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The Definitive Cannabis Travel Guide to Oakland

April 28, 2016

Welcome to Leafly’s travel series, our definitive cannabis-infused guides to the best cities in the world.


Oakland, California is one of the most vibrant, diverse, and culturally rich cities in America. Often overshadowed by its sparkly sister across the Bay, Oakland offers a kind of cultural freedom, pugnacious spirit, and economic diversity that San Francisco long ago lost. The weird, the hip, the punk, the blue collar, the quirky, the hard-working, the straight, the queer—all are welcome in The Town. And as Oakland solidifies its place at the cutting edge of the California cannabis movement, cannabis enthusiasts of all stripes are warmly welcomed here, too.


Oakland Vitals

Cannabis legality: Medical (18+, med card and ID required)

Nicknames: Oaktown, The Town, Bump City

Population: 406,253

Claims to fame: Jack London, Angela Davis, The Raiders, Green Day, Steph Curry

For the record: Oakland has more artists per capita than any city in the nation.


Day One

Harborside Health Center medical cannabis dispensary in Oakland, California

At 4:20 p.m., you are: Ordering an Uber X after checking into your room at the Inn at Temescal, a newly redone hipster motel in the city’s up-and-coming Temescal district. Point your driver to 1840 Embarcadero, home to Harborside Health Center, California’s most iconic medical marijuana dispensary. Founded by MMJ pioneer Steve DeAngelo, Harborside remains the gold standard for dispensaries nationwide. Some flower strains sell out, but they’re followed by others that hit the dispensary floor soon after they’re purchased from local farmers. The selection is wide – edibles, concentrates, dozens of flower strains – so you’ll have no trouble finding plenty to purchase.

Head's up: California is a medical state, not recreational. So if you want to get past the door at Harborside Health, you’ll need a California med card. (You will get carded.) Also, Harborside can be tricky to find, so don’t exit the Uber until you lock eyes on the “1840 Embarcadero” sign. Trust me. You’ll need a cab or Uber to get back downtown, too.

Neon sign at Beast Mode

At 5:40 p.m., you are: Getting your game face on at Beast Mode, the athletic apparel boutique owned by former Seattle Seahawk running back Marshawn Lynch. Oakland born and raised, Lynch is a proud local booster, and his store is a great place to kick off a walking tour of downtown.

Art exhibit at Oakland Art Murmur

At 6:00 p.m., you: Start walking north up Telegraph Avenue. Starting at 12th and Broadway, serpentine your way up to the Fox Theatre at 19th and Telegraph. If you’ve timed it right, you’re entering Oakland’s arts district on the first Friday of the month, when Oakland Art Murmur goes off. Take a few hits of a pre-roll or vape, then pop into local galleries that cluster near the Broadway and Telegraph, like Betti Ono, Oakstop, Joyce Gordon Gallery, and Pro Arts. Keep your eyes out for storefronts that host art happenings on First Friday, like SoleSpace: by day a sneaker boutique with sweet red Pumas, by night a hot cultural venue with local musicians and poets.

Chupacabra burger at Rudy's Can't Fail

At 7:25 p.m., you’re: Scanning the menu at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, the bustling joint named for the Clash song and co-owned by Green Day bass player Mike Dirnt. We recommend the chupacabra burger. End your meal with a cup of hot black from Oakland Coffee Works, the sustainable bean company recently founded by Dirnt and bandmate Billie Joe.

Cocktail on counter at Make Westing

At 8:45 p.m., you’re: Rolling a bocce ball at Make Westing, a cocktail bar across the street from Rudy’s. Voted Oakland’s friendliest bar and “best place to meet members of the opposite sex,” Make Westing features two full-length indoor bocce courts and a bar menu that runs from cheap tallboys to craft cocktails.

At 9:25 p.m., you’re: Climbing the stairs to Feelmore Adult Gallery, a progressive sex-positive boutique run by Neena, a local businesswoman who put up a courageous fight to get her store permitted in famously liberal Oakland. (Check out the story here.) Neena will dialogue with you about kindness, safe words, and respect, or she’ll leave you alone to browse; your choice. She’s open until midnight on Fridays.

Outdoor patio at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon

At 10:05 p.m., you’re: Hanging in one of two bars. First: Jack London frequented Heinold’s First And Last Chance Saloon, the city’s oldest watering hole, and the place still has a slanted floor, which happened when the pilings beneath shifted during the 1906 earthquake. Second: The White Horse is America’s oldest continuously operating LGBT bar, and today it’s full of EDM parties, karaoke nights, queer comedy, and general fun-having.

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Day Two

Bedroom at the Inn at Temescal

At 10:05 a.m., you’re: Strolling seven blocks from the Inn at Temescal, south on Telegraph Ave, to pick up a few extra supplies at Telegraph Health Center. We recommend the Gold Drop medicated honey. Go easy, though.

Man holding latte from Blue Bottle Coffee

At 10:30 a.m., you’re: Deciding between Popeye eggs or the Liège waffle (so divine it wants neither butter nor syrup) at Blue Bottle Coffee, the Oakland-born boutique coffee house. There are ten Blue Bottle locations in the Bay Area, but we recommend the one in Oakland’s historic W.C. Morse building. High ceilings, enormous windows, and a chatty clientele give this place the feel of a bustling European plaza. For entertainment, watch the mechanics work over espresso machines in the shop behind the seating area. Don’t miss Blue Bottle’s New Orleans-style iced coffee, a sweet and shockingly delicious energy jolt.

