Posted Nov 19, 2015

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings

Oakland has always been one of the best-kept secrets of the Bay Area— probably because when most people think of the region, SF immediately comes to mind. However, Oakland has its own distinct feel, a community-minded spirit and … significantly cheaper rent! It’s no wonder that so many Bay Area 20-somethings choose to live across the bay– it’s a lot more affordable, and there are plenty of fun things to do in Oakland.

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings

If you’re a young resident looking for places to meet new friends or simply explore the city, here are some of the most fun things to do in Oakland for 20-somethings: 

1. Lake Merritt

While it’s technically a lagoon, Lake Merritt is at the heart of Oakland’s cultural life, and the home of the oldest designated wildlife refuge in the U.S. On a sunny day (which is almost every day in Oakland), you will find plenty of young Oakland residents here soaking in the rays in a hammock, rowing, boating or canoeing on the water, taking a walk or jog on the trails or enjoying one of many local festivals.

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings - Lake Merritt

There is also bocce ball, paddleboats, a bird sanctuary and botanical gardens. Fun fact: Rumor has it there is a Loch Ness Monster-type creature that lurks in Lake Merritt, which local residents refer to as Oakie or the Oak Ness Monster.

2. Heinold’s First & Last Chance Saloon

There are plenty of dive bars to frequent in the Bay Area, but none compare to Heinold’s. This bar has been an Oakland institution since the 1880s and was built from the wood of an old whaling ship. It was frequented by passing fishermen looking for a pint or two after a long day’s work, and was the famous stomping grounds of iconic writer Jack London.

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings - Heinold's First & Last Saloon

Today it’s a historic landmark known for its tilted floor caused by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. History (and plenty of great beer) abounds here, so be sure to check it out.

3. The White Elephant Sale

20-somethings are usually living on a budget– and let’s be honest, in the Bay Area, this can be challenging to say the least. The good thing about Oakland is, every year the Oakland Museum Women’s Board puts on the White Elephant Sale, according to Movoto.

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings - The White Elephant Sale

This is essentially a massive community garage sale, as it is housed in a warehouse and holds pretty much anything you can think of for a home. Think of all the cute repurposed stuff you can get for your new apartment!

4. The New Parkway Theater

You can go to the movies anywhere, but you haven’t experienced cinema until you’ve been to the New Parkway Theater. This self-proclaimed “speakeasy theater” allows patrons to grab a beer, plop down on rows of comfy armchairs and sofas, then watch movies and various sporting events.

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings - The New Parkway Theater

There is also traditional pub fare to choose from like chicken wings, fries, nachos and veggie quesadillas, and all of the booze is sourced from local vendors. This movie theater is practically made for young 20-somethings.

5. The Paramount. Grand Lake and Fox Theaters

If you’re looking for go-to spots for local bands or headliners alike, these are the many venues you’ll need to be familiar with. These old-school theaters have been restored to their Art Deco grandeur, and also feature ballet, traditional theater, and live comedy.

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings - The Paramount Grand Lake and Fox Theaters

The Great Lake Theater has a genuine Wurlitzer organ that is still in working condition– and if you’re lucky, you can see it in action during one of the shows.

6. Jack London Square

Feeling a bit more active? Be sure to check out Jack London Square. Here you’ll find locals working out, biking on the Bay Trail, perusing the night market, dining at one of several restaurants or checking out a happy hour special. One great spot in particular near Jack London Square is Beer Revolution, which features 48 rotating taps. Cheers!

6 Things to Do in Oakland for 20-Somethings - Jack London Square

Oakland is an epicenter of creative types, small businesses and fun nightlife spots that make is perfect for young residents looking to stay in the Bay Area and still live within a budget. Be sure to check out some of these great places during your time here!

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Six Things to Do in Oakland for Twenty-Somethings

Rachel LaCroix


Rachel LaCroix is from the Music City, but she now calls the Windy City home. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys writing, reading, seeing local bands, frequenting Chicago eateries, playing with her adorable schnauzer and, most of all, traveling. She's seen Costa Rica to Copenhagen and loves it all!

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