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There’s no question Oakland has gotten a bad and, in many respects, undeserved rap. But just ask Oakland residents what they love about their city-where to shop, where to eat-and you’ll get a prideful response. They’ll likely point you in the direction of the charming yet somewhat eccentric Rockridge neighborhood. They might give you directions to Piedmont Avenue or Victorian Row. They’ll tell you that if you follow Broadway to the bay, you’ll hit Jack London Square. They may even let you know which neighborhoods boast some of the most amazing historic architecture in the Bay Area, or that the view from the Mormon Temple can’t be bested. What they probably won’t do is “dis” their city-Oaktown, as it is sometimes affectionately called.

With a resident celebrity list as diverse as its culture-Gertrude Stein, Maya Angelou, Bruce Lee, R&B group En Vogue, Amy Tan, and of course, Jack London, all of whom either called Oakland home or were born here-this city seems to have something about it that fosters self-expression. During your visit, you can express yourself any number of ways: cheer on the Oakland A’s at Oakland Coliseum, or spend the day poking into shops from Chinatown to Jack London Square. Satisfy your appetite at restaurants that rival anything that nearby San Francisco dishes up, then kick back for an evening of theater and symphony.

In Oakland: Story of a City by Beth Bagwell, an anonymous Oaklander captured the mystique of the city best: “Oakland now is like a great old blues singer. She knows how to moan and cry, but the bad times behind her make her know how to savor the good times. The old-time Oaklanders, and the port, and the big corporations building new skyscrapers downtown are like instruments in a band, and all together now we’re blowing some pretty good jazz.”

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