The essentials of a day in the East Bay might include a bit of Berkeley, as a seat of higher learning, with one hilltop hike for higher scenic views. Within the ideal itinerary, there’d also be a super-charged sports event, an art deco blast from the past and some wonderful urban wineries, as well as a farm-to-table California cuisine experience or two. While that lineup doesn’t leave time for the ubiquitous Lake Merritt boating and jogging, chances are good that it’s an activity on the ‘been there, done that’ list for many East Bay wanderers. If not, go for it. Here’s a round-up for one great day in the East Bay, knocking off the essentials must-see spots in the area.
655 3rd St.
Oakland, CA 94607
While everyone’s heard of California’s wine country, the folks at this bike touring company suggest that wine city is worth a look, and no designated driver is needed. You’ll join a fun-loving group who put wine tasting and bike riding near the top of their good time list. Guided by your host, Jon, meet independent urban winemakers who pour at their small-scale production facilities in unique premises, such as the one tucked away in an historic railroad building at the Alameda shipyards. Included are rental bikes, helmets, water bottles, a short ferry ride and a delicious homemade picnic lunch at Crown Beach, complete with city skyline views and chocolate cookies.
UC Botanical Garden At Berkeley
200 Centennial Drive
Berkeley, CA 94720
Often overlooked, this is among the best botanical gardens anywhere and one of America’s largest and most diverse. Specimens include the rare and exotic, gathered from all over the world, cultivated and displayed in naturalistic landscaping. Find your favorites among the Japanese garden pond, Chilean monkey trees, busy beehive colony, tall and shady banana trees and the Redwood Grove. Some 34 acres are home to 13,000 plants, so you simply won’t see them all. It’s just high enough in the Berkeley Hills to qualify as a mini-hike, an oasis of serenity with brilliant bay views to remember. Join a docent-led tour on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.
7000 Coliseum Way
Oakland, CA 94621
Oakland is the proud home, for the moment, to three professional sports teams, so better catch a game as long as that’s a fact. Granted, these venues date back to the mid-60s. While $12 is just too much for a beer and $20 is pricey for parking, there’s the option of BART down the street. Politics and prices aside, there’s nothing like being there to cheer on the home teams right around the seasons: Golden State Warriors, Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders.
3200 Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610
One of the trifecta of historic Oakland vaudeville palaces formerly providing crowds with a Great Depression pick-me-up is your art deco blast from the past. As the smell of popcorn mingles with that of heavily tasseled old velvet curtains, a tuxedoed organist seated before the mighty Wurlitzer rises from the orchestra pit. Plush seats, chandeliers, mosaics and show tunes set the tone of a movie-goer’s experience from the old days when the new “talkies” were all the rage. Of course, the brilliant marquee and the giant 52-foot-tall illuminated rooftop sign are the icing on the very classy cake.
Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa
3287 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA 94549
Crossing the threshold to experience the luxurious surroundings of the crown jewel of East Bay hospitality, the doormat is out at this pseudo-French château where denim is as welcome as a little black dress. Chef Adam Carpenter has taken over at the helm of the former Duck Club Restaurant, a breath of fresh air delivered in remodeled décor to reflect rustic farmhouse à la française, enhanced by an outdoor patio and fire pits. Follow the new emphasis on artisanal meats, charcuterie and seasonal produce from local farmers through to its fun pick-your-own-toppings sundae dessert bar. As American writer Ernestine Ulmer put it about a century ago, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”
Related: Best Sommeliers in East Bay