Get to Know Oakland


Oaktown. O-Town. The place that Gertrude Stein famously said had “no there there.” No matter what you call it, Oakland defies labels and categorizations. With more than 400,000 people residing in this culturally diverse metropolis, the city buzzes with different points of view, eclectic approaches, and creative ideas.

A major urban center on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, about 12 miles from San Francisco across the Oakland Bay Bridge, Oakland is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the country, with different populations at home in distinct and vibrant neighborhoods, from the flatlands and the Port of Oakland to the Oakland-Berkeley hills. Often called the "bright side of the Bay" because of its sunny skies and moderate year-round climate.

Oakland is the only city in the United States with a natural saltwater lake. The 115-acre Lake Merritt, located right beside OMCA, boasts a popular 3.1 mile walking and jogging path around its perimeter, but it is also historically significant as the United States' first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870.

Oakland is a forward-thinking city with an independent attitude, a revived downtown with destination restaurants, robust arts and cultural communities, historic and contemporary architecture, and an abundance of recreational opportunities. Nature and sports enthusiasts also enjoy the East Bay Regional Park District and nature preserves in and around Oakland.

Many locals claim that Oakland has more artists per capita than any other American city. Over the years, Oakland has spawned a thriving, alternative arts scene: rhythm and blues, funk, punk, hip hop, jazz, and experimental music; community visual artists and artist-run galleries; and neighborhood-based open-mic sessions, workshops, and theater performances. In addition, many annual festivals celebrate the city’s diverse cultures and communities.

Environmental consciousness plays an important role in Oakland culture, as evidenced by dynamic local campaigns for car pooling and bicycling to work, among other programs and initiatives. In 2007, the city adopted a Bicycle Master Plan to fully integrate bicycling into daily life.

Oakland has a number of college campuses, including Mills, Laney, and the California College of the Arts. It is home to three professional sports teams—baseball, basketball, and football—and has two major sports arenas. It has one of the busiest seaports in the world, making it an important business and manufacturing center.

Located in an area once inhabited by the Ohlone people before Spanish settlers colonized the land, Oakland was incorporated in 1852 during the land frenzy spurred by the California Gold Rush. The city grew initially from logging the oak and redwood timber needed for the construction of San Francisco; Oakland's fertile flatlands helped it become a prolific agricultural region.