Bridging the gap: A guide to Oakland, USA
Spurn San Francisco (you can always spend a day there) and head over the water to experience 'Brooklyn by the Bay' instead
Oakland's renaissance is complete. Once a crime-ridden city, 'California's Brooklyn' began disowning its bad rap by luring San Francisco's priced-out artists across the bay. Great restaurants followed and the clincher is the arrival – on 28 March – of the first-ever direct British Airways flight out of Gatwick.
What to see
Lining Lake Merritt is retro theme park Children's Fairyland, which partially inspired Disneyland. It's gentle rides, based on stories such as Alice in Wonderland, charm rather than thrill. Those will children should also relish Oakland Zoo's giraffes, elephants and lions, while wide-ranging displays at the modern Oakland Museum of California will delight cultural types.
Take some time out
It's easy to rent a sailing boat on Lake Merritt, or you could head inland and embark on enchanting forest hikes in Redwood Regional Park. Oakland is exempt from San Francisco's chilly fog, making it pleasantly balmy. Talking of San Fran, it's only 15 minutes away on the BART railway.
What and where to eat
Don't judge a restaurant by its location. Anyone doing so would never bother with industrial West Oakland, nor Brown Sugar Kitchen. And that means they'd miss out on its delectable buttermilk-fried chicken and cornmeal waffles with apple syrup. For somewhere reflective of Oakland's multi-ethnic spirit, try Burma Superstar or Ethiopian joint Ensarro.
What and where to drink
'Carnivalesque utopia' is promised at characterful Cafe Van Kleef, a long-standing local institution in now-gentrified Uptown. The carnival element comes via brass sculptures, boxing bells and polar-bear heads, all mixed in with the odd Renaissance watercolour, while early-hours music and strong Greyhounds (vodka and grapefruit juice) provide the utopian element.
The Temescal neighbourhood balances grit with hipster spunk. Find the latter on the pedestrianised Temescal Alley and Alley 49, and chiefly inside its vintage-jewellery and concept stores. The Arbor Cafe is where you'll find Oakland's socially conscious 20-somethings, while the Royal NoneSuch Gallery showcases alternative local art.
The best place to stay
Oakland is Airbnb heaven; the most tempting pads include this art-filled Uptown apartment. If you prefer hotels, head to the spruced-up Jack London Square and its three-star Waterfront Hotel. Cool nautical designs and an outdoor pool await.