For those familiar with the area, you'll notice that some of these are actually in Berkeley - but living in Oakland, we were close to Berkeley, so it was part of our experience. To be fair, later on we'll do a post about things we are excited about for our new area. (Neither of these posts will include things about people we miss or are excited about being nearby - just rest assured that we have great friends in both areas.)
|The view from our bedroom window at sunset, 2nd Oakland apartment|
We have so many Oakland stories. Coming home from something one night, cutting through downtown and realizing that it's Oakland's birthday - stopping to participate in the party. Getting free Oakland Birthday party hats and eating from food trucks and stepping out of the way for the handful of guys who brought their tubas and are brass-banding it down the sidewalk. Driving down International Blvd at night and passing someone with giant lights and equipment, shooting a movie. Having friends who know where to get pretty much any kind of food. Walking home one night from a $5 classic movie at the Paramount, and passing the classic car gathering that always happens at the 1/4-Lb Giant Burger parking lot at the corner of W Grand and Telegraph. Our favorite area is west Oakland, with its wide streets, industrial areas and artists' lofts and quirks and crime-that-makes-for-good-stories-but -usually-doesn't-affect-the-bystanders. Listening to that one guy who always rides by on his bike, carrying his extraordinarily loud boom box on his shoulder. Having a view that includes either the temple or the beautiful downtown lights. And speaking of downtown lights, sometime you should check out the view of the city as you come around the 980 stretch from 580 westbound toward downtown. I'll never get tired of that one.
Here are some of our favorite Oakland things:
- We had a ridiculously short commute to the Oakland LDS Temple. And we went to church in the building next to it, which was fun.
- Berkeley Bowl, a grocery store built in I think what used to be a bowling alley ... they have a pretty good bulk section and the most incredible array of fresh, inexpensive produce I have ever seen ... plus some other fun things, like calamari steaks, Dang! coconut chips, and squid ink.
- Paramount Theater - monthly, they show old movies for $5. We LOVE going to those - it's not just a movie. First of all, you need to get there when the doors open at 7pm, because sometimes they sell out. And also because you need to be able to just sit and take in the environment. The inside of the theater is incredibly ornate, restored from the 1920's. The staff are dressed in tuxes and welcome you to the theater. The bathrooms are also restored, and include a giant powder room with stools and mirrors and lights, and the soap by the sink is a powder. Then, at 7:30 before the movie starts, they have an organist who plays for awhile, and then they do a Dec-O-Win raffle for prizes donated by local vendors. Then they show an old newsreel. And THEN they show the movie, usually by 8:30pm.
- Homeroom, a restaurant dedicated to macaroni and cheese. need I say more?
Dimond Park Lions Pool, where I learned correct swimming kicking, and where that one lady who has giant, flaming red hair, never shuts up and always has something vaguely inappropriately close to say that implies we are much better friends than we are.
- Kwik Way, a drive-in/outdoor diner sort of place. They have some of the most incredible burgers. I took a vegetarian there a couple weeks ago and she had their veggie burger, and said it was the closest thing she'd had to an actual meat burger ever.
- Merritt Bakery - They have chicken and waffles, and very tasty pastries. This is where I got the tiny cake top to surprise Jon on our first anniversary. (Edit: This place burned down a few months after this blogpost.)
- The whole Lake Merritt area. They have a lot of neat little places, most of which I only recently discovered. There is a small branch of the library right there next to the farmers' market and the spice shop - it makes for a pretty perfect little Oakland Saturday morning.
- The Mountain View Cemetery (in Oakland, not Mountain View). It's a gorgeous, 226-acre cemetery with peaceful, elegant mausoleums, incredible views, and towering crypts. You can visit Samuel Merritt's grave there, among many other big Oakland names. There's also a whole Jewish cemetery within it. The picture to the right is Jon in front of one of the mausoleums on the 4th of July.
- Bittersweet - it's a chocolate cafe, yo. It has excellent salted caramel hot chocolate, and slightly bizarre but also kind of good white chocolate cardamom hot chocolate.
- Oaklandish - The classic Oakland store. There are actually several little Oakland-y shops (including Loakal and Urban Indigo) but this one is kind of the flagship. Oaklanders are proud of their city, and this is one of the ways it shows.
- The Fuse Fitness - I've already blogged about this, but it's a gym in the quaint little "unincorporated community of 2200 homes" of Kensington. The street it's on feels like some sort of dream community, with adorable little houses and businesses and tons of people out walking their dogs or going for a run. And the gym is a tiny community of its own. It's a great place.
- East Bay Restaurant Supply - where to go for all your giant pizza peel needs. or your giant whisk needs, or your tiny whisk needs, or your barstool needs, or your other-stuff-you-never-realized-people-who-don't-run-a-restaurant-could-actually-buy needs.
