Oakland is a busy, bustling city, the seat of Alameda County and a neighbor to San Francisco.
Though it is often lumped in with the city next door, it has a unique culture and rich history that deserve to be recognized all on its own.
Its past sings the songs of movements for justice and equality and its present tells tales of modernity, progressiveness, and contemporary creativity.
Oakland’s history and beautiful environment contribute to the types of attractions you can find throughout the city.
From museums to natural open spaces and from trendy shopping neighborhoods to unique feats of architecture, here are the 33 best and fun things to do in Oakland, California.
Things To Do In Oakland
1. Lake Merritt
Lake Merritt is the United States’ oldest designated wildlife refuge, a peaceful recreational area filled with many of the most famous Oakland attractions since 1870.
It’s filled to the brim with various gorgeous garden areas, totaling seven acres, like a bonsai, Japanese, and edible garden, most of which are completely free things to do.
The lake’s surrounding park, called Lakeside Park, is a sanctuary that also has plenty of themed locations that you can visit.
Lake Merritt is also pretty popular among avid bird watchers, as over a hundred different species live here in the lake’s area.
This includes pelicans, black cormorants, Canadian geese, snowy egrets, and more.
Other popular activities are picnics, walking or jogging along the three-mile path, water sports in the lake itself, and much more.
You can go to the Sailboat House to rent row boats, canoes, pedal boats, row boats, and more most times of the year except winter, and there are even gondola rides!
There is also a Victorian mansion from 1876 on the banks of the lake.
The Camron-Stanford House is a beautiful and elegant home filled with period decor, and it offers an English afternoon tea service and many guided tours.
If you’re hungry for something more than tea, there’s a great restaurant called the Lake Chalet that you can dine at!
In addition to all of that, those fond of more unique or unusual attractions will find quite a few curiosities scattered throughout Lake Merritt.
For one, there’s the Bonsai Garden, which is curated by the first non-Japanese woman bonsai master in the country.
Over 50 bonsais are displayed here at a time, as well as several suiseki, or viewing stones.
You can also go seeking out the Gnomes of Lake Merritt.
This is a series of few-inch-tall art installations, mysteriously installed by one or more unknown individuals.
They are made with scrap wood, usually taken from various old fences and structures, which are hand-painted with gnomes and attached to telephone poles and window ledges.
They can be found throughout the area of Lake Merritt.
Finally, if you’d like to get the perfect view of Lake Merritt, head to the Cleveland Cascade.
This cascade stairway was built in 1923, fashioned after Italian fountains.
When it was first installed, it featured 20 bowls made of concrete and decorated with ornamental seashells.
Water descended down the cascading bowls and cycled back up with an electric pump.
The staircase was neglected for a long time in the 1950s, and it was eventually restored and can now be safely climbed, though its fountain remains nonfunctional.
Climb to the top for stunning panoramic views!
Address: Lakeside Park, Oakland, CA 94612, United States
2. Chabot Space & Science Center
The Chabot Space & Science Center is one of the most popular points of interest in Oakland, California!
This impressive, state-of-the-art facility is a fantastic place to go if you’re interested in learning about outer space, including the solar system, the various galaxies around us, and Earth itself.
A wide range of fun and interesting exhibits at the Chabot Space & Science Center provides information in engaging and interactive ways.
You’ll get to see a real-time animation that represents the sun, featuring its many solar flares and hot spots.
There are also telescopes of research-level capabilities, interactive labs for people of all ages, and amazing programs to experience.
The main draw of the Chabot Space & Science Center is its Planetarium, topped by a 70-foot dome with seamless projection and crystal clear digital sound systems.
This allows for a beautiful simulated stargazing experience.
Address: 10000 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619, United States
3. Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
Looking for exciting places in California for weekend getaways?
Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is perfect for a prolonged getaway this weekend.
The huge park is one of the absolute best things to do in Oakland for outdoor enthusiasts and those who just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everything.
It’s well-outfitted with basic amenities, too!
The entirety of Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is second-growth, meaning its verdancy was planted on ground that was once cleared.
The forest was regenerated and, eventually, opened in 1939 thanks to the efforts of Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt.
