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Lake Merritt

Just the facts

Who dwells here: Avid runners, young families, musicians, students, professionals
Main architecture: Art Deco to 1950s flats
Neighborhood giants: Lake Merritt
Best slice: Boot & Shoe Service
Where to mingle with locals: Every side of the lake

The vibe 

Do you know those French impressionist paintings from the turn of the century? Lake Merritt could be a model for a 21st-century version. It has that Saturday-by-the-lake relaxed vibe. Geese quack, joggers loop the perimeter and rowers plunk their oars into the water. Add to that some barbequing, salsa dancing and sun bathing at Lakeside Park.

The inside inside scoop

This is Visit Oakland’s version of Believe it or Not. But believe this. Lake Merritt was the United States’ first official wildlife refuge (in 1870).

If you only have three hours

The 3.1-mile Lake Merritt can be walked, jogged, padded, peddled or gondola-ed. A favorite is the authentic Venetian gondolas for two or more. Looking for a lakeside guide? The audio historic tour, “Once upon a time, happily ever after,” can be downloaded online, starting at the Rotary Nature Center.

Nearby is Children’s Fairyland, a storybook theme park that was the inspiration for THE theme park giant—Disneyland.

Thirsty after all that touring? Grab a pint at Portal, a margarita at Lake Chalet or a kombucha at Grand Lake Kitchen.

How to get here

Freeway exit: From I-580 E, the Grand Ave/Lakeshore exit; from I-580 W, the Grand Ave. exit

BART stop: 19th St/Oakland for Grand Ave. (though you’ll still need to take a bus, or walk about two miles to access the heart of Grand Ave.)

Bus lines: NL, 12, 58L, 75, 805 (all-nighter)

Oakland spotlight The