I’m still on a high from Black Panther (since it continues to break records), and since I can’t afford tickets to move to Wakanda (yet), my best friend and I took a girl’s trip to the second best thing: Oakland! While we didn’t see the fictitious Wakanda extension that was built for Shuri and Nakia, or even the Wakanda Forever signs that were being projected onto Oakland buildings, we did explore the city enough to create a little guide to Oakland if you’re considering it for a visit.
Oakland is a great add-on to a trip to San Francisco, or Silicon Valley, as it is just east of the San Francisco Bay. I’ve been to San Francisco plenty of times before, but I never really thought about going to Oakland until watching Black Panther. Though you can spend 4-5 days exploring Oakland, the city is definitely compact enough that you can get a good feel of it in just 2-3 days.
If flying from NYC/the East Coast, check The Flight Deal or Hopper for tickets that are below $250. Ideally you’d want to fly into OAK airport, but flights to SFO or SJC may be cheaper, and they are all within an hour of one another.
Getting around Oakland is pretty easy because of the BART train system, but I like to be mobile when I travel to cut down on time spent waiting for trains! For this trip, I borrowed the 2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T in white. I’ve never driven a white car, so I was EXCITED! I actually love white cars – thanks to my current white aesthetic obsession driven by Instagram – but also because they just look so clean. The Sonata was really roomy, especially the trunk, and drove smoothly. I’ve chatted a bit about us being on the hunt for a car, and this one is also a contender!
Oakland reminds me a lot of Brooklyn – it’s like the artsy, hipster cousin to San Francisco. It’s also a historically black city, which means that 1. we got to visit the sites of really pivotal black history moments, but also 2. gentrification has watered down some of the black cultural hallmarks and replaced them instead with “hip” spaces. With that in mind, here are a few places you should visit in Oakland:
Jack London Square
Definitely visit this waterfront neighborhood where you’ll find eateries, farmer’s markets, recreation, and gorgeous scenic views.
The oldest black-owned bookstore in the country, Marcus Books is a must visit in Oakland. Whether you’re looking for biographies of notable black figures or the latest releases by black authors, Marcus Books has it all.
Oakland Museum of California
We weren’t able to check this museum out, but it has a variety of exhibitions, usually one has to do with African American history or culture.
We didn’t end up taking BART, but if you do, take a moment and stop by this station to quietly reflect on Oscar Grant.
The Black Panther Walking Tour
One of the most fun and rewarding things we did while in Oakland was take a self-guided walking tour about the Black Panther Party, it’s origins, and its lasting impact in Oakland. We learned a great deal about the founding members, the schools they went to, the crosswalk that was the site of the Panthers’ first community action, the bakery that stands in their original office space, and Oakland organizations who are continuing the Panthers work in various ways. The tour is self paced, and encourages you to stop and observe, so it would be great for a large group or family as well! This tour was an amazing way to see Oakland, and I can’t recommend it enough!!!
Because Oakland is so culturally diverse, the food scene is pretty good (unlike that in Denver smh). Here are a few food spots to check out:
Ever since heading to Paris with my blogger boo Jasmine, I’ve been more open to eating at vegan restaurants every so often. Trust me, I will never go vegan, but I love the idea of healthy food options! Souley Vegan is a black owned vegan soul food eatery that sparked our interest. We went on a Sunday just in time to catch their Sunday brunch, and I had the blueberry pancakes, sausage gravy, and biscuits. I was made at the use of the word “sausage” because it didn’t even have little fake chunks of meat but the food was still good. As a special bonus, we ran into the comedian Kev on Stage who was in town for a show!
For a quick lunch, stop by Swan’s Market, which has a variety of small, local eateries. I had a Big Sur Melt from The Cook and Her Farmer, which was a shrimp filled grilled cheese. Man, when I tell you that sandwich was LIFE! I really felt bad for my bestie because she was fasting, but I wharfed that bad boy down so fast. One of the best sandwiches I’ve had in my life and the best thing I ate in Oakland!
Nice spot to grab healthy jucies and smoothies, especially if you ate the sandwich from The Cook and her Farmer! The area is also really cute, with a lot of vintage and consignment stores to browse.
