Series: Planning for 36 Hours in Oakland, California

Planner’s Travel Series 

About the series: Welcome to our ongoing travel series. These are all posts written by planning students and professionals about what to do in a given city when looking for Brunch, a Brew, or a good idea on a Budget. To cap it all off, we include a fun planning fact!  

By Kathryn Cunningham

About the visit:

I moved to the Bay Area after college for a ten-month fellowship and ended up staying four years. While I worked in San Francisco, I lived across the bay in Oakland and was immediately enchanted by the city’s beauty, culture, and history. I returned to Oakland in March to see old friends and visit old haunts. Here is a sampling of the area’s brunch, brew, and budget scene:


Shihan Ful at Alem’s Coffee
5353 Claremont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618

Alem’s Coffee is an unassuming café serving incredible East African dishes alongside its strong and reliable coffee beverages. I was recommended the Shihan Ful, a vegetarian stew with fava beans as its base, and it did not disappoint. As a bonus, the dish came with two large loaves of bread, so, as the ingenious planning students that we are, my dining partner and I each saved a loaf and enjoyed them on a picnic later in the day.


Roses’ Taproom
4930 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 

I love Roses’ dearly. I went four times during my weeklong trip, and my only complaint is that I wish I went more. Roses’ is so great because while it is a bar, it is also a plant-filled, women-owned local hangout with a great outdoor space, yummy food options, and friendly bartenders. I bravely ignored the siren songs of their new merch – but does my willpower count if I already own their hat and t-shirt?  


Point Reyes Lighthouse
Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness, CA 94937

If you have time and access to a car, the hour-and-a-half drive to Point Reyes Lighthouse is well worth the trip. Not only is the drive alone stunning as you propel through several distinct biomes, but the view at the destination is unbeatable. We stopped for provisions along the route, so in addition to our bread from the aforementioned Alem’s Coffee, we enjoyed cheese, meat, and chocolate at a picnic bench overlooking the ocean.

Fun Planning Fact 

Lake Merritt

Oakland is home to Lake Merritt, a natural saltwater tidal lagoon that is three miles in circumference and 155 acres in land coverage. Although in the middle of the bustling city, Lake Merritt is the oldest protected wildlife refuge in America, having received the designation in 1870. To this day, the lake is home to many different populations of birds allowing for ample bird watching. It also serves as a prime location for a picnic, a run, or a hang out.

Featured Image: View of downtown Oakland. Photo Credit: Kathryn Cunningham

Kathryn is a first year Master’s student with the Department of City and Regional Planning whose interests include climate change adaptation, parks, and public space. She studied Environmental Studies at Williams College, and before coming to graduate school, she was in the San Francisco Bay Area managing sustainability projects for a law school. When not in class, she enjoys reading, running, and checking out all the many concert venues the Research Triangle has to offer.