1. Rent is Cheaper Here (and You Can Actually Find a Place)
Source: Flickr user CharlestonTheDigital
Renting anywhere in the Bay Area is still an expensive proposition compared to other parts of the country, but at least rent prices in Oakland won't have you considering selling your organs on the black market (or moving in with six other people).
2. Warm, Predictable Weather
Source: Flickr user Jesse Richmond
While our neighbors across the bay have to carry hoodies and coats just in case the weather takes a sudden turn for the frigid, Oaklanders can plan outings and events with confidence, knowing that a sudden fog bank isn't going to appear and drop the temperature by 10 or more degrees. Plus, it's already a few degrees warmer on this side of the bay to begin with.
3. (Relatively) Stress-Free Driving
Source: Flickr user Hitchster
Driving in any city comes with its share of challenges, mostly in the form of crazy drivers, but in Oakland we at least don't have to deal with the sort of rush hour traffic jams and bottlenecks that our counterparts in other big burgs do. In fact, driving through downtown is downright peaceful no matter the day or time.
4. You Can Find a Parking Space
Source: Flickr user Thomas Hawk
Speaking of driving, you actually have a chance of there being parking once you reach your destination. What's more, the meters are free on Sundays.
5. That Beautiful New Bay Bridge Span
Source: Flickr user Steve Jurvetson
We can technically lay claim to the fantastic new span of the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge, expected to open later in 2013, as it lays on our side of the bay from Treasure Island. That's right, SF, it's ours!
6. Lake Merritt
Source: Flickr user Brad Greenlee
Technically a lagoon, this 155 acre body of water is one of the crown jewels of Oakland, providing not just recreation options but a beautiful slice of nature in the middle of an urban landscape. Lake Merritt's shoreline recently underwent an extensive revitalization, so it's an absolutely breathtaking spot for going for a walk, sitting outside with friends, dining, or renting a watercraft.
7. The Oak Ness Monster
How many cities can claim they have an actual lake monster for a resident? Yes, there are those that believe Lake Merritt is home to a sort of sea monster, affectionately referred to as Oakie, the Oak Ness Monster, and Merrittzilla. Sightings of the beast are rare, but it's yet another reason to come down to the shoreline, which can't be a bad thing.
8. Children's Fairyland
Source: Flickr user Connie Ma
Just a quick skip from Lake Merritt is the delightful family attraction Children's Fairyland. This charming little theme park is designed specifically for kids, so all adults have to be accompanied by one (although special grown-up nights are a thing). Fairyland has played a part in the childhood of many East Bay youth, and it's just as magical for a new generation.
9. Fentons Creamery
Source: Flickr user Show and Tell
If you've seen the Pixar movie "Up", you've seen Fentons. It's the place at the end where Carl and Russell get ice cream together. Yep, it's a real place, and it's just as special as you'd expect from a restaurant Pixar's wizards chose to include in one of their movies. While its building has been revamped, this icon of Oakland really reflects the city's rich history, having been around more than 100 years.
10. The Enthusiasm of Our Pro Sports Fans
Source: Flickr user Michael Dorausch
Even if you don't like sports, you have to hand it to Oakland's sports fans. Whether they're rooting on the A's, Raiders, or Warriors, these enthusiastic souls bring the Oakland sense of community to every home event-and beyond. Oh yeah, we have three pro sports teams, which is pretty darn impressive in and of itself.
11. Baseball Games You Can Actually Afford
Source: Flickr user Kai Schreiber
While we're on the topic of sports, how cool is it that you can go to an MLB game-conveniently accessible by BART train, no less-for less than $20? In fact, tickets to some games can be had for as little as $2.
Source: Flickr user Mary
"Oaklandish" is defined as "how we do it in Oakland." It's also a local brand and, well, movement that celebrates Oakland culture and "local love," selling shirts and other goods emblazoned with an iconic oak tree logo. Additionally, Oaklandish hosts events, promotes civic pride, and supports local causes through grants and donations.
