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Oakland’s Jack London Square from the air.


Jack London Square and the Oakland Estuary

Check It Out By Ferry!


By Nancy Salcedo

Oakland Estuary Directory


Alameda Oakland Ferry (510)522-3300,


BART (510)465-2278,

Alameda County Transit (510)817-1717,

Jack London Water Taxi Foot of Broadway at water’s edge (510)839-7572


What to do at night

Yoshi’s 510 Embarcadero West (510)238-9200,

Alice Arts Center 1428 Alice Street (510)238-7219

Oakland Ballet (510)893-2300,

Oakland East bay Symphony (510)444-0801,

Paramount Theater 2025 Broadway-(510)465-6400,

Jack London Cinema-Jack London Square (510)433-1320



Potomac Visitor Center-540 Water St. (510)627-1215

Oakland Museum of California 10th and Oak Streets (510)238-3842

Oakland Museum Sculpture Court at City Center 1111 Broadway (510)238-3401


Jack London Square

Waterfront Plaza Hotel Ten Washington St. (510)836-3800

Dockside Boat and Bed 419 Water St. (510)444-5858

Potomac Visitor Center 540 Water St. (510)627-1215

California Canoe and Kayak 409 Water St. (510)893-7833

Jack’s Bistro Foot of Broadway (510)444-7171

Scott’s-2 Broadway (510)444-3456

Kincaid’s Bayhouse 1 Franklin-(510)835-8600

Il Pescadore 57 Jack London Square (510)465-2188


Elsewhere in Oakland

Quinn’s Lighthouse 51 Embarcadero Cove-(510)536-2050

Ratto’s International Market and Cafe Washington between 8th and 9th-(510)832-6503

Pacific Coast Brewing Company-906 Washington-(510)863-2739

Le Cheval-1007 Clay-(510)763-9457



USS Hornet and Apollo Exhibit-Pier 3, Alameda Point-(510)521-8448

Rosenblum Cellars- 2900 Main Street-(510) 865-7007

St. George Spirits- Main Street-(510)769-1601


Lake Merritt

Oakland Museum of California-!0th and Oak Streets- (510)238-3842

Alice Arts Center-1428 Alice Street-(510)238-7219

Madison’s at the Lake Merritt Hotel-1800 Madison Street-(510)832-2300

Lake Merritt Wildlife and Rotary Nature Center-on Bellevue-(510)238-3739

Gondola Servizio and Lake Merritt Boating Center-on Bellevue- (510)663-6033

Arizmendi-3265 Lakeshore-(510)268-8849

The Bay Area is fortunate to have a wealth of entertainment options at every ferry terminal. And, no one destination has more to do within a stone’s throw than Alameda/Oakland Ferry’s Gateway Alameda and Oakland’s Jack London Square. Next to the Alameda ferry terminal, you can wine taste at Rosenblum Cellars and sample Eau de Vie next door at St. George Spirits. The ferry’s next stop, at Jack London Square, doubles as both a destination resort and (if you add the option of AC transit) a gateway to the Observatory at Chabot Space and Science Center, the Oakland Museum of California, even a gondolier-propelled glide on Lake Merritt. Even if you never leave Jack London Square, you can dine well, enjoy Yoshi’s knack for bringing in great live jazz every night, even spend the night along the water right next to the ferry. From Jack London Square, you can also get out on the water for some fresh air: rent a kayak to explore the Oakland Estuary; board the water taxi that will take you anywhere waterfront-wise you want to go; or board Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s presidential Yacht, the USS Potomac, for a two-hour history cruise. History buffs may also want to go on board the USS Hornet to view the air craft carrier/museum and its Apollo 13 exhibits. Its all here — in fact, from Jack London Square, you can even board Amtrak to Truckee and spend the weekend in Tahoe.

