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Visiting Oakland for first time

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U.K
posts: 3
Visiting Oakland for first time

I live in the U.K and I will be visiting Oakland very soon for a couple of weeks, the primary reason being that I'm a huge Golden State Warriors fan and I want to see them play live.

I know a few people who have visited San Francisco but none of them traveled to Oakland because they were "warned off" due to high levels of crime. So I was wondering if it's just a negative reputation due to a couple of areas within Oakland or if it really is as bad as I've heard.

Where I live isn't exactly perfect, it's mostly safe but has enough rough areas that I feel comfortably street smart, so I'm not overly concerned about things like pick pockets or even muggings, I've been in enough places to know it's best to keep eyes on the back of your head as a tourist.

I'm more concerned about gang culture and the loose gun control, I don't want to get murdered for crossing into the wrong street while wearing the wrong color of clothing lol.

Essentially I'm trying to decide whether I would be better staying in San Francisco and using the BART rail system to get into Oakland for game nights, or if I should stay in Oakland and use the BART rail system to go into San Francisco during the days where games aren't on (to do touristy stuff etc). I would prefer to do the latter

Any and all advice is appreciated.

San Francisco Bay
posts: 2,942
reviews: 13
1. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

I'd stay in SF not only because of the crime problems but because of the more numerous and enjoyable tourist attractions available to you in SF when you are not at a game.

Take the 23 minute trip to the Coliseum via BART from the city, and rent a short term stay apartment, perhaps with an owner on vrbo.com. Find a location that has easy access to BART.

Get yourself a Muni Visitors Pass as well as a BART high value ticket.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
posts: 31,584
reviews: 26
2. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

Agree with above. The area immediately around the arena is not at all nice so you won't want to stay within walking distance of the Colesium. However, taking BART there is no problem and there will be lots of other people doing so. There is a Colesium BART station with direct walking access to the arena. www.bart.gov

There are areas of Oakland which are nice, good restaurants, etc. But you might as well stay in San Francisco where there is much more on offer.

San Francisco...
posts: 3,500
reviews: 123
3. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

Tou mentioned you prefer to stay in Oakland and take BART to SF. That is certainly doable. However did you have a location in mind to stay? as mentioned above there isnt really a good place to stay walking distance to Oracle Arena. You either need to drive or take BART.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,433
reviews: 42
4. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

If you prefer to stay in Oakland to be close to the games and then commute to San Francisco for tourist activities, be aware that you will be giving up something very important: ambience. Very few parts of Oakland have enough character to make them great places to stay for a week or two. You'd get in a rut or start looking for things to do farther afield Or you might decide it's too much trouble and just hang out in front of the TV set--not the way most folks want to spend their holidays..

Staying in San Francisco eliminates this situation. If you stay in one of the usual visitor areas (Union Square, Market Street corridor, or the Embarcadero), you will have convenient access to BART to Oakland, and you'll be near a much greater variety of dining, sightseeing, shopping, entertainment, etc. than you would in Oakland.

Except for Jack London Square, I can't think of any hotel area of Oakland where you could walk outside at night and find something to do that won't require travel. Around Union Square, you can step outside at midnight and ride a cable car, go to Walgreen's for ice cream or postcards, find a restaurant open (a major theatre district is nearby and many restaurants accommodate this), or just people-watch.

Dublin, California
posts: 13,079
reviews: 31
5. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

How many games will you be seeing during those two weeks? Let's say 5 games, that still leaves you the majority of your free time for touristy stuff. So yes I'd stay in SF and BART games, which is an easy trip.

I hate to say this, but I have no confidence in the ability of the Oakland city government or the police department to control crime in that city. While it would be rare for tourists to be victims in a gang warfare, still I would not recommend anyone staying in Oakland at this time.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,433
reviews: 42
6. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

** While it would be rare for tourists to be victims in a gang warfare, still I would not recommend anyone staying in Oakland at this time" **

The problem is not that tourists would be specific targets of gang warfare, but that they might get caught in it by sheer lousy luck. The thugs don't worry about innocent folks being in their way. When MikeB mentions “loose gun control,” that translates in my mind to people with guns who shouldn’t have them and have no self-control. Several young children died in Oakland last year because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oakland had 130 homicides last year (it’s already had 6 this year). San Francisco had 68. Oakland has half the population of San Francisco. The math isn't complicated.

