hotel Lobbyists, who recently attended a Connect-sponsored FAM trip there. “The first night we dined at an upscale restaurant serving a seven-course dinner. Then, later in the week, we were in the kitchen working with the chefs learning how to prepare the food we would enjoy.”
Dress like a local.
It’s hard to find any Oakland resident who doesn’t own a piece of clothing by Oaklandish. This hometown favorite produces a wide variety of shirts and other goods highlighting the city. “We celebrate the diversity of Oakland through our designs and diversity of our employees,” says Angela Tsay, CEO of the company.
Learn the history.
Oakland was founded as the terminus of the transpacific railroad and is still a thriving shipping port today. You can learn the city’s history on a walking tour or explore the port on a harbor tour. If you love live music you could take in a concert at the 90-year-old Fox Theater. Many local businesses have incorporated history lessons as well. After undergoing a renovation in 2016, every room at Oakland Marriott City Center includes a mural showcasing the shipyard, notes Lisa Kershner, the hotel’s general manager. “We want every part of this hotel to be a love letter to the city,” she says.
Relax in nature.
Attendees can take a gondola ride on Lake Merritt in the center of downtown or stop and smell the flowers at Morcom Rose Garden. In addition, Redwood Regional Park is only a few miles outside of downtown if you want to stand among the giant, century-old trees.