How dangerous is Oakland? And what fun things are there to do on vacation?
Some parts of Oakland are not very nice and might not be a great place to be wandering around after dark. But then, why would someone WANT to be wandering around an obviously bad area after dark?
OTOH, parts of Oakland are vibrant and gentrifying (for better and worse).
The Oakland Museum of California is quite good. But ... what do you like to do on vacation?
It's pretty similar to San Francisco. The touristed areas are as safe as any other big city environment. However, the bad parts of town are generally regarded as a bit worse than the bad parts of other cities. As a tourist, you wouldn't be going to the bad parts of SF, Oakland, or any other place unless you had a very bad sense of direction.
In terms of tourist attractions, the main ones in Oakland are the Oakland Museum of California, Lake Merritt, and the Oakland Zoo. There are a couple very popular concert venues as well--the Fox and Paramount Theaters, both of which are in the Uptown area near 19th Street BART Station.
Oakland gets a bad reputation but most of it is quite safe. Like any city it’s best to be aware of your surroundings, but it’s no more dangerous than San Francisco. My main advice for any city is don’t leave anything visible in a car. Windows do get broken for the most unassuming looking bags.
That said, there’s loads of great stuff to see and do. Lake Merritt is beautiful, there are botanical gardens and a playground/large park near the north end. You can walk on a paved path all the way around, it’s a 3 mike loop and a very popular jogging spot. The Grand Lake District bear there offers shopping and dining and a great Saturday farmers market.
Jack London Square is on the water and has lots of higher end dining, as well as a great Sunday farmers market. Stop by Heinolds First and Last Chance Saloon for a drink in a bar that’s over 135 years old and full of fascinating stuff.
Hike in and of the East Bay Regional Parks (I recommend Redwood Regional and Tilden park) for an easy and less crowded way to see some of the less huge redwoods and beautiful coastal forests of California.
Other neighborhoods that have shopping and restaurants are Piedmont, Rockridge, Uptown, Temescal, And Old Oakland to name a few.
Chinatown, near downtown has some great food. Try anything with the ha made noodles at Shandong.
The Oakland Museam of California and the Zoo are great, as mentioned by others. If you’re here on a Friday the Museum is open late (until 10) and has music and food trucks outside.
Oakland is also a great place to stay because of its proximity to other places. It’s a short BART (our local train) ride or a fun ferry ride to San Francisco. Berkeley is just north of Oakland (they blend into each other). And an hour in the car (or a little more) will get you to the beautiful Marin Headlands with views of the bay, the Pacific, and the Golden Gate Bridge. There are beaches (Muir, Stinson, Tennessee is you don’t mind a little hike) and Redwood National Park is also up there. Going on a weekday cuts way down on traffic if you have the option.
If you like sports A’s tickets are easy to get. I recommend taking BART as parking is expensive and traffic can be terrible.
I’ve lived in Oakland for several years and I love it. It’s got a lot to offer and can be a little quieter and a little more affordable (maybe) than SF.
>>>but it’s no more dangerous than San Francisco<<<
Sorry, that is just not true. I like Oakland, stay there occasionally and it is fine in most areas visitors frequent, but its violent crime rate is double San Francisco's (16,85 vs 7,95). It was also the 3rd most dangerous city in the U.S. behind Detroit and St Louis. The majority of the violence is confined to certain neighborhoods that don't effect visitors, but you can't pretend it isn't what it is.
For the OP stick with the recommended sights and you should be fine.
Correct, it's no more dangerous in the touristed parts. You are just as likely to get accosted by panhandlers at 16th Street/Mission BART in SF as you are at 19th Street BART in Oakland. However, at least Oakland doesn't have open and pervasive IV drug use like there is at Civic Center BART in SF. You win some, you lose some.