10 miles E of San Francisco
Despite its areas with ongoing and infamous gang violence, sprawling Oakland is quickly eschewing its bad rap as one of the country’s most dangerous cities for the reputation of being one of the hippest. In fact, after Brooklyn, it has more resident artists per capita than any other US city, making it a mecca for young, socially conscious individuals who are fleeing San Francisco’s increasingly sterile and exclusive tech scene. While Oakland still has grit in spades and some areas are to be avoided, there are also charming shopping areas, well-heeled hillside enclaves, temperate weather, and enough attractions and to make it a destination in its own right.
But this is not the city’s first coming. Originally little more than a cluster of ranches and farms, Oakland exploded in size and stature practically overnight, when the last mile of transcontinental railroad track was laid down. Major shipping ports soon followed and, to this day, Oakland remains one of the busiest industrial ports on the West Coast. The price for economic success, however, has been Oakland’s lowbrow reputation as a predominantly working-class city; it is forever in the shadow of chic San Francisco. Still, now that the City by the Bay is so crowded and undisputedly one of the most expensive places to live in the country, “Oaktown” is in the midst of a renaissance, and its future continues to look bright. A 2012 “New York Times” article ranked Oakland the fifth most desirable destination to visit in the world, just above Tokyo. Rent a sailboat on Lake Merritt, go to the retro toddler-attracting amusement park that is Fairyland, stroll along the waterfront, see a show at the Paramount Theatre, explore the fantastic Oakland Museum—they’re all great reasons to hop the bay and spend a fog-free day exploring one of California’s largest and most ethnically diverse cities.