Today, these redwood groves are linked by various trails, groomed and maintained well for easy hiking, jogging, cycling, and horse-riding.
The Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is named for the 1,833 acres of redwood forest that encompass its expanse.
The coastal redwood trees here, or their scientific name Sequoia sempervirens, hit heights of 150 or so feet, providing shade and majesty all in one.
Within these forests, you’ll find rare wildlife like Alameda striped racer and golden eagle, as well as many more common forms of fauna, such as deer, squirrels, and rabbits.
There are also lots of rainbow trout that travel Redwood Creek during migration seasons.
Not sure where to start?
Check out the 4-mile hike of the gorgeous Scenic Redwood Loop, or explore long-term in the 150-mile winding run of the Interpark Regional Trail.
Address: 7867 Redwood Rd, Oakland, CA 94619, United States
4. Oakland Museum of California
The Oakland Museum of California is an incredible collection that displays California’s rich heritage and vibrant culture.
It’s one of the most comprehensive places to go to learn about the region and is filled with fun, factual, and engaging exhibits covering topics like natural science, history, the arts, the city’s community, political activism, social justice, and much more!
At this museum, you’ll learn about migration, national landscapes, and more through specimens, photographs, historic artifacts, and ethnographic objects, among other displays.
It’s an incredible opportunity to learn what shaped California into the beautiful state that it is now.
On Friday nights, guests to the Oakland Museum of California will have the opportunity to mingle with locals while watching live entertainment.
There is also a garden and an outdoor patio where you can rest and relax!
Address: 1000 Oak St, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
5. Jack London Square
Jack London Square is named after the renowned American author, journalist, and novelist Jack London, best known for his works The Call of the Wild and White Fang.
This lively neighborhood sits on the estuary of Oakland, near the docks where the author worked.
The middle of the square hosts a beautiful log cabin replica designed to look like the one that the author lived in during an Alaskan expedition.
Jack London Square is one of the best places to grab a bite, walk along the waterfront trail and just explore local businesses this weekend.
There are plenty of things to see, and it’s simply a good recreational spot.
Backed by picturesque views and boasting a spirited maritime vibe, this is the trendy place to be for great food, romantic sunset cruises, various sightseeing tours, and much more!
Address: 472 Water St, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
6. Oakland Zoo
The Oakland Zoo is a part of the larger Knowland Park.
Animal lovers and families consider this one of the most fun options for what to do in Oakland!
The zoo spans a hundred acres and is home to a wide range of exotic and native animals across a whopping 850 species.
Each animal is able to live in an environment that perfectly mimics its natural habitat, ensuring its safety and happiness.
The Oakland Zoo is divided into a number of different themed areas.
There’s an Australian outback, an African savanna, a tropical rainforest, and an immensely popular elephant exhibit.
Kids will also be able to head over to the smaller Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo within the 100-acre zoo, where they can view an otter den, a bug room, a lily pad pond, and a Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room.
Plus, there are loads of other ways for animals to get up close and personal with animals, watch feedings, and pet sheep and goats.
Address: 9777 Golf Links Rd, Oakland, CA 94605, United States
7. Morcom Rose Garden
Morcom Rose Garden is a public, city-owned garden filled with thousands upon thousands of gorgeous, sweet-smelling roses of many varieties, colors, and species.
The immensely popular photography location is especially jaw-dropping in spring and early summer, though the blooms are present from early May to October.
Peak season is late May to late July.
Morcom Rose Garden is entirely volunteer-tended and is named after Mayor Frank Morcom.
Morcom himself was the first to plant the very first rose in the garden back in 1933, thus cementing the start of an incredible haven of tranquility and natural beauty.
If you’re wondering what to see that will take your breath away, look no further than this endlessly beautiful place.
The gardens have convenient but intricate walkways and paths, with other features like a cascading fountain and reflecting pool to add to the peaceful atmosphere.
Address: 700 Jean St, Oakland, CA 94610, United States
8. Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate
The Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate is on the National Register of Historic Places and was built in 1899 for Alexander Dunsmuir, a wealthy coal barren.
It is carefully nestled in a valley that is atmospherically flanked by the stunning and verdant Oakland Hills, where it sits on 50 acres of manicured lawns and gardens.
