Fodor's Expert Review Lake Merritt

Oakland Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge
Free Fodor's Choice

In the center of Oakland just east of downtown, this tidal lagoon with its unique habitat for more than 100 bird species became the country's first wildlife refuge in 1870. Today the 3.1-mile path around the lake is also a free refuge for walkers, bikers, joggers, and nature lovers. Lakeside Park has Children's Fairyland ( 699 Bellevue) and the Rotary Nature Center ( 600 Bellevue), where monthly bird walks commence every fourth Wednesday. For views from the water, the Lake Merritt Boating Center ( 568 Bellevue) rents kayaks and rowboats (www.lakemerritt.org). Venetian gondolas cruise from the Oakland Boathouse ( Basic tours start at $75 for 45 mins gondolaservizio.com), where visitors can also indulge in local artisanal chocolates.

On the lake's south side, the Camron-Stanford House ( 1418 Lakeside Dr.) is the last of the grand Victorians that once dominated the area; it's open Sundays for tours. Nearby, bold... READ MORE

In the center of Oakland just east of downtown, this tidal lagoon with its unique habitat for more than 100 bird species became the country's first wildlife refuge in 1870. Today the 3.1-mile path around the lake is also a free refuge for walkers, bikers, joggers, and nature lovers. Lakeside Park has Children's Fairyland ( 699 Bellevue) and the Rotary Nature Center ( 600 Bellevue), where monthly bird walks commence every fourth Wednesday. For views from the water, the Lake Merritt Boating Center ( 568 Bellevue) rents kayaks and rowboats (www.lakemerritt.org). Venetian gondolas cruise from the Oakland Boathouse ( Basic tours start at $75 for 45 mins gondolaservizio.com), where visitors can also indulge in local artisanal chocolates.

On the lake's south side, the Camron-Stanford House ( 1418 Lakeside Dr.) is the last of the grand Victorians that once dominated the area; it's open Sundays for tours. Nearby, bold Oakland mural art offers a more modern feast for the eyes ( Between Madison and Webster Sts. and 7th and 11th Sts.).

The lake's necklace of lights adds allure for diners heading to the art-deco Terrace Room ( 1800 Madison St.) or Lake Chalet ( 1520 Lakeside Dr.), as well as to a host of tasty options along Grand Avenue, from Ethiopian cuisine at Enssaro ( 357a) and Korean BBQ at Jong Ga House ( 372) to comfort gourmet at Grand Lake Kitchen ( 576).

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Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge Free Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

Oakland, California  USA

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Rate Includes: Free

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