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View of Oakland, CA from Berkeley

13 Things to Know About Living in Oakland

Thinking of moving to Oakland? This East Bay city has reliable public transportation, beautiful parks, mild weather year-round, and plenty more to offer California residents. Here are 13 things to know about living in Oakland!

Economical Living in a Major California City

As a major city in California, The Town’s larger price tag is well worth it for residents who love the city’s rich culture and sunny skies. That said, living in Oakland is relatively inexpensive when compared to its neighbor, San Francisco—which has a cost of living 95% higher than Oakland’s. Plus, to make up for Oakland’s more expensive cost of living, the city’s median household income is significantly higher than the national average. As for housing, while Oakland’s median rent is $1,189—which is about 25% more than the national average—The Town does offer Bay Area residents budget-friendly living options. Before moving to California, check out some of Oakland’s safe, affordable neighborhoods like Bushrod and Cleveland Heights!

Launch Your Career in O-Town

Port of Oakland during the day with a heart shape cloud on the top left corner of the sky. Photo by Instagram username @portoakland

Photo via @portoakland

If you’re thinking of moving to Oakland for job opportunities, you’re in luck! The city is seeing steady growth in its employment rate with a high average salary. With employment opportunities with leading industries in O-town including business, healthcare services, arts, and logistics, Oaklanders can benefit from a diverse job market. Find work in the healthcare industry with Oakland’s largest employer, the Kaiser Permanente health system. Apply to the Port of Oakland, which generates thousands of jobs as one of the busiest container ports in the country. Other major employers in the area include Sutter Health, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Southwest Airlines, and the University of California. But if you’d rather work for smaller companies, take a look at some of the most established startups in Oakland!

Support Oakland’s Rich & Diverse Communities

Protesters holding the banner "Deep East Oakland Rising" on the streets. Photo by Instagram username @amirazizphotos

Photo via @amirazizphotos

You’re sure to find your place in the fourth-most ethnically diverse city in the nation! Party at the annual Korean Culture Fest and dance along to K-pop melodies in Koreatown Northgate (KONO), a multicultural community of Korean Americans, Somalians, and Eritreans. Welcome in the new zodiac year at the Lunar New Year Bazaar in Chinatown—or learn how to make fortune cookies at the oldest fortune cookie factory in the United States. Head to the bottom of Oakland Hills to visit the heart of the Latinx community, Fruitvale. Celebrate the lives of passed loved ones at Día de los Muertos. Gather every year in support of 510 Day to protest local gentrification and social justice issues. Follow the Black Lives Matter movement, co-founded by local activist Alicia Garza. Or join the many groups fighting for racial equity in Oakland every day—like the historical Chicano Revolutionary Party in Fruitvale or the Women of the Black Panther Party in West Oakland.

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The Highest LGBTQ Concentration in the Country

Band members march while playing musical instruments like trombones and trumpets, wearing uniforms with rainbow colors during the Oakland Pride. Photo by Instagram username @oaklandpride22

Photo via @oaklandpride22

Oaktown has the highest percentage of LGBTQ adults in the U.S. To support the community, the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center offers holistic health programs, social and educational services, and community resources. Celebrate Pride at multiple LGBTQ events in Oakland! Wave your Pride flags as you march along seven blocks of Broadway down the rainbow crosswalk during Oakland Pride. Watch queer artists like Jasmine Masters, LaLa Ri, or Trinity K Bone’t perform on three stages and sample a variety of treats from food vendors at Pridefest Oakland. And don’t miss out on Drag Wednesday at The Port Bar.

Join Bright Minds in the “Bright Side of the Bay”

Arch at the entrance of Samuel Merritt University. Photo by Instagram username @samuelmerrittu

Photo via @samuelmerrittu

If you’re looking to earn a degree in Oakland, the city has the perfect balance of private and public colleges for you to choose from. Enroll in popular programs like social and biological sciences, or join the ranks of more than 20 NFL players who played at Laney College. Study programs like health and social sciences at Merritt College. Become a full-time student at Holy Names University—a private, Catholic university that offers liberal arts and professional education degrees. Study health sciences at Samuel Merritt University or business administration at Lincoln University. Attend the historical women’s college of Mills College for a liberal arts degree. Or take advantage of Oakland’s proximity and commute to the esteemed University of California, Berkeley.

Take Advantage of Green Commuting Options

You could say The Town knows a thing or two about transit—Oakland has one of the busiest ports in the U.S., six major freeways, bikeways across the city, and an extensive heavy-rail public transit system by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Book local, national, and international flights at nearby Oakland International Airport. Connect to nearby neighborhoods in zero-emission buses with Oakland’s bus system, AC Transit—and support the city’s effort to offer sustainable last-mile commutes. Plus, with plenty of bikeway paths established and underway in this gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community, cyclists in Oakland will feel right at home! As the seventh-most walkable large city, getting around town is easy—especially with additional sustainable commuting options including 511 Rideshare Program and Bay Wheels.

Soak Up the Sun in Oakland

With mild temperatures and sunshine year round, it’s no surprise the city is known as the “Bright Side of the Bay” when compared to foggy San Francisco. Oaktown boasts comfortable summers typically ranging from 55 to 75 degrees, and short winters above 45 degrees. Take your pup to a dog-friendly park in Oakland, like Joaquin Miller Park or Redwood Regional Park. Swim, hike, or hang out in the cobblestone beach house at Lake Temescal. Go birdwatching, spot the Daimyo Oak tree in the Bonsai Garden, explore Children’s Fairyland, or kayak on Lake Merritt while at Lakeside Park. Put on your favorite playlist and go for a 5.6-mile scenic cycle on the Bay Bridge. Plan a date at the Morcom Rose Garden during its blooming season of May through October. Watch animal feedings, take a sky ride over the entire park, stay past sunset for Glowfari, or camp out with your kiddos during Family Sundown Safari at the Oakland Zoo.