Horror fans will recognize the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate’s 16,224-square-foot mansion as the site of the mortuary run of Tall Man from 1979’s Phantasm.
But regardless of your awareness of horror films, you’ll undoubtedly love the beautiful architecture of the Neoclassical Revival building.
It boasts a total of 37 rooms and 10 fireplaces, with a Tiffany-style dome above it and public rooms paneled with wood.
The Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate hosts regular events year-round, including several themed festivals.
This includes many special Christmas activities during the festive season, Easter egg hunts, and a fun jazz festival for father’s day.
Check out the itinerary to see if there are some cool things to do in Oakland, California happening here!
Address: 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct, Oakland, CA 94605, United States
9. The Neighborhoods of Rockridge and Temescal
The trendy and wealthy neighborhoods of Rockridge and Temescal are some of the best places to visit for a little wandering and sightseeing if you want to stretch your legs this weekend.
After all, recreational walking and exploration are often overlooked as one of the free things to do on vacation!
Rockridge is a rich place, packed with locally-owned boutiques, cafes, bistros, and coffee shops, as well as many fine dining restaurants catering to different cuisines.
It boasts a very loved public library, and a lot of its shops are pet-friendly!
This is the place to be for a great feeling of the local California community.
Meanwhile, Temescal is a hip and trendy spot with an amazing dining scene.
Telegraph Avenue is especially well-populated with restaurants that serve all types of cuisine.
There are also great specialty boutiques, quaint stores, and artisan shops to visit.
You can also find some historic carriage houses and horse stables at Temescal Alley.
Address: Oakland, CA, United States
10. Children’s Fairyland
Children’s Fairyland is situated near Lakeside Park in Lake Merritt’s area.
It’s such a fun and unique must see that it deserves its own place on the list!
This place was erected in 1950 and is a whimsical amusement park.
Some say this is where Walt Disney found inspiration!
The lovely play space of Children’s Fairyland boasts a variety of rides for children.
The 1954 Jolly Trolly is a railroad that takes kids through a tunnel and around the park.
There’s a carousel themed after Alice in Wonderland called the Wonder-Go-Round and a mini Ferris wheel named after an African children’s story, Anansi’s Magic Web.
Children’s Fairyland is much-loved for many reasons, but one of them is Storybook Puppet Theater.
This is the country’s longest continually running puppet theater.
It uses all sorts of sets, costumes, and music to tell exciting and vibrant tales with diverse puppets and stories featuring different cultures.
Address: 699 Bellevue Ave, Oakland, CA 94610, United States
11. USS Potomac
The USS Potomac is famously known as the Floating White House, as it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s official presidential yacht.
It served this purpose until 1945.
Now, it is a National Historic Landmark and is one of only three yachts to have filled this job that still exists.
It’s a unique site and one of the best Oakland attractions.
The USS Potomac stands as a unique memorial to the late President Roosevelt and his huge influence on the nation.
It also offers cruises to various spots in this bay of California, including the Islands of the Bay, the Bridges of the Bay, The Bay Model, and Angel Island.
These cruises will allow you to learn about San Francisco Bay’s history and President Roosevelt’s role in the development and growth of the region.
Address: 540 Water St, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
Looking for more thrill? Why not check out Carlsbad, Catalina Island, and Fresno? If you plan the trip, here are some cool things to do in Carlsbad, CA, some top things to do in Catalina Island, and some fun things to do in Fresno!
12. Oakland California Temple
The Oakland California Temple is the second temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that was ever constructed in the state of California.
It was built in the 1960s with an architectural design inspired by East Asia.
It has a five-spire design that has a Buddhist symbol on top.
The temple has become an important cultural landmark in its community, boasting a lovely garden and an informational visitors’ center.
The Oakland California Temple sits on a wide expanse of 18 acres of land and stands at 170 feet in height.
It’s also one of the most opportune tourist attractions in the area to get an eyeful of a stunning view, simply sit in quiet meditation, or walk through some wonderfully landscaped grounds.
Address: 4770 Lincoln Ave, Oakland, CA 94602, United States
13. Fox Theater
Fox Theater was originally a movie theater back in the 1920s but fell into a state of disrepair and had to be closed in the 1970s.