I got quite a few recommendations for Mexican food in Oakland, but I loved the ambiance of Calavera for a relaxed dinner. The guacamole was really tasty and the tacos were incredibly fresh and delicious. I know there’s a whole body of people who don’t believe in paying more than $2 for tacos, but these were worth it!
If you’re looking to treat yourself to an amazing happy hour with a view, check out Limewood at the Claremont Club & Spa. They have $1.50 oysters and half off martinis, plus it overlooks the East Bay so you can see right into San Francisco. Their hushpuppies will make you hush your mouth!! So delicious, we ordered a few too many. I also really loved the idea of cheese stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta and made a note to try and cook them at home! For my dinner entree, I had the salmon with caramelized onion ravioli and it melted in my mouth! So delectable!
Speaking of Limewood, we actually stayed at the Claremont Club & Spa for the duration of our time in Oakland! Located on the edge of Oakland and Berkeley, Claremont has to be one of the most hospitable hotels I’ve EVER stayed at – the staff from the concierge to valet to housekeeping were SO friendly. If you’re into dogs, they even have a hotel dog! Claremont put Keara and I in a room with gorgeous views overlooking the East Bay, and welcomed us with a wine and cheese plate! Somehow Keara won the bed closest to the window (she’s not even a morning person!) but we both took turns looking out into the gorgeous sunsets.
The bathroom in our Double Queen room was STUNNING! I actually shot this campaign there, and I’m having serious marble cravings. I feel bad for Jonathan when it’s time for us to design a house because this entire bathroom is what I need!! In addition to gorgeous light and air decor and views, the Claremont is full of history. It was originally built during the Gold Rush, and it retains a bit of that historical charm without being stuffy. They also have an outdoor pool that feels like a country club – without the bougie exclusivity – and an awesome workout facility (though its outside of the hotel, which could be annoying for some). Inside the hotel though is a spa, which we unfortunately didn’t get to enjoy but will be doing next time!
I really want to head back to Oakland, if for nothing else, to spend another night at the Claremont and have another Big Sur sandwich! I’m so glad I got to experience this city with my best friend, and I hope our guide has inspired you to check it out if you haven’t already!
I loved your complete details of the Black Oakland experience. My brother lives there and I’m headed out to the West coast for a graduation in May and to visit family and friends in Oakland. I’m so much more excited to do some of the things you detailed here in your blog. I visited in 2008 and had a great time. It helps to have someone in town to give you tours. I’m even more excited now to visit Oakland after seeing the movie Black Panther … I even visited this hotel, the Fairmont on my last visit in 2008. I don’t know where I heard the story of this Fairmont Hotel and I was obsessed with getting over to visit. I’ve heard that this hotel was in a classic movie and it featured the best love scenes from some restaurant and I had to get over there and check it out. I dragged my father down there with me last time and we had to have drinks and everything; he was barley participating in my fantasy. But you’re right the best views from this hotel. We even asked to take a tour of the hotel and we saw some great sites that day. The views will last for a lifetime. I was trying to get in for some spa services maybe on this visit. Thanks for sparking my interest again. Any other suggestions I’ll gladly receive.
Aww so nice that you’ve been to the Fairmont before. Now I’m curious what movie it was in. I’m sure since your brother lives there he has a better inside scoop on what to do and where to go, but def visit Marcus Books!
I love your take on my hometown, Oakland. I wish you would have visited black owned restaurants like Everett & Jones BBQ (its in Jack London Square), OVO, Southern Cafe, Lois the Pie Queen, Lena’s Soulfood Cafe to name a few. When you return to the Bay, please visit. The Oakland Museum has the Hip Hop Exhibit going on through August. Also, Defermery Park also known as the Bobby Hutton Park, the African American Library. Lots of things to see whenever you travel back this way.
Thanks for all the great suggestions, I’ll have to check them out next time I visit!
I don’t know if I would ever go to Oakland but the Big Sur Sandwich is one that I would love to have. I need to find if there’s a recipe for that sandwich. I love any city about my heritage people.
The closest I could find were a few recipes for shrimp grilled cheese… definitely need to try!