Oakland

This culinary and cultural hotbed is giving groups more reasons than ever to meet here

Why Here?

Oakland has risen to the top of many planners' destination lists thanks to its white-hot culinary and cultural scenes and fast-growing meetings offerings. It offers proximity to San Francisco but with much more budget-friendly prices, plus a wealth of outdoor attractions, team-building activities and unique venues ideal for groups of all sizes.

Good to Know
Taxes
Occupancy tax, 14%, city tax, $1.50; state tax, $1.40.

Convention Center
Oakland Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 64,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 17; (510) 451-4000

CVB
Visit Oakland, visitoakland.com; (510) 839-9000

 

Only in Oakland

As the third most popular U.S. city for coffee fans (after Portland, Ore., and Seattle, per SmartAsset), it makes sense that Oakland just launched the Oakland Coffee Rush, a trail of local roasters, cafés and caffeine-infused activities. Visitors can check out Oakland Coffee, a roaster founded by the members of Green Day; enjoy a cup from a mobile coffee-roasting bike trailer from the Bicycle Coffee Company; take part in a latte art class at Red Bay Coffee, or sample a mint julep coffee at Slojoy Coffee Roasters.

Getting Here and There

Oakland International Airport, about eight miles to downtown Oakland. Transfer cost by taxi, $40; via Bay Area Rapid Transit, $8; serviced by Lyft and Uber.

Meeting Venues

Coming Soon

• The Oakland A's announced plans for a new ballpark to be built at Howard Terminal along the city's waterfront, as well as a redevelopment of the Oakland Coliseum, the team's current home, that will turn it into a mixed-use recreation and residential venue. The new stadium, which is framed by an elevated park, is slated to open in 2023. Read more.

• This December, the Waterfront Hotel, in Oakland's famous Jack London Square, will begin a renovation of its lobby and guest rooms. The Joie de Vivre property's 145 guest rooms and suites offer balconies, fireplaces and views of San Francisco Bay; among its 13 meeting spaces are the 2,508-square-foot Spinnaker Room, the 512-square-foot Compass Room and a poolside area able to host up to 150 people.

• February 2019 will see the opening of the new 140-room SpringHill Suites in Oakland's Airport District. The property will offer visitors a convenient option when flying in or out of the city, as well as almost 2,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant, a bar and a gym.

• Hampton Inn by Hilton Oakland Downtown / City Center will open its doors in summer 2019, offering more than 95 rooms right near the Oakland Convention Center, the 12th Street BART station, and plenty of restaurants and other attractions. 

• Homage Hospitality, a recently launched boutique brand that debuted in New Orleans earlier this year, will open an Oakland hotel in 2019. Aimed at celebrating local culture and appealing to the African-American travel market, the company and its properties will aim to "tell stories through hospitality."

Recent Additions

The historic Claremont Club & Spa boasts a number of memorable spaces, including the Presidential Suite
The historic Claremont Club & Spa boasts a number of memorable spaces, including the Presidential Suite

• Nestled in the Oakland Hills, the landmark Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015 and has been rolling out updates ever since — most recently a refresh of its 20,000 square feet of meeting space. The work included fresh carpets, wall coverings, furniture and décor throughout the two ballrooms and numerous meeting rooms (several of which boast stunning views of the San Francisco Bay). During downtime, guests can schedule a treatment at the expansive Fairmont Spa or enjoy afternoon tea in the lobby lounge.

Venues

• Oakland Marriott City Center, under the same roof as the convention center, offers 500 guest rooms along with 36 meeting rooms and 100,566 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. On-site dining options include the locally sourced American cuisine of the Iron & Oak Restaurant and Bar, and the venue's location in the center of downtown means guests are just blocks from plenty of other culinary options.

• The 360-room Hilton Oakland Airport offers 16 meeting rooms encompassing 16,000 square feet of space, including a 5,120-square-foot ballroom. Groups can count on the property's on-site A/V and catering teams; other features include a 24-hour business center and complimentary shuttle service to and from Oakland International Airport. Hungry? Head to the on-site Amelia's Café, serving a breakfast buffet and lunch, as well as Earhart's Tavern, offering food until late in the evening.

The Radisson Hotel Oakland Airport offers 266 modern rooms and suites that include all the essentials for guests, from microwaves to ergonomic chairs. It also has several meeting rooms spanning a total of 7,420 square feet, including the 4,200-square-foot Jack London Ballroom and 1,702-square-foot Embarcadero Ballroom, as well as an outdoor courtyard ideal for receptions — all just a mile and a half from the airport. 

• Stroll through the past at the 125-year-old Preservation Park. An upscale residential neighborhood in the 19th century, the complex now comprises 16 restored turn-of-the-20th-century buildings that boast some memorable meeting spaces. These include Nile Hall, built in 1911, which can host up to 200 people; the Ginn House Parlor (up to  80), and the Robinson Classroom (up to 50). 

