Jack London Square and West Oakland are Oakland’s gateway to the San Francisco Bay, with a lively mix of old and new. From land squatters in the 1800s to an influx of African-American shipyard workers during WWII, West Oakland has seen a lot. It was once the headquarters of the Black Panther Party; now it’s a haven for artists. New housing sits alongside old Victorians while the remains of the last stop on the Transcontinental Railroad serve as a relic of a bygone era. Next to West Oakland is Jack London Square, home to new condos, restaurants, and hotels. But there’s another side to JLS: In the early morning, you can catch the workers unloading produce into warehouses and trucks.
That waterfront is full of activities, from boating to a ferry that shuttles commuters and tourists to San Francisco and Angel Island. Take in spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park (2777 Middle Harbor Rd., Oakland, 510-627-1111, EBPARKS.org/parks/middle_harbor), where you can also see enormous cranes lifting containers full of cargo at the country’s fourth-largest port.
Perhaps the biggest attraction in West Oakland is the industrial arts foundry the Crucible (1260 7th St., Oakland, 510-444-0919, TheCrucible.org). The epicenter of the local steam-punk movement, whose artists embrace neo-Edwardian fashions, analog computers, and early 20th-cenutry bric-a-brac, the Crucible is where you’ll find the edgiest art in town. Walk into the warehouse on any given day and you’ll likely see some huge Burning Man-like structure being made. It also offers classes in welding, blacksmithing, glass-making, and other old forms of craftsmanship.
If you happen upon Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon (48 Webster St., Oakland, 510-839-6761, HeinoldsFirstandLastChance.com) in Jack London Square, you might wonder what it is. The small wooden structure, made from a whaling ship, has been here since 1883. Much around this popular watering hole is new, so this historic landmark deserves its designation. Jack London hung out and met many an adventurer here, who became fodder for his novels. Not all is old; the bar, with its floor slanted from the 1906 earthquake, has a new outdoor wooden patio.
There’s a lot of good barbecue in Oakland, but Everett & Jones (126 Broadway, Oakland, 510-663-2350, EandJBBQ.com) is a family-run empire. The Jack London restaurant has solid food, and you can buy a bottle of sauce to take home.
Yoshi’s (510 Embarcadero West, Oakland, 510-238-9200, Yoshis.com) is a jazz club on one end and a sushi restaurant on the other. Opened in Berkeley in the 1970s, the restaurant expanded into the 17,000-square-foot space in Jack London Square in the late 1990s. The club hosts big-name jazz as well as neo-soul and blues musicians. Shows in this venue are unparalleled; the room is cozy and intimate, perfect for enjoying the world-class artists it features.
The Jack London Square Farmers’ Market (1 Broadway, Oakland, 925-825-9090) has the usual farmers’ market wares: locally grown produce and fruit, artisan bread, cheese, seafood, and hot foods — but it recently got better with more live music, a kids’ arts ‘n’ crafts table, and yoga on the lawn. Held on Sundays, it’s right by the water, and family-friendly with public bathrooms, fountains, and a bookstore nearby.