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11 Surprising Facts About Oakland

Insider Guides
by Julia Kitlinski-Hong Dec 20, 2016

1. It has a natural saltwater lake, with a monster.

Lake Merritt is the only natural saltwater lake within city boundaries in the entire world. It is also home to the oldest U.S. wildlife refuge, which was designated in 1870. This lake has its very own monster called the Oak-ness Monster, that has been appearing there since the 1940s. The best spot to catch a glimpse of this creature is from the docks at the Lake Chalet Restaurant.

2. It is inhabited by gnomes.

There are hundreds of painted gnomes throughout the city that are attached to utility poles. The artist who created them continues to remain anonymous. These paintings are a prime example of how big of a role art plays in the city’s identity.

3. It’s the birthplace of the word “hella.”

This slang word is associated with the Bay Area, and more specifically Oakland. Linguists believe that its use began in the late 1970s and spread widely through Northern California. For those not in the know, it loosely translates to “very.”

4. Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.

There has been a lot of media coverage surrounding the relationships between the black community and white community in Oakland, but the city has a large Hispanic and Asian population as well. According to a 2010 census report, the percentage of white residents was around 34 percent, while black residents made up 28 percent, the Hispanic community 25 percent, and the Asian population 16 percent.

5. There are hundreds of hidden staircases.

After the 1906 earthquake destroyed San Francisco, many residents moved across the bay to the Oakland hills. To create easy access to public transportation at the bottom of the hills, hundreds of staircases were built and still remain tucked in between houses in these neighborhoods.

6. One of Oakland’s most popular parks is a cemetery.

With stunning views of the city, the Mountain View Cemetery is a popular place to picnic or just walk around. Famous people buried here include Elizabeth Short (the Black Dahlia), Domingo Ghiradelli (of chocolate fame), and rapper Mac Dre.

7. The city has its own redwoods.

A few miles from Downtown, there is Redwood Regional Park, where you can wander around these giant beauties. In the past, this park was a logging area that supplied wood to the Bay Area, but all traces of that era are long gone. In its place are numerous hiking trails among tranquil redwood groves.

8. It has an ideal climate year-round.

The Bay Area is known for its microclimates where you can be freezing in San Francisco but sweltering in Walnut Creek. Oakland has a perfect medium, where it stays mild year-around due to the bay breezes and manages to stay sunny most of the time. With a narrow temperature range from 45 to 75 degrees throughout the year, it is the perfect place for those who cannot deal with extreme cold or heat.

9. It is a major port city.

The Port of Oakland is responsible for 99 percent of containerized goods moving through Northern California. It is the fifth busiest container port in the U.S. due to its large cargo volume. Rumor had it that the cargo cranes inspired the AT-AT Walkers in Star Wars, but it turns out this was onlywishful thinking.

10. It has three professional sports teams.

Oakland is the only city in California to have three professional sports teams: the Raiders, the Warriors and the A’s. And they’re nothing to sneeze at, especially the Warriors who won the championship title in 2015.

11. Disneyland was inspired by Oakland’s Fairyland.

When Walt Disney was visiting Oakland he was inspired by the children’s theme park, Fairyland. The Alice in Wonderland ride in Fairyland was highly influential in the making of the ride with the same theme that opened in 1958 in Disneyland. The first director of Fairyland, Dorothy Manes, was hired by Disney to be a youth director of Disneyland from 1955 to 1972.

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