- Monkey Forest Road - a coffee bar and Indonesian art gallery on Grand Ave. seriously. They're going to have a show coming up called the Grand Avenue Retrospective (tentative opening date 10/19/13) ... they are looking for submissions of old photos and memories from people who have lived in the Grand Ave area. It's going to be so awesome.
- Grand Lake Farmers Market - where we know exactly who sells what of what we like, but there are still sometimes surprises ... red russian kale, lemon almonds, apricot lavender balsamic vinegar, and the best cantaloupe I've ever had. This is listed as one of the best farmer's markets in the Bay Area (specifically in the East Bay.)
- The White Elephant Sale, where I got a box of books and a couple of great vases, and the cash was donated to the Oakland Museum. And where the line, an HOUR before it opened, was LITERALLY, probably half a mile long (those at the front had blankets and camp chairs). Where an actual person dressed in a white elephant costume to provide photo ops. I kinda want to volunteer there next year. Oh, a note: This is a once-a-year event, generally held in March.
- Sparky's Giant Burgers - they're just really good, ok? This is a great place to go after the temple, because it's closer than Fenton's and has way better food. (Not better ice cream though.)
- Urban Ore - This is a THREE-ACRE thrift store. It's so intense that they give tours. At any given time they have about 3500 DOORS for sale. Doors. And lumber, and books, and file cabinets, and sinks, and counters, and clothes, and art supplies, and SO MUCH MORE.
- The random small bookstores. It's possible they're not as prevalent as I think, but I feel like they're always cropping up where I least expect.
- Off the Grid - this is a SF-based thing that does a stop in Oakland every Friday. Tons of food trucks congregate so you can get a huge variety all at once.
- "The cannons" aka the cranes. We think they look like cannons. And also I can't look at them without thinking of Star Wars.
- The so many BART stations! There are a bunch in Oakland. And so many buses to get to them.
- This sort of goes without saying, but Oakland is super close to San Francisco, so it's comparatively easy and quick to get there.
- Also super close to the Oakland airport. Hard to get more convenient.
- For the 4th of July, there are lots of places to see fireworks. This area is at a perfect crossroads that allows you to see fireworks in SF, Berkeley, Marin, and some farther-south but not-sure-exacly-where areas, all from one comfy hill! And also, as you drive home from that hill, you pass tons of other people lighting their own commercial-grade fireworks. Awesome.
- The beautiful Oakland Hills! There are also a ton of gorgeous parks up in there. It's always cool and shady and feels like you're in the forest.
- The Chabot Space and Science Center. We like going to their adults-only nighttime events. They are relaxed and it's like a giant space playhouse.
- The American Steel Studios - we've already blogged about this here, and it remains a super great place to visit. It's sort of hidden among lots of warehouses. it's like a secret awesome place.
- The East Bay Bike Party. It's on the second Friday of every month. You'd think that we love this because we just really love biking. Not so. We are awful Californians in the sense that we don't actually own bikes. (Hopefully that will change at some point, but I am still scared to ride on the street, because the one time I did it - in Provo - was terrifying. Jon has promised to teach me.) Anyway, the reason this is so awesome is because this traveling bike party has on occasion passed our apartment window, and it is the coolest sight (and sound). Floods of bikers, streaming down the street at night, often with glow-in-the-dark things and crazy music.
- The views. We loved our first apartment in Oakland, and it had a stunning view of downtown Oakland that I think I never took a picture of. We liked our second apartment pretty well (it couldn't quite compare to our beautiful yet inexpensive loft, but it was still a good space), but it had a great view of the Oakland temple (especially at night).
- The protests. Many people would see this as a drawback, but to us it's exciting to be in a place where things are happening, where people respond in vocal ways to national issues. We don't always agree with the sentiments, but it's still a crazy, adrenaline-ish experience to hear the news helicopters and pass the blocked-off areas and know that in Oakland, people are talking.
- The running route we used to take, from our apartment, through downtown, to Jack London Square and back. It's awesome to see all the people and stores and buildings and cars and sights when you're trying not to think about your lungs.
- **Edit: Right after publishing this post, we tried the Cheeseboard Collective for the first time. This is some of the best pizza we've ever had. They serve only one kind of spectacular and unique pizza every day and they always have a line out the door and down the block.
- Finally, the diversity. In our ward, on the street, everywhere we went, there were a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds surrounding us. Our ward had a rich history and was a beautiful patchwork of cultures and levels of experience in the Church. We met people with incredible stories. Sometimes it could be a struggle, since many people had very different approaches to different situations, but overall it was a great example of how individuals of different backgrounds can strengthen the group.
So, there's our guide. Visit soon :)