This Lesser-Visited City Is One Of Samantha Brown's Favorites In California

Perched on the east side of San Francisco Bay lies the vibrant cultural melting pot of Oakland, California. From the preserved photogenic historic district of Old Oakland to the upbeat Jack London Square situated along the waterfront, it's easy for this city to keep both locals and visitors entertained. Unsurprisingly, the city is listed among travel expert and enthusiast Samantha Brown's 30 Incredible Places to Visit in California. 

According to Brown, most of the attention centered on northern California falls on San Francisco, leaving cities like Oakland an underrated next-door neighbor. Just under 30 minutes across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, Oakland rarely receives the recognition it deserves. It's also just a grape's toss away from some of the country's best cities for wine tasting, like Napa and Sonoma Valley. According to Money Magazine, Oakland was rated among the country's top 25 cities to live in, taking climate, weather, landscape, and culture into consideration. Oakland is also a leading city in the United States for economic opportunities and artistic community.

Known for its cultural diversity, Oakland's unique ethnic neighborhoods for cultural seekers allow you to immerse yourself in Mexican, Asian, and Italian culture all on the same day. From the densely populated Latinx community of Fruit Vale to Oakland Chinatown — one of the oldest Chinatowns in America — Oakland embraces the cultures and values of all its community members. A lively nightlife scene, culinary gems, and verdant nature trails give this city its whimsical and exuberant heartbeat. 

The best of Brown's Oakland foodie finds

When it comes to Oakland's small-batch brewery scene, it's hard to compete with the local purveyors in this industry. The city relies on age-old brewery methods dating back to the Prohibition era when Oakland's breweries produced 35,000 barrels of beer annually! Linden Street Brewery is one of Brown's top recommendations for visitors thirsty for a sip of this city's cultural delicacy. It also tops the list of Paste Magazine's Craft Beer Guide to Oakland. Previously launched under the moniker Linden Street Brewing, the company has since relocated and rebranded under the new title, Oakland United Beerworks. Sourcing local, high-quality ingredients for its small-batch brews, it relies on four German malts to concoct new and old staple beers you can try in its tasting room. One of Brown's favorites includes the Common Lager, a local signature.

We all need a midday pick-me-up sometimes, and what better cure for an afternoon slump than donuts and coffee? Brown believes the same; Pepples Donut Farm (known simply as Donut Farm) is a staple on her Oakland bucket list. This vegan, organic donut shop is a dreamy plant-based haven for donut lovers. If you've never tried vegan donuts, don't hate on them until you've sampled one of these crumbly cake-like morsels. They're also a sustainable shop, with no to-go cups or bags, encouraging guests to stop and sit awhile to enjoy their coffee and donuts in peace.

Explore Oakland's vibrant art scene

Temescal Alley is a treasure trove of local mercantile and on-trend dining spots. It's also been coined as "The East Bay's Hippest Street." You'll find everything from horticulture plant shops, clothing boutiques, apothecaries, art galleries, and eclectic eateries wedged into the streets of this historic district. Temescal Alley also houses the adorable Book/Shop, one of the cutest bookstores this city has to offer. Aside from the shelves stuffed with new and used books, it hosts community events throughout the year, including The Book Was Better Film Festival.

Speaking of films, Oakland Fox Theater is a nonnegotiable when in Oakland. Tucked on Telegraph Ave in Uptown, this live music venue is housed inside an old 1928 movie house before it was renovated into a space for concerts and live performances in 2009. The theater retains its old vintage vibes while boasting state-of-the-art technology that enhances every live musical performance. Oakland Fox Theater has hosted diverse musical talent, including Billie Eilish, Bob Dylan, Ed Sheeran, Kacey Musgraves, Lorde, and Kendrick Lamar. 

Less than a mile from this historic theater, Jack London Square is a montage of artistic creativity, tap houses, and public events backed by exquisite views of the San Francisco Bay. Visit the Sunday farmer's market or stop by in the evening for Waterfront Flicks in the summer. Urban wineries, coffee houses, Cajun eateries, and ramen bars line the streets of this vibrant square, creating a popular communal social space.