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Local getaways on a budget

While an exotic weekend getaway may sound beyond enticing, sometimes pennies need to be pinched. This doesn’t mean a little exploring can’t happen; in fact, there are plenty of hangouts here in Oakland to create the perfect staycation, or a mini trip without breaking the bank. Check out these three highlights and plan accordingly.

Piedmont Ave. 

The Morcom Rose garden is one of Piedmont's highlights. (Wikipedia Commons)

Piedmont Ave., a stretch of road between MacArthur Blvd. and Pleasant Valley, feels a world away from the day-to-day fast paced urban life.

Like the Île St Louis in the center of Paris’s most visited tourist spots, or the Via Margutta in ever-busy Rome, Piedmont Ave. – located just steps away from the bustling Kaiser Medical and the traffic buzz of the MacArthur Maze –  is lined with coffee shops, interesting little book shops, art galleries, boutiques and flower stands. It’s the perfect place to spend a lazy weekend day. There things are a bit slower-paced – expect to see families out for a stroll, and to be smiled at by people passing by.

Go in the morning, and make like the Parisians – sit a while with a cup of delicious French Roast, and a fresh morning bun at La Farine, then people-watch or browse the dusty bookshelves at Book Zoo and Black Swan Books. Or, order an espresso and biscotti at Cafe Trieste and peruse the selection of international magazines at Issues just around the corner.

Take a newly-purchased book or magazine and walk up Linda Ave., making a right at Oakland Ave. Find a bench in the shade past the shaded steps leading to the Morcom Rose Garden on the corner of Oakland Ave. and Olive Ave.

In the evening enjoy a romantic and authentic French dinner at Chez Simone, and be sure to ask for a seat on the patio. Then, catch a movie at the Piedmont Theatre. Before strolling the avenue and discussing the movie,  try a scoop of local (and organic) gelato from Lush. The next best thing to a cone of the luxury ice cream French Berthillion.

-Suzzanna Matthews


Tilden Park

Tilden Park may seem like just another park to the untrained eye, but when you venture deeper into it’s well hidden forests you will discover all that Tilden has to offer. Besides the basic park elements such as tables for barbecuing and parties, Tilden has many exciting sites for camping and day adventures.

Tilden Park features a wide array of plants and nature including Redwoods and mushroom. (Wikipedia Commons)

Tilden’s Little Farm is a small zoo that attracts inspired photographers and young children alike. The Little Farm is largely run by enthusiastic volunteers and support from the community, and is host to animals such as goats, ducks, pigs and chickens. Many of the East Bay grade schools take their students on field trips to the Little Farm for all of its educational opportunities, and for the younger students, the interactive, animal petting zoo. Aside from it’s central entertainment, The Little Farm is circled and crisscrossed by multiple paths that lead through the Farm and outward into other parts of Tilden, including a small lake with a bench ideal for resting.

Another one of Tilden’s most-visited sites is Lake Anza. This inviting lake has developed over the years into something of a small community water park, with a fully-stocked snack counter, marked off water depths, a grassy hangout perfect for Ultimate Frisbee, and a multitude of showers for getting sand off of toes.

Tilden also hosts the Brazil Building and an 18 hole public golf course. The Brazil Building is a gorgeous structure often used for elaborate wedding and other upscale parties and events. The venue has an amazing panoramic view of the Park and all its visual appeal. The full golf course is open to the public but also offers its own services in golfing practice and cart rentals. The course also features a restaurant for when hard swinging on the green inspires a bit of hunger.

Other highlights in this 2,079 acre regional park include luscious camping sites and horse stables. Tilden’s well-traveled, winding paths are great for both the experienced hiker and the more casual dog walker. Benches dot Tilden’s paths for recuperating in addition to flattened valleys for summertime camping and afternoon barbecues.

Tilden Park is perfect for anyone looking to spend a day, or more, with nature at its best. While Tilden is widely used for camping and hiking, it’s just close enough to the urban city to escape for just a couple of hours.

-Zoe Salnave

Oakland Chinatown

Tucked in between downtown and Jack London Square, Oakland Chinatown is a multicultural mixture of hidden restaurants, clothing stores stuffed to the gills, and grocery stores spilling out onto sidewalks. In addition to a largely Chinese population, the sixteen square blocks offer Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Japanese goods and services.

People can discover new and adventurous selections to eat in Oakland Chinatown such as the uncooked phoenix talons pictured above. (Wikipedia Commons)

The layout of Chinatown alone is an exercise of exploration. The crosswalks run every which way including diagonally, making it a pedestrian’s paradise. The shops are stacked from floor to ceiling with gifts varying from ornately detailed silk slippers to small statuettes, all for pocket change. With a little bit of time and patience, people can push up their sleeves and dig into these delightfully crowded stores. One hot spot not to miss: J & L Trading Company, a tiny shop complete with hair accessories and eclectic Chinese fashion magazines.

For delectable dumplings made with fresh dough, try Shan Dong Restaurant. In addition to these treats, which Shan Dong proudly displays at the entrance, this whole in the wall also serves up handmade wontons and noodles in thick sauces with fresh vegetables. How fresh? Depending on the time of day, the chefs will sit amongst the patrons shelling green beans.

For an on the go treat, Cam Huong Restaurant around the corner creates banh mi, traditional Vietnamese sandwiches. These flavorful Subway alternatives feature a select protein with pickled vegetables and a smear of homemade mayonnaise on top of a freshly-baked roll, all for a few bucks.

But the appeal of Oakland’s Chinatown goes beyond restaurants. For unique produce at a low price, the various grocery stores throughout this neighborhood such as Orient Market are worth hitting up. They get a bit crowded at times as people dig into crates filled with herbs, roots and vegetables outside the stores, but the commotion is worth it; people are sure to come away with goods they wouldn’t have found at Trader Joes or Safeway.

-Bonnie Horgos