It remained unused for almost four decades before finally opening its doors once more in 2009.
The beautiful theater boasts a unique architectural design that looks somewhat like a temple.
Now, Fox Theater is a concert hall, home of the Oakland School for the Arts, and a part of the National Register of Historic Places.
It boasts a whopping 2,800 seats and has become a prominent venue, hosting artists such as Kylie Minogue, Paul Simon, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, and Alice in Chains over the years.
Check out what concerts are showing when you’re in town and you might nab a ticket for one of the most fun things to do in Oakland tonight!
Address: 1807 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612, United States
14. African American Museum and Library at Oakland
History buffs will consider the African American Museum and Library at Oakland one of the absolute best places to go in this part of California for a unique insight into its subject.
This important resource contains information on the lives, culture, and history of the African Americans who settled here, providing a rotating exhibit of artifacts and artwork.
The African American Museum and Library contains the permanent records of over 160 African American families.
These records are located in the huge archive kept in the 12,000-volume onsite library.
Some subjects documented are the tales of pioneers, important families of this ethnicity, the history of various political and social organizations, and stories of churches.
There are also videos representing close to a century of East Bay African American history in the extensive Eternal Voices collection.
Address: 659 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612, United States
15. Art and Soul Oakland
Art and Soul Oakland is this California city’s biggest festival.
Held annually in August, this two-day event features a wide range of concerts for all sorts of genres, such as gospel, soul, jazz, hip hop, and blues.
It has run for two decades and shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s also one of the city’s free things to do, charging no admission fee!
Of course, as is customary with any cultural festival, there are more fun things to see and do during the Art and Soul Oakland event.
Children can take part in art activities or ride carnival rides, and there are tons of food vendors and artisan stalls so you can shop till you drop, or at least get a good bite, during the festivities.
Address: 14th and, Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, United States
16. Mountain View Cemetery
Mountain View Cemetery may not be a common choice among options for what to do in the city, but if you visit respectfully, you’ll be greeted by a gorgeous site where you can pay your respects to many local luminaries.
The cemetery was built in 1863 and spans 223 acres, designed more like a park than a macabre final resting place, and as its name suggests, it does offer nice views from its little hill!
Mountain View Cemetery is the final resting place of mogul Charles Rocker, mayor Samuel Crocket, chocolate king Domingo Ghirardelli, rapper Mac Dre, architect Julia Morgan, and railroad tycoon Charles Crocker, among many other notable names.
The cemetery also houses three unique pyramid mausoleums, which is more than any other single cemetery in the country.
Address: 5000 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611, United States
17. RingCentral Coliseum
Looking for stuff to do?
Whether or not you’re a sports fan, you can have tons of fun watching a game of football or baseball in the city!
The place to do so is RingCentral Coliseum, the home of the football-playing Oakland Raiders and the baseball-playing Oakland Athletics.
This makes the stadium the only multi-purpose stadium of this variety in California and the whole country!
Locals are immensely loyal to their home teams.
All throughout the city, you’ll see the mascot of the baseball team, an elephant named Stomper, displayed in statue form.
You’ll also likely notice that it’s tough to go a few minutes without seeing someone sporting a hat for the sports team they love!
After all, the Athletics were the stars of the 1968 film Moneyball, so they have more fame than the average baseball team.
Address: 7000 Joe Morgan Wy, Oakland, CA 94621, United States
If you have more time, try to visit Irvine, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. If you plan the trip, here are some of the best things to do in Irvine, what to do in Long Beach, and what to do in Los Angeles!
18. Cathedral of Christ the Light
The Cathedral of Christ the Light is considered an architectural marvel.
It sits in the Lake Merritt area on 2.5 acres of land, where it seamlessly blends modern styles with traditional spiritual symbolism.
Each night, its lights shine so brightly that it is almost a beacon on the shore of the lake.
Even if you’re not religious, a visit to this beautiful place is one of the best things to do in Oakland.
The Cathedral of Christ the Light was finished in 2008.
It is built around a “fish bladder” or vesica piscis symbol.
This is, essentially, a shape that comes about when two circles of the same radius intersect in an almond-like shape often compared to an eye or ichthus fish.
