In addition to music and exuberant art, you might be able to take in less-expected events on a First Friday (as it’s also called). Recently, TheMuppets movie was projected on the side of a former orphanage turned art school, with a multiracial crowd of grandparents, parents (often same-sex) and kids all chowing on bites from gourmet food-trucks. Or a band (such as Wilco or the Decemberists) or a classic Bacall/Bogart film might play at one of the lovingly restored movie palaces, the Paramount (1931) or the Fox (1928).
After, you might throw in your lot with the vintage-wearing hipsters playing bocce at the raucous, but somehow easygoing bar Make Westing, named for a line from local hero Jack London.
Even if a visit doesn’t coincide with a First Friday, there’s lots to do in Oakland. Here’s a list to get you started.
What to See
African American Museum
and Library at OaklandSet in
an old Carnegie-endowed library, this museum tells the stories
of the vibrant black community, its Pullman porters (many of whom retired here), writers and dancers, its Black Panthers and musicians. 659 14th St., 510-637-0200
Art MurmurThis gallery hop and street party takes place throughout the city on the first Friday of each month, from 6 to 9 p.m. A map of the venues and further information is available at oaklandartmurmur.org.
Lake Merritt Actually a former lagoon that once ran off the San Francisco Bay, Lake Merritt has, rather incongruously, gondolas for hire on it, joggers (and Canada Geese) all around it, and a popular, retro amusement park, Children’s Fairyland, next to it.
Oakland Museum of CaliforniaThe multimedia main exhibition adeptly tells the California story, moving from pre-colonization days, via the Spanish-Mission era and the Gold Rush, to the War on the Pacific, the Summer of Love, and, now, the current dot-com boom. 1000 Oak Street, 510-318-8400,museumca.org
Temescal Farmers’ MarketA market, yes, but also a weekly happening (on Sundays year-round, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Dog owners can check their animals in to an on-site daycare; while banjos play, shoppers interrogate farmers about their fertilization practices; after eating a breakfast of crepes, children in crocs splash through a shallow nearby stream. 5300 Claremont Ave, urbanvillageonline.com/markets/temescal
Where to Eat and Drink
Borgo Italia Bar CaffeA recent arrival from the Old Country, chef Franco Camboli cooks up deceptively simple Italian food in one of Old Oakland’s many still standing Victorian-era commercial buildings. 499 9th St., 510-251-1008,borgoitaliaoakland.com
Brown Sugar KitchenThe airy waffles at this soul-food diner have food writers travelling hundreds of miles, but the fried chicken that can be ordered with the waffles also deserves high praise. 2534 Mandela Parkway, 510-839-7685, brownsugarkitchen.com
FuseBoxEvery plate that emerges from the open kitchen of this lunch-only Korean-plus bistro in West Oakland is visual perfection – and the tastes are as satisfying. 2311A Magnolia St, 510-444-3100, fuseboxoakland.com
Scream Sorbet The organic produce at all those local farmers’ markets somehow gets more tasty as it’s distilled into sorbet. Sampling, within reason, is encouraged. 5030 Telegraph Ave., 510-394-5030, screamsorbet.com
DogwoodThe exposed brick walls of Alexeis Filipello’s new bar are covered in photos of industrial-era Oakland, but its cocktails and cured meats are very much of this moment. 1644 Telegraph Ave., 510-444-6669, bardogwood.com.
Make Westing The bar’s owners are originally from the East Bay, but have lived in Brooklyn, and it shows – from the indoor bocce courts to the abstract art lining its black walls. 1741 Telegraph Ave., 510-251-1400, makewesting.com.
Where to Stay
Claremont HotelThis tower-topped hotel up on the hills, just over the border into Berkeley, is nearly 100 years old. It looks oddly, like something out of an the Raj or maybe, more appropriately, F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Rooms start at $189. 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, 510-843-3000, claremontresort.com
Where To Shop