1. Get out on the Estuary

Out on the water at Jack London Square

The Oakland estuary is easily explored by kayak. Stop in at California Canoe and Kayak at 409 Water Street in Jack London Square and they will set you up. They provide a laminated map and sit-on-top boats for your cruise. En route, you’ll see seals and lots of birds. There is a 2-mile paddle to historic Quinn’s Lighthouse, where you can dock (tie up so your craft won’t drift off!) and head to the deck for lunch. Afterwards, paddle around Coast Guard Island. You cannot go ashore here unless you are in the Coast Guard, but you will be content offshore in your kayak. You can explore the graveyard of sunken ships dating from the gold rush. Only pilings peek above the water now, but with an aerial photograph, you would see the outline of their hulls. If you’d like to stretch you legs mid-journey, try Estuary Park. Head across the Estuary to Alameda and visit Shoreline Park which is bordered by restaurants; or dock for lunch at Chevy’s in Mariner’s Square, directly across from Jack London Square. If you know what you’re doing, (meaning you’ve completed an introductory sea kayaking class for technique, rescue and safety) you can go anywhere: around Alameda Island; or into San Francisco Bay for a paddle around Treasure Island. California Canoe and Kayaks also offer full moon paddles where you can paddle to end of estuary, and watch the city lights. Another way to enjoy the estuary is aboard the USS Potomac. The FDR Fishing Pier, at the north end of square, harbors the boat which served as FDR’s presidential yacht. The boat is available for dockside tours and history cruises, and you can learn all about the ship’s history and schedule at the adjacent Potomac Visitor Center. To reach California Canoe and Kayaks: get off the Alameda Oakland Ferry at Jack London Square and walk one block east along the water. The water taxi is here too. The USS Potomac is adjacent the ferry terminal at Jack London Square.

2. Winetasting on the Estuary

The October, 2001, The Wine Advocate insists "One has to admire the quality Rosenblum is able to achieve given his enormous zinfandel portfolio, all of which are extremely successful in 1999." Rosenblum Cellars, at 2900 Main in Alameda adjacent the Gateway Alameda ferry terminal, is one of a handfiul of California wineries using traditional European techniques to hand craft wine, aged in oak barrels. Of course, you can buy these wines at Andronico’s Markets, but one of the perks of visiting the tasting room, which has been converted from an old shipyard, is the great view of the water. If you’re lucky, they’ll pour from their bottles of award-winning zinfandel or chocolate port.

Wine has been produced commercially here since 1978 under the watchful eye of Dr. Kent Rosenblum, who is by day a local veterinarian. The focus here is on his favorite wines — premium, vineyard designated zinfandels, with grapes carefully chosen from hillside, or older, head pruned vineyards that specialize in producing a lower yield of higher quality. The idea here is that the lower production per vine leaves added intensity in the fruit. Grapes that arrive at the winery are hand sorted for perfection before being transformed in small batches to Rosenblum’s superior wines. They are open for tasting daily from noon to 5pm.

Next door, at 2900 Main Street, is St. George Spirits, where eau de vie, the "water of life," is distilled from its only ingredient: fresh fruit. Each bottle of eau de vie is the essence up to thirty pounds of fresh fruit. A ritual of the European culinary scene for centuries, eau de vie is traditionally served chilled as an after dinner drink. Also good in everything from mixed drinks to some of the recipes available on their website, like Pork with St. George Quince, or Chicken with Zinfandel Grappa Sauce, eau de vie is clearly an asset in the kitchen.

St. George Spirits features the only full line of eau de vie and port-style fruit wines in this country. Owner and founder Jörg Rupf comes from Europe, specifically Alsace and the neighboring Black Forest and Lake Constance areas, which is the center of the world’s finest eau de vie territory. Rupf sites the Bay Area’s high regard for food and wine, and the surrounding agricultural dedication, as factors in the success of the eau de vie tradition in California. St. George’s Spirits became California’s first boutique distillery in 1982. You can visit the distillery daily from noon until 5pm, after which, eau de vie will likely become a staple in your pantry. To reach the winery and distillery: as you get off the Alameda Oakland Ferry at Alameda Gateway, Rosenblum Cellars is adjacent.

