Jack London Square
Oakland is a rough town, but Jack London Square is an island of tranquility in this not-so tranquil place. This small roughly 7 x 2 block area has a lot of activities jammed into a compact space. Located along the water front it has Oakland's passenger ferry port connecting it to downtown San Francisco. It also has an Amtrak station, and the Bart station is a bout 10 blocks away.
For dining, you can chose from 15 to 20 restaurants including sushi, Italian, pizza, BBQ (Tony Roma's) and of course local seafood. Attractions here include a beautiful marina, a state-of-the-art cinema, a farmers market, several museums, a floating lighthouse, FDR's presidential yacht, a 188-year old Coast Guard vessel, and a beautiful pedestrian-only plaza connecting it all. Your hotel options are limited to a standard Best Western, a nice Courtyard by Marriott, the trendy Waterfront Plaza, and the budget Jack London Inn.
Because this area is named after Jack London, you should try to learn a little of the local history. Heinold's Saloon, in continuous operation since 1883 was a place London frequented in his youth; it has also survived numerous earthquakes with a sloping floor to prove it.
Rough and Tumble... Oakland
Why "rough and tumble?" According to FBI Crime statistics, in 2002 fifty percent of all murders in the entire Bay area occurred in Oakland and nearby Richmond, despite the fact they together account for only about 12% of the area's population... By crime rate, Oakland was the fifth most dangerous city in the nation in 2007 and second most dangerous in California. But like any city the crime is concentrated in specific areas (and I didn't go to those areas so I can't tell you where they are!). Jack London Square seemed very safe to me, but the walk down Broadway from the BART to Jack London Square was full of bums and drug dealers at two in the morning. Luckily the Oakland police headquarters is on this street (7th and Broadway) so I can't imagine things get too out of control.
I drove up to San Francisco from Monterey on Highway 1 along the beautiful California coast. I stayed in the Jack London Inn at Jack London Square in Oakland for two nights. The day I arrived in the city, I made my first stop the Golden Gate Bridge then drove down Embarcadero until I could get on the Bay Bridge to go to Oakland and check in.
After checking in and getting settled, I walked through Jack London Square then caught the ferry back to San Francisco...and saw the most beautiful sunset! Upon arriving in San Francisco, I walked up to Chinatown and grabbed dinner, then wandered toward North Beach, but the strip clubs convinced me this was the area where I wanted to hang out (but I found out the next night I was wrong!). After walking to Coit Tower then back to the piers, I jumped on the BART and went to Union Square. Looking for a few good, casual bars, I ended up walking clear into the Tenderloin district, then--since it was around 12:30am--I decided to head back to my hotel. A ride on the BART, followed by a quick walk through Oakland's rough downtown, and I was back to my hotel and in bed.
The next day I slept in a little then headed to the Oakland Coliseum to see the A's versus the White Sox. After the game, I took the BART to downtown San Francisco and went to Embarcadero Square Mall then down the piers to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. I stopped at Buena Vista Cafe for their famous Irish coffee then walked up to Lombard street to see the popular crooked street. After this I kept walking to North Beach where I had dinner and stopped at several bars. Around midnight I took the BART back to Oakland and spent about two hours at Heinold's First and Last Chance, now one of my favorite bars of all time.
The next morning, I checked out and drove back over the Bay Bridge (fighting traffic for 30-45 minutes despite the fact that it was Sunday morning) then found my way to Candlestick (Monster) Park to catch the 49ers game against the Rams. This weekend, both of the home teams won. After the game it took about 2 hours to get out of the parking lot, but eventually I made it out to Hwy 1 and back to Monterey.
"Second visit -- 29 October 2006"
I made another quick day trip to Oakland in late October to see the Steelers vs the Raiders. I'd love to tell you who won, but I am officially prohibited from giving any information about the game without advance written permission from the NFL and the Oakland Raiders ("including any picture, account, description"). I'm gonna blatantly break all the rules and tell you the much-hated Raiders beat the beloved Steelers 20-13 mostly due to Ben Roethlisberger's 4 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Steelers made it a close game in the 4th quarter and actually completed a hail Mary to the 3 yard line as the clock ran out... :( Everyone in the stadium cried I think. More violations of the NFL's copyright rules are available on my "Things to do" page about the Raiders game!
Other Trips to Oakland
I did make a few other trips to Oakland, mostly to visit my girlfriend's family. One these trips I usually didn't see much, other then a quick stop in Little Kabul and a few glimpses of the huge Mormon Church. I also took my parents to Oakland to visit Heinold's and to see the port where my dad was shipped out to Vietnam back in the 1960s.