Arts & Culture Sightseeing Itinerary
If Brooklyn is the arts hub of the East Coast, Oakland is the arts and culture mecca of the West.
Arts & Live Music
If your travel dates are flexible, try to plan your visit around the first weekend of the month. More than 10,000 people congregate at the monthly Oakland Art Murmur to visit Oakland’s grassroots gallery district. The Oakland First Friday Street Festival also occurs on the first Friday of every month, drawing quite the crowd of all ages. Don’t let that deter you. You won’t want to miss the street artists, food artisans, craft makers, performers, musicians, dancers, live painters, DJ's, and poets that gather at this monthly event.
Oakland’s industrial art’s scene is home to makers of all ages and backgrounds. Most facilities, like The Crucible, offer classes for the curious novice, the humble expert, and everyone in between. Many Oakland industrial artists create larger-than-life pieces for international festivals like Burning Man. In Fall 2019, running from October 12, 2019 – February 16, 2020, the Oakland Museum of CA will be home to No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man. This new exhibit will highlight many of these spectacular artwork pieces and large-scale installations. Whatever the medium may be, creators have chosen Oakland as their home, making the destination the cultural arts metropolis that it is today.
On any given night of the week, you can find live music at one of Oakland’s unique venues. The New Parish, Yoshi’s Jazz Club, the Fox Theater & Paramount Theater are just a few of The Town’s vibrant music scenes.
See It With Your Own Eyes
You don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate Oakland’s architectural gems. Some of the best examples of Art Deco, Victorian, Arts & Crafts and Millennial Modern are peppered throughout the city. Architectural greats such as Julia Morgan and Frederick Law Olmsted are just some of the notable names who’ve made their mark on Oakland. Take a free walking tour of Oakland’s unique architecture, see a show at one of Oakland’s Art Deco theaters (Fox, Paramount or Grand Lake Theater), or visit the lakeside Cathedral of Christ the Light.
The streets of Oakland are filled with more than 1,000 murals, making the city itself a museum. One group, The Community Rejuvenation Project, has over 150 murals in the Bay Area. They are behind the famed Alice Street mural. This colorful expansive mural depicts historical figures and events that represent “a fusion of the past, present and future communities of this particular neighborhood". Dragon School 99 is another group of artists beautifying Oakland's Chinatown by painting murals with Asian themes. Local students and members of the community are invited to join them in painting the murals, to help people be active in their community and adds a sense of pride and ownership. Click here to view a map of the murals created by Dragon School 99 in Chinatown. A few other well-known murals is the new "Nipsey Hussle Tribute" Mural by Timothy B & Natty Rebel on Grand Avenue near Lake Merritt, and "Beacon Frequency Reader" Mural by Joshua Mays on Broadway in Downtown Oakland. Discover more about Oakland Murals.
Discover Oakland’s culture through culinary.
Oakland has a proud and resilient Black history/community that celebrates the influence on cultures past, present and future. This is certainly reflected and embraced in its food. With everything from Caribbean jerk chicken and plantains to Ethiopian injera with wat and comforting Southern fried chicken, Oakland’s culinary scene is inherently vibrant, flavorful and Afrocentric. Discover More of Oakland’s Black Owned Restaurants.
No longer just Chinese, Oakland’s Chinatown is Pan Asian, with Koreans, Vietnamese and Japanese. Visitors will find foodie bliss in the hand-pulled Chinese noodles at Shan Dong; chew jow ho fun at Vien Huong; seasoned banh mi at Cam Huong; and boba tea at Sweet Booth.
Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood as the center for the Chicano Movement in the late 1960s and 70s. Today, the population is almost half Hispanic with a solidly preserved culture and village-y vibe centered around International Blvd. As you can imagine, Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos are big days on these streets. But visit any day of the week—you’ll find a vibrant community awaits you. Start taco-hopping in the area that has the highest density of taco food trucks. Some hot spots are the Goodwill parking lot for Mi Grullense, and International Blvd and 22nd for Tacos Sinaloa. If you aren't feeling the mood for tacos, check out Reem's Cafe & Nyum Bai in Fruitvale Village. Just looking for something to drink? Visit Red Bay Coffee and neighboring Ale Industries.