There are two large windows at the back and front of the building, named the Alpha and Omega Windows respectively.
Inside, a high ceiling called the Oculus is constructed to allow in gentle light while diffusing it beautifully using 140 aluminum panels angled in specific manners.
The cathedral’s skeleton comprises several wooden curved beams that make one feel like they are in a fish’s belly or a large ship.
It is clear that the church’s design is focused on light, made more obvious by the fact that the building’s surface is constructed out of glass.
In the rear window, you can view an amazing image of Jesus Christ that spans 58 feet, following the appearance of Christ Enthroned in the Final Judgement.
This image is achieved through 94,000 holes that were pierced in the Omega Window’s aluminum panels.
Address: 2121 Harrison St, Oakland, CA 94612, United States
19. Joaquin Miller Park
Joaquin Miller Park is named after California poet and writer Joaquin Miller.
It covers 200 acres of land in the beautiful area of Oakland Hills.
It is a very wooded spot with pines, redwoods, oaks, and other trees, some of which were the original plantings of Miller himself.
Nature enthusiasts and those seeking recreational opportunities will likely consider this one of the most lovely places to visit for biking, hiking, and other fun and calming activities.
A unique feature of the park is the Joaquin Miller Monuments.
This is where the author built his home and constructed a total of four very odd monuments in the surrounding space of the modest Victorian house.
While you’re in the park, they’re certainly worth a look!
Address: 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd, Oakland, CA 94602, United States
20. Black History Tours
Oakland, California has been an important place for a variety of progressive movements and causes over the years.
After all, this is where the Black Panthers were born.
The city has indicated 12 important landmarks for the civil rights movement and local African American history, and black history tours are offered to allow you to view each landmark with crucial context and information.
For history buffs, this is a must do when it comes to touring experiences in the city.
Among the sites you’ll get to view are the Serve the People mural, the Women of the Black Panther Party mural, the penthouse of Huey Newton, and the It’s All Good Bakery where the aforementioned party had its first office.
Address: Oakland, CA, United States
21. Oakland Aviation Museum
The Oakland Aviation Museum, situated beside the city’s airport, is a lovely non-profit institution.
It educates guests on the role of the Bay Area’s influence on aviation development, the history of aviation in California and the rest of the nation, and various technological achievements in the field.
The Oakland Aviation Museum is one of the prime Oakland attractions for aircraft aficionados, and it’s also a fun site for people who are generally interested in its subject.
The museum is home to more than 30 different airplanes, some modern and some vintage, and some of military background.
Once, this museum’s building was an aeronautics school.
Now, it teaches about aeronautics in a different way, with exhibition rooms, outdoor exhibits, and a research library to peruse.
Address: 8252 Earhart Rd, Oakland, CA 94621, United States
22. Paramount Theatre Oakland
Paramount Theatre Oakland, sometimes called Old Paramount Theater, was once the biggest theater on the west coast, known as one of the most respected establishments of its kind throughout California.
Though it is no longer in its heyday, it remains a beautiful site that is well worth a visit!
This multi-purpose theater boasts an Art Deco style and seats 3,040 people.
It’s the home of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, as well as the stage of the Oakland Ballet.
In addition, it hosts a wide range of activities and musical events relating to various genres.
You can find classical, jazz, pop, R&B, rock, blues, and gospel performances here.
Sometimes, there are even classic Golden Era movie screenings, stand-up comedy shows, and lectures!
Address: 2025 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, United States
23. Indigenous Red Market
Looking for more things to do in Oakland, California where you can get your shop on?
Head to the incredibly important Indigenous Red Market.
The city itself is seated on the Ohlone Tribe’s land, and you can support the tribe by purchasing goods during these markets.
The Indigenous Red Market is held each month on the first Sunday.
Artists, designers, and vendors of Indigenous backgrounds come together to honor their culture, praying, gathering, and selling goods to visitors.
This is also a good place to try some authentic Fry Bread!
Address: Oakland, CA, United States
24. Swan’s Market
When it first opened in the heart of the old city, Swan’s Market was one of this California region’s most visited places to go for serious shopping.
Unfortunately, it closed in 1983 and remained abandoned and dilapidated until recently.
