Proud home to the Raiders and Athletics of professional sports fame Oakland is coming of age with an urban renewal that will help keep pace with its more famous neighbor across the bay. Downtown is full of new corporate HQ’s such as Ask.com and Pandora. To meet this growing need, the Oakland Marriott City Center has undergone extensive remodeling and is a great spot to stay for whatever brings you to the Bay area.
Before returning to the governorship of our state, Jerry Brown served as Oakland’s mayor for many years. During this time he was instrumental in turning around city finances and wooing high-tech companies to set up shop there. This has resulted in brand-new office buildings and downtown apartments that have added a new vibe to the area. With little room left in San Francisco for growth, Oakland is poised to fill this need.
I would never have imagined that the top floors at a hotel in downtown Oakland would offer such commanding views. Yet from our room on the 19th floor, we looked out over the bay toward downtown San Francisco with the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island all in clear view. The rooms have been updated with all the amenities that the modern business traveler would need — comfortable bed linens, LCD TVs, and updated bathroom vanity areas make for a pleasant stay.
We were fortunate enough to stay on the concierge level, where a full breakfast and evening snacks were served daily. This comes in really handy if you have a busy schedule in the morning but want to eat well. With the available fruits, juice, cereal, eggs, bagels, and toast, there is something for everyone. The evening servings are almost enough for dinner, especially if you are a light eater. The entire concierge room looks over downtown Oakland with Lake Merritt and the nearby hills serving as a backdrop. The historic Oakland Tribune Building captures much of the attention here.
We dined at Level Two, the signature restaurant located on the second floor. On this occasion we were in the mood for beef, and there was no shortage. The 12 oz. grilled rib-eye steak and baby back ribs hit the spot. Service at this restaurant and throughout the hotel is exceptional. This very contemporary and comfortable setting is also home to the Twelve Bar Lounge, which has a light fare menu and plenty of flat-screen TVs to keep you up to date on the market and your favorite sports team. Visit marriott.com for complete information on the Oakland Marriott City Center.
Lake Chabot Golf Course is the closest public venue and well worth some free time. The course winds its way up and down the gently rolling terrain in the hills just southeast of town. This venue boasts the only par-six hole that I have ever played with its 18th hole measuring some 673 yards from the tips. Don’t be scared, though, as it is mostly downhill and accurate players will probably make an easy birdie here to finish.
If you have an entire day, you would do well to consider Poppy Ridge in Livermore. This is a Northern California Golf Association–owned-and-operated facility and one of the best in the Bay Area; the 27 holes were designed by Robert Trent Jones II and feature a lot of undulation. The views of the surrounding vineyards will remind you of Hunters Ranch in Paso Robles. Poppy Ridge has a large grass range and several putting and chipping greens for practicing. The Spanish-themed clubhouse is a great spot to dine before or after the golf and will remind golfers of La Purisima and Marshallia Ranch at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Jack London Square
Just a couple of blocks from downtown is Oakland’s waterfront jewel, Jack London Square. This is the pleasure craft hub of the East Bay, with numerous restaurant options looking out to the busy seaside activity. We dined at the recently opened Forge. Here chef Jeff Amber and Jeff Krupman have combined wood-fired pizzas with a flavorful menu using local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. We tried the heirloom tomato and pepperoni pizzas with great success. Forge looks out toward the harbor and offers outdoor seating.