Oakland: a Raider Fan’s Travel Guide to His Hometown – Lake Merritt

Sightseeing

My hometown is best known for its sports franchises: the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League and the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball.

Other than the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A’s, my hometown is best known for its high crime rate.

What many people don’t know is that Oakland is actually quite a beautiful city. And that includes many Oakland Raiders and Oakland A’s fans, who only know their ways to and from the Black Hole, a.k.a. the Oakland Coliseum.

If you’re a sports fan, maybe you should either come early or stay late – and see what else Oakland has to offer on your way to or from the game!

This is the second in a series of Hidden Jewels in my hometown – Oakland, California.

Lake Merritt

The jewel in Oakland’s crown is Lake Merritt.

Located to the East of Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt offers boating, jogging, bicycling, windsurfing, walking, birdwatching – you can even ride in a Venetian style gondola on the waters of Lake Merritt!

Architectural critics have hailed the drive around Lake Merritt as one of the world’s most beautiful urban drives.

Nation’s Oldest Wildlife Refuge

The oldest wildlife refuge in the United States, Lake Merritt is home to a large population of birds that make their home there year round. Many more birds make a stop there twice a year as they migrate north or south with the change in seasons.

Children’s Fairyland is located near the shores of Lake Merritt. According to legend, Walt Disney drew inspiration for his eponymous theme parks from visits to Children’s Fairyland, which anyone that grew up in Oakland was taken to at least once for a birthday party when he or she was very young.

Lake Merritt is surrounded by tree-lined boulevards and 140 acres of parkland. High rise office buildings and apartment blocks overlook Lake Merritt. Architectural styles range from modern to Spanish Colonial to Art Deco to California craftsman to Gothic.

There are two cathedrals – one Catholic (newly built) and one Episcopalian (since the good old days), not to mention the mysterious Scottish Rite Temple, the stately Alameda County Courthouse, and the imposing Henry J Kaiser Convention Center.

There are also a fair number of low-rise and mid-rise residential and commercial buildings. The only remaining mansion from the Victorian era takes pride of place along the lake’s shore. The Camron-Stanford House has been lovingly turned into a house museum.

There is a bandstand with the occasional open air concert. There is a lovely public library. Nearby is one of my favourite children haunts – the Kwikway Drive In. Can anybody tell me, is it still there?

Necklace of Lights

From 1925 through 1941, a necklace of 3,400 lights was strung from the 126 lampposts that surrounded Lake Merritt. They were removed during World War II because of blackouts, not to be replaced until more than four decades later in 1985 following a major fund raising drive.

 

 

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