Oakland might be home to some of the Bay Area’s trendiest bars and hippest music venues, but there’s plenty to see and do during the day with your family, too. Whether walking around Lake Merritt or hopping aboard the Jolly Trolly at Children’s Fairyland, your weekend in Oakland can be filled with surprising twists and turns. You can make it a family affair by setting up a profile so everyone can come along for the ride.
Lake Merritt Park
With year-round recreation, vibrant gardens, and exotic wildlife, one can easily spend an entire day in Lake Merritt Park. While views of the city skyline are certainly impressive, the real treasures are right under your nose. The 3.4-mile heart-shaped shoreline is home to the country’s oldest designated wildlife refuge, with more than 100 species of birds spotted each year. Walk along the lake, set up a picnic lunch, and explore the Bonsai Garden. If you time your visit just right, you might see the Lake Merritt Rowing Club practicing.
The Grand Lake Theatre
The Grand Lake Theatre is hardly your typical movie cinema. Dating back to 1926, Grand Lake is ranked among the top vintage theaters in the United States. Depending on which auditorium your movie is playing, you might be seated in an Egyptian 1920s-style theater, or one decked out in Moorish decor. Despite practically doubling as a historic museum, it’s one of the Bay Area’s most affordable theaters. Their $6 matinee showings are always a hit among locals, so arrive early to claim the best seats.
Oakland Museum of California
Don’t save this museum for a rainy day. The Oakland Museum of California is as fun and interesting for adults as it is for kids, with exhibits both heavy in education and immersion. There’s always something new on the agenda, like their upcoming exhibit on sneaker culture, or their intricate look into the lives of bees. For kids in grade school, consider signing up for one of the museum’s Sunday themed tours. Their tour of California history gives a good overview of Oakland, while the tour of natural sciences is more interactive.
Your kids can let their imaginations run wild at Children’s Fairyland. With nearly 60 storybook sets, four kid-friendly rides, a magical garden, and a handful of friendly animals, this place is an all-day outing. The park is open to kids of all ages, especially among the eight and under group. As soon as you approach the Fairy Gates, you’ll meet the old woman who lived in a shoe, followed by more familiar faces. Wander through the Alice in Wonderland tunnel or play pirate on the Jolly Roger, an ode to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
Cat Town Cafe
If you can’t dedicate an entire day to Children’s Fairyland, you can still meet some furry friends at Cat Town Cafe. Cat cafes are a phenomenon these days, and Oakland is the latest city to catch on. All cats are available for adoption but if that’s not in the cards, you can still hang out with them over lunch. Weekends tend to be fairly crowded, so make a reservation to avoid wait times. Food-wise, everything is cat-themed, including a collection of heart-shaped cookies decorated with whiskers and funny sayings.