3. The Chabot Observatory

Chabot Space and Science Center

One of the more obvious attributes of the Space Center is its location in the Oakland hills, set among the rolling, trail-laced knolls of Joaquin Miller Park with glorious views of San Francisco Bay. The $76-million complex offers a first rate science experience. The only affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in the country to focus on astronomy and the interrelationship of the sciences, the Chabot Space Center is indeed pretty special. Michael D. Reynolds, Ph.D., Executive Director/CEO, described the potential: "The beauty of the new Chabot Space & Science Center is that its emphasis — astronomy and space exploration — is something children and adults alike find fascinating...We don’t expect to make an astronaut or astronomer out of every student who comes through here, we just want to let them know they can do it if they want to."

The institution dates to 1883, when it was known as the Oakland Observatory, a gift from Anthony Chabot to the City of Oakland. The Observatory was downtown then, offering telescope viewing to anyone interested, and measuring time with its transit telescope, employed as the official timekeeping station for the entire Bay Area. The new Chabot Space & Science Center is architecturally spectacular in and of itself, a modern marriage of glass and concrete with domed compounds housing the planetarium, the MegaDome Theater, exhibit halls, classrooms and labs, the gift shop and cafe connected by a glass-enclosed skybridge, and an Observatory surrounded by formal grounds.

The Planetarium is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, equipped with the fiber-optic projector (one of only two in the US — the other at the new Hayden Planetarium in New York). Planetarium programming is excellent, with offerings such as the Drinking Gourd put to lasers, special effects and surround sound to reveal how the stars provided a sky map for those fleeing slavery along the underground into Canada. The MegaDome Theater has a 60-foot dome screen overhead for 360-degree showings of movies about space via the Bay Area’s only 70-mm projection system.

Across the skyway is the Challenger Learning Center, with space station and mission control simulators, where you can check out the living quarters of inhabitants of a space station, and Astronomy Hall, with the solar and transit telescopes. Here is also the Multimedia Studio, Computer Lab and Exhibit Halls with permanent displays such as "Planetary Landscapes" — where you can explore atmospheric concepts of special places in our solar system via a series of sculptures created by renowned artist Ned Kahn each providing a hands-on experience. Reynolds Observatory offers a peek through refractor telescopes. Outdoor areas include the Amphitheater, which doubles as a solar calendar and sundial, with a "Moon Garden" of plants that bloom at night; the Pleiades Courtyard, designed to meld astronomy and geology; and an EnviroGarden. To reach the Chabot Space and Science Center: AC transit bus #10 will take you to BART, and AC transit bus #53 services the Chabot Spac and Science Center from the Fruitvale BART station.

4. The USS Hornet

The USS Hornet

Standing at the dock on Pier 3 of the former Alameda Naval Air Station, looking up at the USS Hornet, there is certainly the obvious appreciation for the naval architecture of this massive aircraft carrier seeming to defy Archimedes’ principal by staying afloat with a runway full of airplanes. Indeed, the size alone is impressive, weighing in at over 41,000 tons, the ship stands almost 200 feet above the water, and stretches 900 feet along the dock—a picture of bulk and grandeur.

On board, there is a very apparent sense of pride and loving nostalgia among those who have served on the ship. Many of the docents on board were stationed on board the Hornet at some point during its 17 year career. Of the original 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built in the 40s, the Hornet is almost legendary- one of the most decorated ships of W.W.II, with a proud history of service. A tour of the ship allows a glimpse of life at sea on an aircraft carrier, and of some of the events that took place during W.W.II.