13. The Oakland Zoo Is Pretty Amazing
Source: Flickr user Anna Fox
Packing a lot into a relatively small (100 acre) space, the Oakland Zoo is regarded by many residents and visitors to the city as one of the best they've ever visited. It's great for a day out with the family, or just visiting by yourself when you want to take in the wonders of the animal world.
14. MC Hammer Is An Official Tourism Spokesman
Not only does Mr. 2 Legit 2 Quit himself hail from Oaktown, but the rapper is actually an official spokesperson for the city, having written songs and created videos extolling the virtues of his hometown. Now that's legit.
15. A City of Diversity
Source: Flickr user Debra Roby
One of the many things Hammer loves so much about Oakland is how diverse it is. You'll find people and communities of all ethnicities, backgrounds, and origins here, plus everything they bring with them, including unique art and dining, along with other aspects of diverse international cultures.
16. Great Restaurants That Don't Cost a Fortune
Source: Flickr user Mary
The international heritage of Oakland's residents can be seen especially well in its restaurant scene, which offers up cuisine from pretty much every corner of the globe en masse. No matter that type of grub you like, you'll find several options for it here. Not only that, but there are countless fantastic dining experiences to be had without breaking the bank. The city is just chock full of them.
17. Local History at It's All Good Bakery
Source: Flickr user Kelish
The amazing 7Up Pound Cake and peach cobbler are the It's All Good bakery's culinary claims to fame, but this family owned and operated business actually has ties to Oakland's rich history of social change, seeing as it's located in the original headquarters of the Black Panther Party. Come for the delicious treats, stay for the history.
18. The Mountain View Cemetery
Source: Flickr user Daniel Ramirez
Now, you might be thinking, "How on Earth can a cemetery be awesome?" When it's Mountain View. This place is not only absolutely gorgeous, serene, and perfectly maintained, but it's also quite the history lesson. A veritable who's who of famous Californians, from former governors and railroad magnates to the infamous Black Dahlia, are buried here, and regular tours are offered.
19. Urban Farming is a Fresh Idea
Source: Flickr user Irene Florez
Was that a... farm you just walked past? Yep. Oakland is a hotspot for urban farming, with entire communities coming together to plant and raise crops. It's not just great for community building, but it helps kids (and adults) learn the importance of nature, healthy food, and working together.
20. The White Elephant Sale
Source: Flickr user Oakland Museum of California
Every year, the Oakland Museum Women's Board hosts its White Elephant Sale, essentially a massive (I mean massive) rummage sale inside a huge warehouse. It's basically the biggest garage sale you've ever seen, only with even more unique/weird stuff. Get there early and be prepared to spend money.
21. Print Is Not Dead
Source: Flickr user frankrolf
Put one foot in the door of Issues on Piedmont and you'll be reminded that the printed page is far from extinct. This fantastic book/magazine store has hundreds of domestic and international periodicals, zines, and... yeah... tons and tons of magazines. The Oakland area has lots of independent bookstores, but this is among the very best.
22. The Mystery Gnomes
Source: Flickr user Eric
Look down there, on the truck of that tree. Is that a... door? About a year ago, the residents of Oakland started noticing hundreds of tiny painted wooden doors, gnomes, and mushrooms popping up all over the city. Where did they come from? Who put them there? No one really cares, because they're whimsical and awesome. Even PG&E thinks so, deciding not to remove them from countless utility poles where they've taken up residence.
23. Even the Trash Cans Are Pretty
Source: Flickr user Connie Ma
If there's a space in Oakland without a gnome nailed to it, there's probably a mosaic on it. This includes many of the city's trash cans. Local artists have gotten the go ahead to adorn the city with all sorts of murals, mosaics, and other urban art in a successful attempt to make it even nicer looking.
24. Montclair's Storybook Houses
Source: Flickr user Chris Cochems
Going back to gnomes, and in the vein of Fairyland from earlier, Oakland's Montclair district has some of the most utterly charming homes you've even seen. They look like something straight out of a storybook. You can have a great afternoon just strolling and looking at these architectural wonders.