Wander Oaktown Museums

An adult man carrying a toddler so that he can look into a telescope in Chabot Space and Science Center. Photo by Instagram username @chabotspace

Photo via @chabotspace

Oakland has all kinds of museums for lovers of science, history, and culture! Stop by for Open Cockpit Day at Oakland Aviation Museum near the airport. Explore interactive exhibits and space artifacts, watch shows inside the full-dome planetarium, stargaze on the weekends, and more at the Chabot Space & Science Center! View more than 10,000 volumes of records about the lives of Black Americans—like those in the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.—at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO). Admire two blocks of restored 19th-century Victorian houses at Preservation Park. Or play one-of-a-kind games at the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE).

Explore Oakland’s Colorful Art Scene

With such a cool art scene, residents can find plenty of things to do in Oakland. Learn about the works of important figures through interactive displays and exhibits at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) or FM Oakland. Enjoy a discounted admission rate at OMCA’s First Sundays. Support local creatives at Oakland First Fridays in the Koreatown Northgate District. Stay in KONO and join an Art Murmur walk to spot utility box art. Explore the interiors of O-Town’s luxurious Art Deco theaters, including the historic Fox Theater, Paramount Theatre, and Orinda Theatre. Go back in time to get hit with a wave of nostalgia from The 90s Experience. Or make your own jewelry, ceramic containers, or glass at The Crucible.

Stop by Oakland’s Festivals

Black female singer signing on Art+Soul Oakland stage. Photo by Instagram username @stillharper

Photo via @stillharper

The “Bright Side of the Bay” is never short on annual festivals. Sing and stomp along to performances from SambaFunk! and other local artists during Woodminster Summer Musicals, the longest-running live theater in Oakland. Chow down on soul food and boogie to jazz, funk, R&B, blues, and more at Art + Soul Oakland. Find amazing Asian street food and boba at Chinatown StreetFest. Spend a relaxing evening with nature at the Autumn Lights Festival in The Gardens at Lake Merritt. Or taste experimental food made with locally-sourced ingredients at the free Eat Real Fest, an event to build awareness of sustainable food systems to reduce your environmental footprint in Oakland.

Root for The Town’s Sports Teams

Oakland Athletics baseball team members Matt Olson (28) and Marcus Semien (10) elbow bumps. Photo by Instagram username @dyamaphoto

Photo via @dyamaphoto

Oakland is a hall of fame for amazing sports teams. The city was the longtime home to the Raiders (NFL), and though they relocated to Las Vegas, The Town still has three professional sports teams. Catch the Oakland Athletics (MLB) hit homers and get your baseball signed by your favorite player during A’s Fan Fest at the Oakland Coliseum. Grab a seat at Foothill College Stadium and watch the Oakland Spiders (AUDL) face their rivals. Cheer on the Oakland Roots SC (USL Championship) at Laney College Football Stadium, or wait for the new women’s team, Oakland Soul (USL W) to start playing in spring ’23. Or train for the annual Oakland Marathon—you can even invite your children to the Kids Fun Run!

Dine at O-Town’s Best Restaurants

Breakfast wrap with rosemary roasted potatoes and fresno chili hot sauce on a plate. Photo by Instagram username @petitcafeoak

Photo via @petitcafeoak

Since O-Town is so multicultural, the city offers residents a variety of cuisines. Start your morning with a quick bagel and Lavender Latte at Awaken Cafe & Roasting. Experience classic breakfast dishes like a Buttermilk Egg Biscuit Sandwich with a Chai Spice Smoothie at Petit Cafe. Enjoy classic Vietnamese dishes like Bun Bo Hue, Bun Rieu, Spring Rolls, or Pho at Pho King. Munch on delicious sandwiches, Oxtail Poutine, Painted Hills New York Steak, and more at Chop Bar, a gastro pub influenced by West African culture. Looking for soul food in Oakland? Tuck into comfort Southern food like Fried Chicken, Cream Biscuits, and Granny Smith Apple Beignets from women-owned eatery Brenda’s Oakland. Order barbecue and street soul food with a meatless twist, like the Barbequito or Smacka at Vegan Mob. Or crack open everything from crab and clams, to fried oysters at iconic Cajun seafood restaurant, Rockin’ Crawfish.

Explore Oaktown’s Nightlife Scene

Three women raising their beer glasses for a cheer. Photo by Instagram username @temescalbeer

Photo via @temescalbeer

Oaktown’s night scene has something for everyone! After a show at Fox Theater, head just around the corner to Cafe Van Kleef for live music and signature greyhound drinks like the Dirty Dog, Bluehound, or Bulldog. Snack on Thai Spicy Peanuts while knocking back brews like Temescal Hazy, Guava Boat, or Crowd Favorite on the open patio at Temescal Brewing. Challenge friends to a game of shuffleboard or munch on freshly-popped popcorn in the bait-shop-turned-bar Kingfish Pub & Cafe. See late writer Jack London’s popular drinking spot and stand on the slanted bar floor that survived an earthquake at Heinold’s: First and Last Chance Saloon. Or hop over to Mad Oak Bar ‘n’ Yard for trivia and comedy nights, along with over 40 draft beers to choose from!


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Oakland, CA - 13 Things to Know

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.