Finally, Oakland is getting the attention it deserves from travelers and media alike as one of the country's coolest cities, having been skipped over for years for sister city San Francisco. But as Oakland enters the spotlight, it remains an extremely affordable destination for culture, food, and other entertainment. These budget activities will make any cost-conscious traveler wonder why you took so long to discover Oak Town:
Oakland Museum of California
The progressive Oakland Museum of California crams more than 1.9 million objects -- covering art, history and natural sciences -- under one roof. Programs explore elements that shape California character and identity, from natural landscapes to its culture of creativity and innovation. Plan your visit for one of the museum’s Friday Nights events, when adults get half off admission (typically $15), galleries are open late, gourmet food trucks park outside, and live music streams through the air.
Grand Lake Theatre
This historic, first-run movie theater, considered one of the top 10 vintage theaters in the United States, is an eyeful of fun. Step in and find a sweeping staircase in the main hall, ornately decorated walls throughout, and brass chandeliers galore. There are even faux opera boxes that line the sides of the theater room itself. Prior to curtain on Friday and Saturday nights, an organist serenades the audience on a Wurlitzer. But if you can live without the performance, go on Discount Tuesday nights for screenings at only $5.
Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
Within the East Bay Regional Park District, Tilden Park and Temescal Park are highly popular favorites for outdoor exploration. While you should certainly check them both out, make sure you save some time for one of the area’s highest peaks at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve -- made of lava and volcanic debris left from a 10-million-year-old volcano. Aside from wandering the park’s trails, don't miss walking the labyrinths at the bottom of the quarry canyons.
This perfectly placed restaurant on Oakland’s waterfront offers a menu packed with Tuscan and Ligurian specialties. Grab an outdoor seat for a mid-afternoon break, between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., and enjoy the view without fighting for a table. Drinks are at happy hour prices until 6 p.m. ($4 beer, $5 cocktails, and $6 wine), and you know what that means -- you can linger and enjoy without worrying about the bill.
Traveling with family? Walt Disney actually incorporated some elements of Fairyland, a storybook theme park opened in 1950, in the famed Magic Kingdom that we all know and love. Today, this Lakeside Park favorite remains a 10-acre fantasy world where young children (and the young at heart) can play, create, imagine and learn. Admission is $8 for ages 1-100.