• Best Western Plus Bayside Hotel has 4,500 square feet of meeting space, covering six meeting rooms, most of which offer water views and take full advantage of the natural sunlight. The property offers guests plenty of ways to unwind after a meeting, including an outdoor heated pool, a fully equipped fitness center, a hot tub and a cocktail lounge open in the evenings. Free WiFi and a 24-hour business center also are on tap.

Things to Do

Stay Another Day

• Set aside time to explore the Oakland Museum of California, one of the city's top attractions and a great place to explore local history, art and natural sciences. The facility will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year; spring will see a major exhibition on California's LGBTQ history, and May marks the return of Oakland Art Month. Year-round the museum offers unique spaces for events, whether an outdoor reception in the garden or a corporate event in the Blue Oak Café. 

• Get wild at the Oakland Zoo's all‐new California Trail Exhibit. The experience gives visitors a chance to explore California's natural past, transporting them by gondola through immersive ecosystems inhabited by bison, black bears, jaguars, bald eagles and many other species. Stop for a bite at the recently opened Landing Café. 
 
Hop aboard the USS Potomac, aka the "Floating White House," which served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht from 1936 until his death in 1945. This National Historic Landmark offers tours and tales about its history (including a brief ownership by Elvis Presley) and is available for private charters. 

• Catch a concert at Yoshi's Jazz Club Oakland. While jazz is the main focus, the club also welcomes acts ranging from R&B to rock to hip hop. For private events, book one of the club's numerous nooks, from the 18-person Sushi Bar to the newly renovated Claremont Room, which can fit up to 80 guests.  

Temescal Alleys offers a number of unique shopping options
Temescal Alleys offers a number of unique shopping options

• Pick up only-in-Oakland souvenirs at Temescal Alleys, a pair of charming pedestrian walkways showcasing artisan shops selling handmade jewelry, art, plants, ice cream and much more. If you time your visit right, you can take part in the Alleys' Quarterly First Friday Party, featuring live music, special installations and other attractions.

Get Active

• Head to the top of one of the East Bay's highest peaks in the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Formerly called Round Top Park, the preserve comprises lava and related debris from a 10 million-year-old volcano. Here you'll find a range of trails for all experience levels, from the paved Quarry Road to the 31-mile East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail.

• Oakland is a great biking city offering many ways for groups to explore the city's various neighborhoods on two wheels. For example, rent a bike from one of many FordGo Bike stations, join a group tour via Lakeview Bicycle Rentals or take part in the monthly East Bay Bike Party.

• Go for a swim at peaceful Lake Temescal, where visitors can relax on the beach, go fishing or have a picnic while surrounded by some of the East Bay's most scenic surroundings. Looking to hold an event? The nearby Beach House can hold up to 130 for a reception in its two rooms and patio. 

• Take in some local history at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, a six-acre expanse that includes a native plant garden, the Peralta House Museum devoted to California's history and communities, and other attractions.

Good Eats

Red Bay Coffee is one of Oakland's numerous options for caffeine fans
Red Bay Coffee is one of Oakland's numerous options for caffeine fans

• Dive into Oakland's exciting culinary scene(s) by booking a food-themed walking tour. It makes sense that a city this diverse also offers a huge range of food-tour options, from a historic and food-filled walk through Old Oakland to a spooky-and-sweet twist on the traditional ghost tour to a "progressive lunch" through the culturally rich neighborhood of Rockridge, groups will find plenty to whet their appetites and enhance their knowledge of this fascinating city.

• Brown Sugar Kitchen serves soul-food favorites made with organic, local ingredients. Must-try dishes include the buttermilk fried chicken and cornmeal waffle; bacon-cheddar-scallion biscuit, and barbecue shrimp and grits. This place has proved so popular it will open a second location, called BSK, in Uptown Oakland this winter. 

• The city has its very own two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Commis, where guests are treated to an innovative eight-course, New American prix fixe menu created by Oakland native James Syhabout. Dishes include chilled fava bean soup laced with green tomato gelée, and smoked trout roe. The place books up fast, so make reservations ASAP, even if months in advance.

• Fans of craft beer will enjoy walking the Oakland Ale Trail — 12 stops where visitors can enjoy quaffs from the Pacific Coast Brewery, Oakland's oldest continuously run beer brewer, as well as newcomers like the literary‐themed Novel Brewing. Your group also can take part in experiences such as brewing and bottling their own beer or pedaling from one stop to the next on a 15-seat bicycle. 

• Thanks to its proximity to Napa Valley, Oakland has elevated its wine offerings with the introduction of the Oakland Urban Wine Trail, along which participants can stop at nine urban wineries, sipping in tasting rooms that variously offer art shows, views of San Francisco Bay or the ambience of vintage warehouses.