Oakland Is the Bay Area's Unsung Urban Playground

Escape San Francisco to play in the booming East Bay

Oct 22, 2015
Outside Magazine

The bike path on the new Bay Bridge.    Photo: David Fenton/Gallery Stock

More than just a refuge from the Teslas and tech bros across the water, Oakland is a booming hub for the adventurous. Here's your guide to the East Bay’s best spots to work up a sweat and refuel afterward.

Get Roped Up 

Great Western Power Company climbing gym
Leading at the Great Western Power Company.   Photo: Courtesy of the Great Western Po

Great Western Power Company, a climbing gym in the heart of downtown, has 48-foot walls, a bouldering area, and a tricked-out weight room. Sign up for the lead class to get comfortable making clips and taking whippers. $20 for a day pass.

Pack a Picnic 

Mountain View Cemetery.   Photo: Michael Halberstadt

Our favorite bit of green space isn’t a park. Mountain View Cemetery, on Piedmont Avenue, is open until the sun goes down, has panoramic views of the San Francisco skyline, and is home to turkeys and deer. Too macabre? Hike to the top of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, where you’ll find 10-million-year-old rock formations. Just be sure and mind the cows. 

Take a Taco-Truck Tour 

  Photo: Tacos Sinaloa/Facebook

The Fruitvale neighborhood has the best Mexican food north of the border. 

Sinaloa, 3132 International Blvd.
The order: Fish tacos. 

El Novillo, 1001 Fruitvale Blvd.
The order: Carnitas with copious cilantro and pickled carrots. 

El Tio Juan, 4078 Foothill Blvd. 
The order: Tripa (tripe), for the adventurous.

Eat Like a Local

Homestead restaurant oakland
Homestead restaurant.   Photo: Courtesy of the Homestead

Alice Waters’s farm-to-table revolution has inched its way south from adjacent Berkeley. Book a table at Homestead for Sunday supper, which consists of three always changing, farm-fresh courses. $52, including tip

Run for It

Lake Merritt.   Photo: Daniel Ramirez/Flickr

The 3.4-mile loop around Lake Merritt is the city’s best route for weekday training and, since it’s almost exactly five kilometers long, weekend racing.

Waterfront Barhop 

Heinhold's First and Last Chance Saloon
Wetting whistles since 1883.   Photo: Michael Halberstadt

Start at 132-year-old Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon on Webster Street, a bar with slanted floors that has served dockworkers since the 1800s. Then rent a boat down the street at California Canoe and Kayak and cruise the inner harbor past the old industrial water-front and working port. After returning, swing by Beer Revolution around the corner on Third Street, which has a metal vibe and 50 brews on tap. 

Hit the Dirt 

Adam LaBarge
Joaquin Miller singletrack.   Photo: Jason Van Horn

Oakland has mountain-bike options just outside town. Bomb down the half-mile-long, singletrack Cinderella Trail in Joaquin Miller State Park, which connects to 40 miles of fire roads next door in Redwood Regional Park

Ride the Streets 

East Bay Bike Party
Gearing up for the East Bay Bike Party   Photo: J.J. Harris

“The East Bay Bike Party happens the second Friday of every month,” says local photographer J.J. Harris. “The route always changes, but it’s usually three or four stops around the East Bay. Anywhere from 500 to 2,500 cyclists show up. Riders have speakers mounted on their bikes and DJ from the iPad on their handlebars. My kind of people.”

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