Fodor's Expert Review Lake Merritt
Runners, joggers, and power walkers charge along the 3.4-mile path that encircles this 155-acre heart-shaped natural saltwater lake. Crew teams glide across the water and boatmen guide snuggling couples in authentic Venetian gondolas (fares start at $60 per couple for 30 mins; 510/663–6603, gondolaservizio.com), while yogis, jugglers, and picnickers look on from the shore. Lakeside Park, which surrounds the north side of Lake Merritt, has several outdoor attractions, including the small children's park, Children's Fairyland (699 Bellevue Ave.), and the Lake Merritt Wildlife Sanctuary, a water and air fowl haven that was also North America's first wildlife refuge. Don't miss the nearby Grand Lake neighborhood, centering on the parallel strips of Lakeshore Avenue and Grand Avenue, for good browsing and even better eating.