California is a state with a lot to offer tourists. You can experience nature, glamour, and culture in abundance. It is a popular destination because it provides not only for sightseeing or various activities outdoors but also for indoor activities and places known for their excellent cuisine and breweries, like Oakland, among other cities split between North and South California.
Whether you want something exciting or more on the relaxing side, there are plenty of things to do in Oakland that can be personalized to any trip or outing, from food to try, sports events to attend, nightlife scenes to explore, cultural icons to view, and much more.
You may come for the nature, culture, or any other tourist attraction the city has to offer, but what may be lesser known but just as worth indulging in is Oakland’s bar and pub scene, here are the stand out spots to check out for any authentic and worthwhile trek through this vibrant town.
1. Prizefighter Bar
The Prizefighter is an ideal place to hang out and have a drink in Oakland. It’s considered one of the best bars in town; reservations aren’t necessary, but if you are a big group, it will help you to preserve a spot.
The Prizefighter Bar is a local favorite, and it comes with a heated patio. It has a stripped-back brick decor which gives it a rugged edge. As you may have guessed, the name refers to boxing. So you will find boxing memorabilia as part of its decor.
On the menu, you will have a selection of tequilas, an impressive selection of beers, sangria combos, and a small choice of cocktails. They have original cocktails like their Reconquista, a mezcal-based Negroni twist, and the Bushwick, a modern twist of the classic Manhattan. If you have the time, you can buy some merchandise, like hoodies.
2. North Light
In the heart of Temescal is a cocktail bar called North Light. The bar is an excellent place to hang out, have drinks, enjoy music from the record player, and buy some books. The decor includes a curated bookshelf (from authors like George Saunders, Patti Smith, and Samin Nosrat) and a record collection, which adds to the cheery atmosphere. The music always comes from a record player; in the mornings, it favors jazz, classical music, and other genres that help you focus, while in the evening, it will lean towards rock ‘n’ roll.
The all-day cafe and bar serve a full dining menu, Mediterranean-inspired cocktails, Turkish coffee, nitro cold brew on tap, and sparkling lavender matcha. They have a first-come, first-served policy, but you can book reservations if you plan to come as a group. The North Light has a covered, rainproof, and heated patio to protect you and your party from the fickle Bay Area weather.
3. Jack London Square Saloons
Jack London Square is named after the famous local author. It is an area that you can access by private car, Amtrak, BART (the Bay Area’s transit system), or ship. It’s an excellent area to experience Oakland’s culinary, arts and music scene. There are several things to do around Jack London Square, including visiting some of the saloons in the area.
You can visit old saloons like Heinold’s First & Last Chance Saloon, which has been around since 1884. The saloon still uses original features like gas lighting and a pot-bellied stove, tables, movie machine, music boxes, clocks, and pictures of the saloon over the years. Another option is Merchant Saloon, which has been around since 1916. You can enjoy some drinks, billiards, and pinball in the no-frills space. If you want something classic, you can visit The Alley, a piano bar established in 1933.
4. Hello Stranger
Hello Stranger is a bi-level bar you will find in downtown Oakland. You can chill by its lounging booths or hit the dancefloor under its disco ball. The spot has regular DJs who come in and light up the night.
Its signature drink is the Hello Stranger, a “spritzy” drink with passion fruit, Spanish vermouth, and sacred bond brandy. If you have a taste for the bitter, you can opt for Hell’s Belles with Wahaka Mezcal, Campari, and Cocchi Rosa and torched Rosemary.
Also on the drinks menu is the Oaksterdam with Dickel Rye, Henesey Miro Vermouth, and OG Kush Terpenes. If none of those sound appealing, you can choose from a wide selection of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic indulgences.
5. The Miranda
In the heart of the Oakland Uptown district, you will find the Miranda, a stylish cocktail lounge. The design is unique, and it’s supposed to look like a hotel lounge. The decor includes mail slots with keys and letters and a custom California Poppy vintage wallpaper. There are 44 seats in niche areas like ottomans, banquettes, pink flamingo bar stools, and some standing areas.
For drinks, you will have a choice of classic cocktails, or you can be adventurous. In keeping with the theme of the decor, the drink names take their inspiration from the hotel industry. You can try the Staycation ( which has Pimms, Falernum, house ginger syrup, lemon, orange bitters, and egg white) or the Balcony Sunrise (mezcal, Dolin Blanc, lime, grenadine, peach bitters, and espresso tincture).
What Oakland Offers
If you are in Northern California, it’s always worth the time to make a stop in Oakland. Whether you are a foodie or just looking for a drinking hole, you will find a taste that either already suits you or discover something new to enjoy.
The Love Life city is known for its endless offerings for entertainment and culture, and along with that it has a well-deserved reputation in the bay area for its broad and diverse range of dining options. Don’t miss out on all it has to offer by limiting yourself to the more prominent and obvious hangouts like San Francisco, when Oakland is just across the bay and has something to offer everyone.