Arts & Culture Cities

4 Great Ways to See Art in Oakland

Is Oakland on your Bay Area travel itinerary yet? It should be. The city that occupies a decidedly sunnier stretch of Bay coastline than the fog-socked San Francisco, has, in recent years, come into its own as a tourist destination. Discover Oakland’s blend of food-centric offerings, family-friendly attractions, cultural gems, and verdant regional parks. Throughout the city, you’ll uncover Oakland’s worst-kept secret: This is a place that welcomes and supports its artists. Here are four cool ways to explore the city’s thriving arts scene and discover the arts in Oakland.

Galleries and Museums

More than 50 museums and galleries call Oakland home. Follow Oakland’s Visual Arts Map to create your own art tour. Your choices include unique-to-Oakland stops like the standout art, culture, and history exhibitions at the Oakland Museum of California; the community-focused Betti Ono Gallery, which highlights under-represented artists; and artist co-ops like Jingletown Art Studios.

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Visual Art Events

The arts are a reason to celebrate in Oakland. Each May is Oakland Art Month, a time when performances, events, and shows take center stage around the city. Throughout the year, the monthly Oakland Art Murmur draws locals and visitors out for extended evening hours and special events at galleries. Its First Friday art walk (which happens in conjunction with Uptown’s monthly street festival First Fridays) runs from 6 to 9 p.m. The next day, its Saturday Stroll offers a second chance to check out the art during daytime hours, and to join a walking tour for a guided look at local art.

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Mural-Rich Neighborhoods

Oakland’s public art ethos is on proud display with more than 1,000 murals around the city. Check out the city’s latest set of murals—nine new murals created during the 2018 Oakland Mural Festival—around Jack London. In nearby Chinatown, Dragon School’s murals bring new life to neighborhood buildings, restaurants, and parks. Create your own mural tour using the Oakland mural map, or book a walking tour that mixes murals, a scavenger hunt, and postcards.

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Performing Arts Spaces

Find live music, dance, theater, and other performing arts on stages large and small throughout Oakland. The Paramount Theater and the Fox Theater, both Uptown, host big name performers in restored art deco surroundings. Yoshi’s—a Japanese restaurant and revered jazz venue—has a 310-seat performance space in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Its packed calendar includes performances most nights. In the summer, head to the Oakland hills for hiking trails, views of the Bay Area, and theater performances at Woodminster Amphitheater.

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Christine Sarkis spent the day exploring Oakland as a guest of Visit California. She’s also a former resident and longtime fan of the city. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

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