Oakland’s scenic beauty is magnetic—with temperate weather, hills to climb, and lakes to swim in, it’s only natural to want to explore everything Oakland has to offer. From biking and horseback riding to canoeing and kayaking, Oakland’s landscape is perfect for getting outside. Here are nine ways to take full advantage of the area’s mesmerizing environment.
Since 1922, The Oakland Zoo has focused on the conservation and protection of wildlife, and their beautiful grounds are an excellent way to get the whole family outside. Explore the Tropical Rainforest, African Savanna, and Wild Australia without leaving Northern California. Children will love the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo that allows young animal lovers to interact with animals through explorative play, such as hopping across a lily pad pond or crossing a rope bridge near the lemur exhibit. The Petting Yard lets children interact with goats and sheep, and live animal encounters with an experienced zookeeper allows young learners to get up-close to wildlife. Additionally, the zoo sponsors several family activities throughout the year that benefit the ecological health of the nearby environment. Spend the night howling with the wolves at the Oakland Zoofari Overnight Experience or scream at the top of your lungs at Adventure Landing, where they put a wild spin on thrill rides. With options that suit all ages, this theme park has trains, roller coasters, a carousel, and a Serengeti Safari.
Home to over 750 species of exotic animals, The Oakland Zoo is managed by the Conservation Society of California. In addition to educating the population about wildlife, the zoo has a Leed-certified, 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, so visitors can rest assured that the animals all receive the highest quality of care. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the doors, and zoo frequenters who become members can benefit from free entry year-round.
Getting outside can be as simple as asking for a seat on the patio. The shores of Lake Merritt are surrounded by remarkable restaurants with a little bit of everything on the menu. Inside a renovated boathouse, Lake Chalet serves fresh seafood and steaks. A table on their stunning waterfront patio is perfect for feeling a cool, lakeside breeze and sipping a lavender lemon drop cocktail. For brunch, Portal is a popular choice for bottomless mimosas by the water. Their menu features indulgent eggs Benedict, vegetarian tempeh scrambles, and plenty of wine selections. Coach Sushi is a perfect late-night spot for exquisite sushi and bottomless sake, while its neighbor Sidebar is a trendy American restaurant with Mediterranean flair that operates in a convertible indoor-outdoor dining room to make the most of the sunny days in their lakeside location.
Credit: Ashby Village
Oakland has a number of hiking trails that span the spectrum of difficulty, so whether you’re an expert or a novice, there’s a hike that’s perfect for you. Nearby Joaquin Miller Park is a hiker’s dream. The Sequoia Bayview Trail is an easy, wide path that spans 2.8 miles and loops for convenience, so it’s a favorite of joggers and dog walkers. Kick it up a notch with the French, Bridle and Stream Trail Loop. This trail is heavily trafficked but stretches 9.1 miles and has picnic tables along the route for a trail lunch.
Regional Redwood Park is a similarly popular destination with a few more difficult trails. For a hike that sees it all, there is an all-encompassing path that converts several of the park's most popular trails into one cohesive loop. This trail behemoth is rated as difficult and is a favorite among avid hikers for its wildflower blooms and stunning views.
The waters surrounding Oakland are stunning from the shore, but what about experiencing the San Francisco Bay from out on the tides? There are several ways to set sail, but these are a few of our favorites. Bay Voyager is a popular choice for cruising the waves, whether you’re hoping for an intimate twilight cruise under the San Francisco lights or a midday sightseeing tour around the Bay’s most notable views. If you prefer to take the ropes into your own hands, Afterguard Sailing Academy can teach you how to sail the open waters. They teach students of all ages, and sailing is an excellent way to spend a day in the sun. Additionally, Afterguard Sailing Academy offers boat rentals for experienced sailors who need a vessel and sailboat tours with complimentary wine tastings if you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon. History buffs will love throwing off the bowlines on the USS Potomac. Previously the presidential yacht of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the USS Potomac retired from office after FDR’s death in 1945. However, this esteemed ship still sails through the San Francisco Bay, and public cruises include a historical narration of Bay Area history. The USS Potomac also hosts a variety of event cruises, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Independence Day outings.
Credit: Lake Chabot Golf
If your idea of a perfect day is hitting the greens, Oakland has several stunning golf courses for you to choose from. Established in 1923, Lake Chabot Golf Course offers a public 18-hole golf course as well as an executive par 3 course. If you prefer disc golf to standard putting, Lake Chabot Golf Course is also home to a 36-hole disc golf course. Sequoyah Country Club operates a private equity, member-owned golf course that is as enjoyable as it is challenging. The course has no parallel fairways, and architectural variety gives a refreshing complexity to the course. With no crowds, nearby club amenities, and breathtaking fairway backdrops, the golf course at Sequoyah Country Club is a luxurious tee time. Just south in San Leandro, the Monarch Bay Golf Club offers an 18-hole and 9-hole course with bayside views.
Combine the restorative effects of yoga with the healing qualities of the open air with outdoor yoga. Oakland has several paddleboards stunning green spaces that make for excellent outdoor yoga studios. Lowell Park spans nearly 6 blocks and, in addition to the basketball courts and sports field, has a wide expanse of uninterrupted greenery where you can spread out your mat and start a vinyasa flow. Back to Yoga offers outdoor yoga classes at Snow Park that can be adjusted to suit individual limitations and is a welcoming environment for all students. Nearby O.Y.B—Outdoor Yoga Berkeley—utilizes Cedar Rose Park for a variety of classes throughout the week. Weekday lunchtime flows and strengthening power flows alternate with slower, all-level classes. O.Y.B. classes last sixty minutes, and their rejuvenating programs can help restore balance and mindfulness.
Credit: SF Funcheap
The San Francisco Bay and Lake Merritt are pristine spots for kayaking and canoeing, and local businesses make it easy to hit the waves. California Canoe & Kayak (CCK) is the go-to for San Francisco Bay rentals. As their name suggests, they offer canoes, kayaks, and paddles, as well as stand-up paddle boards, surf skis, and apparel for purchase. CCK runs both tours and classes, so regardless of skill level, interested adventurers can enjoy the Bay’s blue waves. On the lake, the premier facility for boating is the Lake Merritt Boating Center. Here, you’ll find a variety of boat types available to rent, including pedal boats, canoes, and keelboats. Adult sailing classes are available for beginners in private or group lessons. Additionally, this establishment offers youth boating and sailing camps, so it’s perfect for kids who are interested in learning the ropes.
If you prefer an afternoon stroll to an adrenaline-pumping activity, you’ll love Oakland’s breathtaking gardens. On top of the Kaiser Center’s parking garage is a carefully-manicured oasis. The Gardens at Lake Merritt boast seven acres of themed gardens, ranging from their edible garden with familiar produce to The Vireya Tropical Rhododendron Garden. Each fall, the gardens host Oakland’s Autumn Lights Festival, a three-night celebration of local art, live music, and decadent food. The Lakeside Park and Garden Center is the perfect place to relax among the blooms. With event space for rent and incredible lakefront views, this well-maintained park is a lovely place for a relaxing walk. Morcom Rose Garden is a stunning visual experience with thousands of blooming roses during the peak of summer. Stretching across eight acres, this venue is popular for weddings and other celebratory ceremonies.
Who says shopping in an indoor activity? If you’re looking to get your steps in and are looking for the hottest new trends, head to Jack London Square. This outdoor shopping center is located on the waterfront and boasts a little bit of everything—apparel retailers, sweet shops, fitness classes, a movie theater, and an on-site hotel.
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