A fair amount of Oakland has undergone a massive revival since my last visit (in the late 1990’s), so much so that a downtown walking tour was high on the list during a recent California road trip.
Downtown Oakland 90-minute guided walking tours are offered by the City of Oakland headed up by Annalee Allen. Though the program has existed for 20 years, Allen has been a part of it for 10, training local volunteers in all aspects of the city.
Eight free tours are offered weekly from May through October (on Wednesdays and Saturdays): Old Oakland, City Center, Uptown to the Lake, Preservation Park, Chinatown, Jack London Waterfront, Churches and Temples, New Era/New Politics. Though not required, reservations are recommended.
Added to this are a few seasonal tours (Chinatown, etc.). We begin inside Oakland City Hall, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Oakland has the distinction of having one of the most unique city hall buildings in the nation.
As we move along the easily walkable downtown core, Allen adds local colour to the tour by injecting history, art, architecture and up-and-coming points of interest. There’s several Art Deco masterpieces to admire as well as beautiful theater exteriors to discover.
The neighbourhood is also home to several eclectic bars, historic saloons and distillery Oakland Spirits Company. Café Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave.) has a pretty crazy interior filled with musical instruments, taxidermy, artwork — you name it!
By the time we’re through, I’m already aiming to return here on my own to discover some of the areas pointed out on the handy map she’s given me at the start of the tour.
There’s also a free shuttle along Broadway if you’re keen on checking out more of the city (including Jack London Square) or catching an easy connection to BART, San Francisco Bay Ferry or Amtrak.
Special group tours are available for a nominal fee and can be customized by combining elements from the eight different itineraries. To make a reservation or to request a custom tour, phone (510) 238-3234.
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