The Hornet also provides the unique opportunity to walk in the first earthly footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first astronauts to walk on the moon in 1969. The space capsule of Apollo 11 was recovered by the USS Hornet upon splash-down and brought onboard for their haul back to Johnson Space Center in Houston. In the precise spots that the astronauts stepped as they crossed the Hangar Deck to their mobile quarantine facility, actually a modified Airstream Trailer also on display on the Hangar Deck, their footprints are painted on the deck. You can take your own giant step for mankind here. There is a small Apollo exhibit with footage of the Hornet’s recovery of the Apollo 11 astronauts and their capsule. For thrills, there is also a Flight Simulator on the Hangar Deck that allows you to think you are really flying an F/A-18, including the take off and landing on an aircraft carrier, complete with actual audio from fighter pilots. To reach the Hornet: AC Transit does’t service the Alameda Naval Air Station, but you can check with the Jack London Water Taxi, or bike the short distance.)

5. Oakland Museum of California and Lake Merritt

The Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California is an incredible introduction to California art, history and Natural History. One floor is dedicated to each, so you get the feeling of being immersed into their world’s. Particularly strong in Bay Area art, the Gallery of California presents works of California artists chronologically from early 1800s, to the traveling exhibits like Grand Lyricist: the art of Elmer Bischoff, through January 13, 2002, (local painter) and California’s Native Grandeur: Preserving Vanishing Landscapes, through April 14, 2002 (landscape paintings of Maynard Dixon, William Wendt, Thomas Hill...). There is a special area of note dedicated to Oakland’s Society of Six, a group of Oakland artists who painted and exhibited together in the 1920s. Prompted by French Impressionism, society members used vibrant colors to depict the landscapes and neighborhoods of Oakland. You can view William Clapp’s Houses along the Estuary, Seldon Gile’s Boat and Yellow Hills, and Maurice Logan’s Alaska Packers Yard.

The Cowell Hall of California chronicles everything from Native Californians, with an incredible basketry exhibit, to the present. Look for the ballot box from 1882 when Oakland’s Marietta Stowe ran for vice president of the United States alongside Belva Lockwood on the ticket of the national Social Science Sisterhood. The Gallery of Natural Sciences depicts the ecology of California in a walk through representative biotic zones. At the Rustler Ranch Mastodon Project, in the Natural Sciences side bay, they are excavating the bones of a prehistoric California mastodon, delivered still encased in earth from northern California. You can watch as they prepare the mastodon for exhibit. Almost every weekend the museum hosts some event, or festival. Check the web site for things like the annual Wildflower Show, where botanists with permits collect and identify for you several hundred flowers from the field each year around Mothers Day.

The museum also operates the Alice Arts Center at 1428 Alice Street — home of the Oakland Ballet, located on the 3rd floor in a glass studio: when dancers are rehearing you can watch here. The Ballet season is underway, with perfromances at the Paramount Theater. The center also hosts other dance and performing arts companies, all with programming in the evening. Also owned by the museum, downtown at 1111 Broadway, is the Oakland Museum Sculpture Court with changing exhibits featuring local artists.

A block from the museum is Lake Merritt. Many walk and bike along the lake’s 3-mile loop to enjoy the serenity and check out the offerings. Technically (historically) part of the estuary, you can boat here, but you can’t get your kayak to Lake Meritt from the estuary because there is a dam at 12th Street. Mayor Merritt had the lake declared a wildlife refuge in 1870, and it an oasis for both birds and people alike. You can feed the birds at the Rotary Nature Center in Lakeside Park, which also houses Children’s Fairyland, and Gondola Servizio — where you can take a ride in a gondola with a serenading gondolier to savour this pretty setting. If you get hungry, a quick jaunt up Lakeshore brings a choice of sidewalk cafes. Arizmendi, at 3265 Lakeshore, is known for its morning bakery items, breads and pizza. The reach the Oakland Museum and Lake Merrit: AC transit bus # 10 services both ferry terminals and the Lake Merrit BART station, and the museum and lake are adjacent.

The offerings from the Alameda/Oakland Ferry are truly endless, and if you give yourself a chance to wander, you can explore much more. But to begin with, any one of the entertainment opportunities will get you there and get you hooked. Keep your maps, you’ll want to come back.

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