By J.C. Thomas, Travel Writer
OAKLAND, CA — If you have never considered Oakland as a travel destination, may I suggest you think again? National Geographic Traveler recently named Oakland one of the “28 Best Places to Visit in the World for 2019.” The world. It is only one of four locations in the United States and the only one in California to make the cut.
I wasn’t aware of the National Geographic accolade when my family planned our recent late-summer long-weekend trip to Oakland. Rather than the remarkable cultural assets highlighted in the publication we were drawn to the many great family attractions offered by the East Bay. With two- and four-year old children to entertain, our plans included the excellent Oakland Zoo, the Chabot Space and Science Center and Jack London Square, Oakland’s busiest visitor hub. For our family of four, there was no better place to stay than the Waterfront Hotel on Jack London Square, which hosted our visit.
Firstly, the location is unrivaled. The boutique hotel sits right on the edge of the water, boasting views of the bay, sailboats and sunsets from its waterfront swimming pool, deck and many of its rooms and suites. Between the water’s edge and the hotel property is a wide boardwalk perfect for a morning or evening stroll. (Bring your dog – the hotel is pet-friendly.)
On the city side of the hotel one of the liveliest sections of Jack London Square, where there’s fun to be had all day and night. Dozens of great restaurants and shops are within a short stroll of the hotel, as are historic attractions like Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon (dating to 1883), and a recreation of Oakland-raised author Jack London’s grass-roofed Klondike log cabin. There’s also a 20-minute ferry connecting the square directly to San Francisco. However, I do recommend sticking on the Oakland side of the bay, as there’s plenty to explore.
First impressions upon arriving at the Waterfront Hotel are that it’s fittingly, cheerfully nautical. The wide blue-and-white-striped exterior resembles both an oversized lighthouse, complete with crow’s nest and mast, and a classic Breton shirt. Inside, the décor takes a turn toward the refined. Nautical touches are a given (any alternative aesthetic would be out of place), and a recently completed renovation succeeded in quashing any hint of kitsch. Yes, there’s the occasional porthole window, a model sailboat on lobby shelving and brass accents aplenty. But the huge marble fireplace is minimalist in style, the furnishings a soothing palette of off-whites, seafoam and coral, and the modern macramé wall hanging worthy of its very own Instagram post.
Such understated sophistication continues to the guest rooms and suites, which the Waterfront Hotel offers in configurations ranging from one queen to king suites. Choose accommodations with or without a balcony, fireplace and water, pool or city views. A two-queen room was ideal for our family, and we enjoyed views of both the water and heated saltwater swimming pool. We lacked for nothing in comfort nor amenities, with fabulously plush beds, a big flat-screen TV, iPod dock, refrigerator, microwave and free Wi-Fi. Note that the hotel is 100-percent non-smoking and launders its linens with green cleaning products.
On weekdays, the hotel hosts a wine and cheese reception in the lobby lounge from 5 to 6 p.m. For drinks, snacks and meals look no further than Lungomare, the attached restaurant. Its fine cuisine brings together the culinary traditions of Northern Italy with the finest homegrown ingredients of Northern California. Pastas, salumi and gelati are made in-house from scratch, and the kitchen carefully sources its seasonal ingredients, including heirloom produce and pasture-raised meats, from local providers. Lungomare is open seven days for brunch, lunch and dinner, with its café section open from 6:45 a.m. Waterfront seating is available, as are al-fresco tables facing the square.
Waterfront Hotel offers the following amenities:
· Heated saltwater swimming pool (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
· Wine and cheese reception on weekdays (5 to 6 p.m.)
· Complimentary Wi-Fi
· 24-hour fitness center and sauna
· 24-hour business center
· Complimentary weekday shuttle to the BART station and downtown Oakland
10 Washington Street, Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 836-3800 http://www.waterfronthoteloakland.com