The Land of Bart & Karl

Bookstores and Ball Games in Berkeley and Beyond

Swap MAX for BART with a weekend in the East Bay.

By Alli Weseman Published in the February 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

The view from Mission Peak

If San Francisco has started to feel like a crowded mess of tourist clichés, remember its 47 square miles (one-third the size of Portland proper) is just a tiny fraction of a fascinating region. Across the bay lies a smorgasbord of up-and-coming towns that can be explored in a weekend with easy BART train connections from the Oakland airport. Bonus? Oakland flights tend to be cheaper than those into SF and less likely to be delayed by Karl. (That’s a recent nickname for the Bay Area’s famous fog.)

Once you’ve landed, pick either Berkeley or Oakland as a home base, maybe depending on whether you’re feeling more NCAA or MLB. The Golden Bears’ college home games are played within an easy walk of downtown Berkeley. On campus, visitors can also score spectacular Bay Area views from the Campanile, take the family to the OMSI-esque Lawrence Hall of Science, or see who’s playing at the Greek. In town, explore Telegraph Avenue’s iconic four-story “radical bookseller” Moe’s Books and the Amoeba record store, and grab a latte at 1951 Coffee Co, which doubles as a refugee job training and support program. Bed down at the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, a Berkeley grad who studied in Paris and was the first woman to earn an architect’s license in California (, rooms from $215).

Clockwise from left: Digging in at Portal, dry ice experiments at the Lawrence Hall of Science, Oakland's Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square, and the Greek Theatre

Just south in Oakland, the NBA’s Warriors might have jumped across the bay and the NFL’s Raiders are shipping out for Vegas, but baseball’s Athletics are in it for the long haul, with plans for a new waterfront stadium near Oakland’s Chinatown. (For a Portland baseball fan, getting to an A’s game might even be faster than fighting I-5 traffic to see the Mariners.) Book a room with bay view at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, steps from the ferry that can take passengers to San Francisco in just 20 minutes. The next morning, treat yourself to bottomless weekend mimosas and a plate of chilaquiles or stuffed French toast at Portal in Oakland’s more upscale Lake Merritt area.

A climb up Mission Peak in Fremont, near the south end of the bay (the trailhead is a quick car-share ride from the Warm Springs BART stop), is a perfect post-brunch workout. Plan out about five hours for the hike, pack of plenty of water, and charge up your battery so you can share a pic of yourself with the pole at the top. Heading back north, stop at Val’s Burgers in rapidly redeveloping Hayward. Try the mouthwatering mama burger on a French roll (for a smaller portion order a baby burger), and don’t forget fries and a shake. Grab a drink at Dirty Bird Lounge (just through the tunnel from its daylight storefront, the Early Bird Coffee Co) before hopping the train back north.

Porky's chicken garlic supreme pie

Depending on the timing of your flight home, consider inducing a food coma for the plane with pizza and chicken from Porky’s Pizza Palace in San Leandro, a short cab ride from the Oakland airport. If you still have room, walk across the street to 45-year-old institution Clancy’s Ice Cream Parlour for a classic scoop, or branch out and try the bright purple ube flavor.

Editor's note: Julia Morgan’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. We regret the error.

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