Home of one of the United States' largest container shipping ports, Oakland is the San Francisco Bay Area's third-largest city. Its 400,000 inhabitants speak over 100 languages, making Oakland possibly the most ethnically-diverse city in the United States.
Although nearby San Francisco overshadows Oakland as a tourist destination, the city offers some interesting things to see and do. The Oakland Museum of California is the best place in northern California to learn about the state's history, and the Chabot Space and Science Center hosts science-oriented exhibits and astronomy programs.
Lake Merritt, a natural, salt-water lake sits in the city center, its 3.5-mile shores ringed with street lights that are sometimes called the "Necklace of Lights." Some say Lake Merritt's Children's Fairyland inspired Walt Disney to build his famous theme park, but since 1950, generations of Oakland kids just think it's a good place to have fun.
In neighboring Alameda, visitors can tour the USS Hornet, a World War II aircraft carrier that retrieved the Apollo 11 astronauts on their return to earth. Also on the waterfront is Jack London Square, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex, where Franklin D. Roosevelt's yacht the USS Potomac is berthed.
Oakland is the only California city that can boast professional teams in all three major sports: Oakland Athletics baseball, Oakland Raiders football and Golden State Warriors basketball.
Oakland residents enjoy a wide range of cuisines in some of the area's best dining spots. The San Francisco Chronicle give highest ratings to Oliveto's classic Italian menu, A Cote's French- and Italian-inspired small plates, Bay Wolf's Mediterranean cuisine, Grasshopper's Asian fusion dishes and ultra-hip Pearl Oyster Bar's seafood.
Many of Oakland's most popular places to stay are chain hotels such as the Holiday Inn Express, Marriott City Center, Airport Hilton and Courtyard Downtown. The Waterfront Plaza offers luxurious accommodations at Jack London Square.