Jack London Square in Oakland
Bay Area native and renowned writer Jack London spent most of his formative years ripping and running along Oakland’s waterfront. The colorful fishermen, sailors and other characters that he met and observed during those years no doubt fueled the young writer’s yearning to see the exotic places they spoke of and gave him plenty of material to use while he learned his craft. Today, the area near the docks that were vital parts of London’s education has been transformed into a vibrant shopping and entertainment complex. Located within the Port of Oakland, the area remains a working waterfront with cargo ships, fishing vessels and other boats coming and going, but Oakland officials have renovated and revitalized many of the ramshackle buildings and warehouses into an important Bay Area destination.
Area residents who walk, jog, kayak, stroll and live in and around the area in recent years have watched a remarkable makeover as stores, restaurants, clubs, theaters have replaced decrepit buildings and urban decay. A beautiful and expansive plaza is the heart of the Square, complete with water fountains, street performers busking and entertaining and plenty of places to sit and watch the waterfront, the performers and the people strolling by. There is a lively schedule of events and plenty of things to see and do all year ‘round, including:
- Farmer’s markets
- Live musical, theatrical and other types of performances
- Outdoor movies
- Dancing under the stars
- Bicycle rentals
- Lots of good places to eat and drink, including Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, a National Literary Landmark, where London wrote, drank and gained lots of inspiration for his novels
- Watching the vessels load and unload cargo
- Classic car shows
- Strolling the waterfront
- Meet a friend or bid a family member bon voyage at the Amtrak station
- Check out the USS Potomac, FDR’s “Floating White House”
- Have dinner and see a concert at Yoshi’s Oakland
- Lots of festivals!
Oakland residents are very proud of their waterfront and say that Jack London Square is the antithesis of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The Wharf is cool, with lots to see and do, but it’s fair to say that it is a very tourist-centric destination. Jack London Square attracts tourists too, but it has a very different vibe and was designed more as a living and recreation space for residents. Getting to Jack London Square is fairly easy. You can drive along Embarcadero West and park nearby, take a ferry from San Francisco and disembark at Oakland Ferry Terminal, take one of the many mass transit options or follow your feet along the San Francisco Bay Trail. For more information about Jack London Square, including a calendar of events and listing of nearby businesses, point your browser at the official site at http://www.jacklondonsquare.com/.