Swan’s Market is now revitalized, a fun and fully redeveloped block that has won awards and become a community hotspot.
To get a taste of what the locals do, head over here and eat, shop, and browse to your heart’s content!
Foodies from all over the city flock to Swan’s Market to taste the most delicious meals the Bay Area offers!
Address: 538 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
25. Chapel of the Chimes
The Chapel of the Chimes is the creation of renowned architect Julia Morgan, who designed approximately 700 or so buildings in California.
It is an incredible Moorish-Gothic creation marked with Morgan’s famous eclectic style and decorated with European treasures.
This chapel is filled with terraced indoor gardens and winding walkways, an enchantingly lovely way to house the dead.
The chapel’s many urns are uniquely shaped, many looking like books, and sit in thousands of different tiny niches.
This creates an appearance of a library filled with light, flanked by quiet rooms and gardens.
Walking through the rooms feels like walking through a maze, with many things to see that will catch your eyes and enchant you to no end.
Address: 4499 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611, United States
26. Oakland Art Murmur
The Oakland Art Murmur is a popular monthly event in this vibrant California city on the first Friday of each month.
During the event, over 30 different galleries across Jack London Square and West Oakland open their doors, giving browsers and guests plenty of options for what to do.
Fun musical entertainment, local art vendors, and gourmet food trucks are also set up along the length of the Oakland Art Murmur.
It’s a truly enjoyable event and not one to miss!
Address: Oakland, CA, United States
27. Jonestown Memorial in Evergreen Cemetery
Evergreen Cemetery is the final resting place of a total of 412 unclaimed bodies, each of a person who perished in the horrific Jonestown Massacre.
That’s probably why this is the chosen site of the Jonestown Memorial, a simply designed set of four gray tablets that list the 918 names of people who lost their lives in the event.
This is where to go if you want to pay your respects.
The Jonestown Memorial experienced a total of 32 years of court proceedings and controversy due to a particular decision regarding the names on the slabs.
One of them is that of James Warren Jones, also known as Jim Jones, the cult leader who led the mass forced suicide that claimed so many lives.
The terrible event shook the world to its core, particularly affecting those in the California Bay Area.
For a long time, it was thought that Jones’ name should not have been included among the list of those who lost their lives in the event, but eventually, it was allowed to remain.
His name is unremarkable among the others, listed alphabetically with no special marker.
Address: 6450 Camden St, Oakland, CA 94605, United States
28. 16th Street Train Station
The 16th Street Train Station is a beautiful reminder of the glory days of the Bay Area’s rail travel.
Designed in a gorgeous Beaux Arts style, this was one of three monumental train stations important to immigration in the city during the early 1900s.
Originally, the station’s tracks ran beside the waterfront, though that would not be possible now thanks to infilling.
It was a secondary station and, in 1914, ran electric trains.
As rail transport decreased over the years, the station declined, and it was no longer safe for use following the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989.
Today, the 16th Street Train Station is restored and used for various events as a rentable venue, but this doesn’t detract from its beauty.
A visit is one of the fun and interesting things to do in Oakland for architecture aficionados and fans of the Beaux Arts style.
Address: 16th Street Station, Wood St, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
29. Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon
Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon is one of the city’s more unique places to visit.
This is a dive bar that was built from the remnants of a whaling ship, created in 1883.
This was a common haunt of author Jack London, who even mentioned the bar directly by name in novels such as The Tales of the Fish Patrol and John Barleycorn.
To be quite frank, Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon looks old and almost decrepit, but that’s its great appeal: the absolute pinnacle of a dive bar.
Its floors are often not level, the several-foot discrepancies a result of a 1906 earthquake that also stopped the saloon’s corner clock at 5:18, where it remains today.
Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon prides itself on never shutting down, which is why renovation has never been done.
On the walls, you’ll find a bunch of signed dollar bills left by soldiers and sailors who left California for duties and hoped to return so they could reclaim their cash.
Unfortunately, most of these individuals would never return, leaving all this money behind till now.
In addition to all of that, this is the only commercial establishment in the entire state that still uses old-fashioned, authentic gas lighting.
It also still has its 1889 stove, which has been the only source of heating that the saloon has ever had!
