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A Weekend in Downtown Oakland, California

Downtown Oakland's renaissance means hip new restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries.

Fox Theater view of building, Oakland, California, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Greg Linhares/City of Oakland
Photo caption
The Fox Theater originally opened as a movie palace in 1928.

Talk about core strength: Oakland’s urban center has gone from dodgy to trendy as newcomers fill its forgotten architectural gems with happening new restaurants, bars, and shops. Spend the day hopping from gallery to eatery, or catch your breath on the shores of Lake Merritt.

  • The restored Fox Theater now anchors the Uptown scene with live music shows. The nearby, equally opulent Paramount Theatre hosts major acts, plus cinema classics and a fascinating tour of its art deco interior.
  • At Swan’s Market the lunch crowd swoons over B-Dama’s thinly sliced ginger pork and Cosecha’s crispy fish tacos and horchata lattes.
  • Explore the Golden State’s art, history, and natural sciences at the Oakland Museum of California. Friday evenings bustle with live music and food-truck fare.
  • Chef Kyle Itani adds a Japanese twist to American favorites—miso-glazed sea bass, buttermilk fried chicken with apple-chrysanthemum slaw—at Hopscotch, a diner with a killer cocktail list.
  • Some 50 galleries open their doors for Oakland Art Murmur’s weekly Saturday Stroll, an afternoon alternative to the more raucous gallery walk held the first Friday evening of each month. Don’t miss Classic Cars West, a combo art space, vintage car showroom, and beer garden.
  • Pick up a locally screen-printed tee or hoodie from one of Oaklandish’s four stores. In the Jack London district, Oakland Supply Co. also stocks stylish U.S.-made goods.
  • Artful Japanese imports from Umami Mart—delicate condiment spoons, spare Hasami mugs, beautiful bottles of sake—make perfect gifts.

This article was first published in Fall 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.