25. Picardy Drive's Winter Wonderland
Source: Flickr user Shim
A different sort of fantasy land, Picardy Drive has plenty of amazing houses to oggle at, but it's probably best known around the country for its yearly display of Christmas Lights. If you're here during the holiday season, you really shouldn't miss it.
26. The Crucible Art Collective
If you'd rather make art than look at it, check out The Crucible. This artists' collective has classes on metalworking, glassblowing, and tons of other ways to unleash your pent up creativity.
27. NIMBY Space
Source: Flickr user Orin Zebest
NIMBY stands for "Not In My Backyard" and is a place where DIY artists, makers, hackers, and other creative folks can rent space to do what they do best-without driving their neighbors crazy, hence the name. It's also a venue for all sorts of crazy events, and in the past has hosted the Death Guild's recreation of Thunderdome of "Mad Max" fame. Yours truly will never forget that night.
28. The Chabot Space and Science Center
Source: Flickr user Don DeBold
Looking for a different type of space? You'll find it at the Chabot Space and Science Center, an observatory and planetarium in the Oakland Hills. There, you can learn about space, look into space, or just take in an awe-inspiring view of Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, and beyond, day or night.
29. The Grand Lake Theater and its Mighty Wurlitzer
Source: Flickr user Hitchster
If stars of a different sort are your thing, the majestic Grand Lake Theater is can't-miss. Not only is its restored Art Deco interior jaw-dropping, but this place has a beautiful sounding Wurlitzer organ that rises out of the orchestra pit before some showings, on which live music is played. It's truly a unique moviegoing experience.
30. The New Parkway Theater
An even more unique (and unusual) movie watching experience can be had at the recently reopened Parkway Theater, where traditional theater seats make way for couches and armchairs, and adult beverages are on the menu. It mainly shows documentaries, in addition to art house movies, indie flicks, and cult classics.
31. The Paramount and Fox Theaters
Source: Flickr user Alejandro De La Cruz
In addition to many smaller clubs, Oakland has two world-renowned live venues, the Fox Theater and the Paramount Theater. Featuring stunning restored architecture, they both play host to big-name music acts, while the Paramount is also used for ballet, theater, and comedy shows. There's just something about seeing an awesome band or other live event (I saw Devo at the Paramount) in such an amazing setting that makes it even more memorable.
32. Souley Vegan
Source: Flickr user George Kelly
Oakland has plenty of options for vegetarian and vegan cuisine, but one of its most unique by far is Solely Vegan-a vegan Soul Food restaurant. Enjoy your crispy tofu "catfish" while watching a continuous loop of old Soul Train episodes playing in the background at this Jack London Square fixture.
33. Better Deep Dish Than Chicago
Source: Flickr user LWY
I've heard transplanted Chicago natives freely proclaim that the deep dish pies at Zachary's Chicago Pizza on College Avenue are the best they've ever had. I unfortunately don't have the ability to make that comparison for myself, but their pizza is amazing-and plenty of other folks think so too, meaning this place is pretty much always busy. But so, so worth it.
34. Bakesale Betty Chicken Sandwiches OMG
Source: Flickr user _e.t
Add this to the list of food in Oakland worth waiting for. Bakesale Betty is renowned for their fried chicken sandwiches, which people happily wait in block-long lines for. They're a fantastically crispy, spicy treat that you get to eat while sitting at an old ironing board turned table. It sounds gimmicky, sure, but the food doesn't lie.
35. Beer Revolution
Source: Flickr user Luiz Eduardo
Anyone who's over 21 and looking to wash all this awesome food down should absolutely not miss Beer Revolution. This Jack London Square favorite doesn't just have beer-it has all the beer and then some. I'm talking 48 beers on tap at all times (regularly rotates) and hundreds of others in bottles. The only problem is deciding what to try.
I'm going to end this list here, but I could easily keep going for dozens more-and then some. What I'm hoping is that you'll help us expand this small snippet of what makes Oakland so awesome by adding your own recommendations, favorites, and hidden gems in the comments section.