I typically go to Oakland once a week. I go directly to where I'm going, which is a low-crime area, then I leave and get back on the freeway. So I don't see the totality of Oakland's crime situation. But would I stay in town for a couple weeks, doing a lot of walking around or traveling on public transit? It isn’t entirely about trusting Oakland’s police or city officials, because gang warfare isn’t caused by police or city officials, but by people who have no respect for law, other people, or the community where they live.

U.K
posts: 3
7. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

Thanks for the replies everyone, much appreciated. I guess I'll start looking for hotels in San Francisco, is there anywhere aside form Union Square I should be considering? (for stuff to do within walking distance).

And how easy is it to navigate the BART system? It seems similar to the London Underground in the way it's all color coded (took a quick glance at the map with the yellow, orange, red, green routes all outlined etc).

Again, thanks a lot for your help.

San Francisco...
posts: 3,500
reviews: 123
8. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

Let's be clear. There are many parts of Oakland that are safe. Just like some parts of San Francisco may be a little sketchy. But if you plan on taking the train anyway and doing touristy things in San Francisco, it makes sense to stay in San Francisco and take the train to Oakland. As a reference point, the additional time traveling to Oracle Arena from San Francisco as opposed to from downtown Oakland is about 10-15 minutes.

By the way, even though the maps are color-coded, the trains are not known by Their color. They are labeled by the names of the last stop at the end of the line. Fremont, Pittsburgh, Daly city, etc.

You picked a great year to attend GSW games. They have a very exciting team this year.

Edited: 9:35 pm, January 13, 2013
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
posts: 31,584
reviews: 26
9. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

BART is quite easy to navigate -- much more so than the London tube mostly because there are many fewer lines.

From SF to the Colesium it's a straight shot on either the Dublin/Pleasanton or Fremont lines.

On the return, nonstop on a Daly City train.

We have fare cards like Oyster (called Clipper) but as there is a charge for the card itself, you can buy a paper farecard. BART charges it's fare based on the distance you went, so fares vary based upon where you get on and where you get off. (A bit like zones in London but not quite.) You put the fare card into the turnstile when you enter and exit. Upon exit the fare is deducted from your card.

There are AddFare machines in stations in case your farecard has gone below the amount of fare required. You can load as much onto the card as you like and fare machines take cash and credit cards.

Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
posts: 5,643
reviews: 69
10. Re: Visiting Oakland for first time

There hasn't been much dialog regarding OP's original query. Regarding Oakland safety: The dangerous parts of Oakland are no more dangerous, generally speaking, than the dangerous parts of San Francisco. And the safe parts are no more safe. In either city, a tourist has to do a bit of work to venture into the wrong neighborhood.

Please do note that Oracle Arena itself, which is next to Coliseum BART Station, is adjacent to a bad neighborhood. However, as long as you don't feel the urge to wander off onto side streets at night, you'll be perfectly fine.

Oakland has many great neighborhoods that are very livable. Much more livable than parts of San Francisco. And vice versa. It's a matter of comparing apples to apples when looking at neighborhoods, not comparing apples to oranges.

Especially if you are planning to stay at a hotel near Union Square, your patience may wear thin after a few days. There are so many people, so many tourists, so much traffic, so much noise... There is a reason why neighborhoods like Noe Valley are wildly popular in San Francisco: They are livable.

Interestingly, Oakland has several good neighborhoods that are very similar to good SF neighborhoods like Noe Valley and Glen Park. Look into Rockridge, Piedmont Avenue, and Temescal for starters. Oakland has the added benefit of being cheaper and warmer.

You should consider a rental rather than a hotel no matter which city you pick. For a 2-week stay, I can't imagine enjoying life in a hotel!

Check out the AirBNB and VRBO websites. There is a good chance you can find an affordable, nice place to stay in Oakland that will be substantially cheaper than SF, even accounting for the BART or AC Transit commute costs.

Another thought you may wish to consider: Split your time between SF and Oakland. With 2 weeks in the area, you can cover quite a lot of territory and get a good feel for both locales. Then you can judge for yourself which one you like better!

P.S. If you want the Oakland experience but still aren't sure about safety or rental availability, consider staying in Berkeley. Oakland and Berkeley are neighbors, and although they have some differences, they are more similar to each other than San Francisco.