Word to the wise: Blue Bottle hosts free public coffee tastings at its Webster Street roastery every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and a “How to Brew” series Sundays at 1:00 p.m.

Photo booth at 1-2-3-4-Go Records

At 11:30 a.m., you’re: Rifling the racks of Roxy Music, Screaming Trees, and classic DEVO LPs at 1-2-3-4-Go Records, Oakland’s coolest vinyl shop. The classic stock turns over constantly, and limited-edition releases by rising local bands show up here first. Shoot some old-school selfies in the in-store photo booth and discover new grooves at the listening station in the back room. Look for live performances on weekends and some weekday evenings. Don’t miss the sidewalk library next door, a public micro-plaza stocked with yesterday’s freshest newspapers and magazines.

Cannabis display at Oakland Museum of California

At 1:00 p.m., you’re: Digging the sculpture garden at the Oakland Museum of California, one of the Bay Area’s can’t-miss art stops. The garden includes Tony Labat’s Big Peace IV, a massive canary-yellow steel peace sign, and our fave, John Mason’s Yellow Cross Form, which the years have turned yellow-green so it now looks like a massive 3-D dispensary sign. The museum currently features “Altered State: Marijuana in California,” the first-ever museum exhibition to focus on cannabis in the Golden State, on view through September 25, so see it before it leaves.

What you’re skipping: An Oakland A’s game at the O.Co Coliseum, major league baseball’s most notoriously shoddy ballpark.

Redwood Regional Park

At 3:20 p.m., you’re: Lying in a grove of redwoods at Redwood Regional Park, which actually lies within the city limits of Oakland. These aren’t the old growth ancients with rings older than Columbus – those you’ll find 300 miles north in Redwood National Park. The redwoods here are second growth, raised up after ye olde pioneers sawed down the originals. But they’re still impressive, organic skyscrapers that are really cool to stand or lie under and gaze skyward (especially when medicated, though we recommend consuming before you reach the park in the interest of being respectful to others). Take a moment to touch the tree’s soft, thick bark, which feels like furry leather.

Head's up: While it’s technically in the city, the state park does take a few minutes to reach by vehicle. Uber or a cab will get you there, as will the AC Transit #39 or #339 from the Fruitvale BART Station

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Train Car

At 4:20 p.m., you’re: Leaving town via public transit and heading to the airport or your next destination, wherever that may be. BART is the best way to get from Oakland to San Francisco or SFO – and from there, the world is your oyster.

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Image Sources: Inn at Temescal, Betti Ono, Rudy's Can't Fail, and Blue Bottle Coffee via Facebook, Beast Mode via Instagram, Make Westing, Calibas via Wikimedia Commons, Bruce Barcott, Oakland Museum of California, and Michael McAreavy and Ed McGowen via Flickr Creative Commons

  • Albert Camusing

    I was born in San Francisco, raised in Britain, educated in New York, and have lived, on and off, in San Francisco, Britain, France, and NYC.

    I love Oakland. As a teenager, I began as a worker by day and musician by night in Oakland in the mid 1970s, when downtown Oakland was a bombed-out, left-for-dead wreck. The area had good bones but the largely white population of Oakland had abandoned it in their racist White Flight, and the Maoist-draped gangstering of Newton and company did the city no favors (with the possible exception of Ms. E. Brown, who actually managed to open schools and clinics with government monies as opposed to siphoning it off for coke, prostitutes to kill, and murder for hire à la Newton). Wreckage. Wasteland. Wasted.

    The well-healed and ambitious African-Americans of Oakland worked miracles to keep the city from flatlining altogether, and during the late 1970s through the 1990s, various neighborhoods –– namely Rockridge and Piedmont Ave––became pockets of urbanity (not counting the wealthy Oakland Hills, whose wealth literally and figuratively held its privileged Oaklanders, black and white, above the wasteland). But the talented tenth could not lift the Town by themselves. Critical mass was achieved by the black mayor Elihu Harris and his follow-up, Jerry Brown, both of whom hit upon the simple but brilliant idea of bringing not just workers into the downtown (a time-tested and decidedly mixed-success policy by the likes of Detroit, Baltimore, et al.) but rather young, professional residents.

    Voilà. A city is reborn.

    Sure, San Francisco’s white techie ethnic and middle-class cleansing “helped,” but the restoration of Oakland’s good bones –– thank you Elihu and Jerry––provided for the banquet of delights to come.

    Yes, gentrification could mean a repeat of San Francisco’s suburbanization. I don’t think so. Oakland is diverse in its DNA. And only a mix of new comers –– a mix of more affluent whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Gays, in a range of professions and artistic endeavors––has happily thrown in with the Town, a very different dynamic that has enriched and ruined once bohemian San Francisco.

    Today, Oakland’s downtown, er, “Uptown,” is very much alive, notwithstanding the unbelievably arrogant, churlish (and not a little racist) protestations by Ishmael Reed and Chinaka Hodge (who herself spent her youth shuttling between her divorced father’s then rough West Oakland neighborhood and her mother’s tony home in the Oakland hills district of Sequoyah, an expansive, expensive redoubt of affluent to wealthy African-Americans).

    THERE.

    Glad to see the Town get its proper due.

  • Judih1