Address: Jack London Square, 48 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
30. Kinetic Steam Works
Kinetic Steam Works is a collective in the bay area that focuses on the restoration of kinetic art powered by steam, repurposing clockwork pieces in retro-tech industrial works.
The group has existed since 2005 and emphasizes the rhythmic, calming nature of steam power and the evocative structures that can be created by it.
For the most part, Kinetic Steam Works is an educational arts group, and it’s one of the most known of its kind.
If you’d like to learn the skills required for such an endeavor, this is certainly among the top points of interest in California to do so.
The group also displays their works via cool and fun performances that use surrounding technologies and steam engines.
Some of Kinetic Steam Works’ best creations are available to view.
Its most popular pieces include the 1917 restored Pappy, a J.I. Case Traction Engine with a whopping 75 horsepower.
There is also the deeply loved engine Hortense, which was the first of the collection and is used as the power behind many works of kinetic art.
Address: Oakland, CA 94607, United States
31. Champions for Humanity Monument
The Champions for Humanity Monument is famously referred to as the Mount Rushmore of California.
Made by Mario Chiodo, this is one of the many interesting uptown Oakland attractions.
It is made up of statues of 25 different, diverse role models who have been contributors toward movements for peace, human rights, and freedom over the last 150 or so years.
Featured people at the Champions for Humanity Monument, taglined “Remember Them”, are Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Harvey Milk, Cesar Chavez, Elie Wiesel, Chief Joseph, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Unknown Rebel of Tiananmen Square.
The Champions for Humanity Monument is the largest bronze monument on this side of the Mississippi, weighing a whopping 60,000 pounds.
The center of the structure features three sculptures that depict every figure sitting on top of books, each book’s spine bearing the name of its corresponding figure.
Address: 1900 Rashida Muhammad St, Oakland, CA 94612, United States
32. Bay Area Thelemic Temple
The Bay Area Thelemic Temple‘s facade is unremarkable: a storefront that is mostly nondescript.
Within, however, is an entirely different story, one of the most unique tourist attractions in the city.
This is a home of the Order of the Temple of the East, or the Ordo Templi Orientis, a religious organization created by Carl Kellner and, later, refined by the renowned occultist Aleister Crowley.
This rather secretive, masonic-like group is devoted to all sorts of esoteric mysteries.
It holds regular rites of magical nature, such as Gnostic Mass, though initiation is a secretive process only open to some.
Supposedly, members of this strange temple practice all sorts of rituals that invoke demons and angels, and they even astral project!
Most branches of the Bay Area Thelemic Temple aren’t easy to access, but the one in this city in California is quite open and welcoming.
You’re welcome to enter and ask respectful questions, and they’re not unused to nonbelievers!
Address: 77 8th St #206, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
33. Watermelon Rock
The Watermelon Rock is a highly unique work of art.
More specifically, it’s a type of graffiti!
It sits on the San Leandro Bay shoreline, where it has been since the mid-1980s.
Originally, this landmark was an orange slice, painted onto a semi-circular concrete slab in 1983 by Sandra Gibson, a local resident.
But a few years after that, it was repainted as a watermelon!
For a while, the Watermelon Rock was the cause of some annoyance among locals.
Supposedly, the vibrant rock “ruined” the natural beauty of the shoreline of the lake upon which it rested.
Someone, in annoyance, even painted the rock black, but Watermelon Rock was also carefully repainted so as to return to its fruitiness.
There have even been times when it has been painted as various citrus fruits, but for whatever reason, it also returns to its watermelon form.
Funnily enough, no one knows who keeps repainting this rock or why people have chosen to keep it alive.
Going to pay a visit to the famous rock may not be one of the more typical things to do in Oakland, but it’s a great sight regardless!
Sometimes, during high tide, the rock is submerged, only to resurface shortly after.
Address: Doolittle Dr, Oakland, CA 94621, United States
Looking for more thrills around California? Why not check out some of the fun things to do in La Jolla?
Start Planning Your Trip To Oakland
Oakland is often overlooked as a tourist destination, which is truly a shame given its gorgeous architecture, vibrant culture, wealth of history, and lovely natural spaces.
With plenty to do and see, there’s something for everyone in this waterfront city and countless ways to immerse yourself in its past and present.