Oakland knows how to throw a proper function. The spirit of community resilience courses through Oaklanders' blood, and getting together to have fun—as we saw with the recent "BBQ'n While Black" protest—is a vital part of the Town's activism. Plus, what's more life affirming than getting together with friends and family for a day of relaxation in the sun?
Under-the-radar get-togethers—instead of corporate-feeling festivals—are what makes the East Bay stand out amid the Bay Area's many cultural offerings. Below, you'll find street fairs, parties, outdoor adventures, car shows and concerts to fill your summer calendar.
Alcatraz-Adeline corridor, South Berkeley.
Juneteenth celebrates the anniversary of the abolition of slavery—a holiday all Americans should honor, though it's mostly popular in the African-American community. Berkeley boasts one of the Bay Area's most popular Juneteenth celebrations. The streets surrounding Ashby BART (which has a great flea market on weekends, by the way) get closed off for a day of music, vendors, food and more in a joyous, inter-generational celebration of black culture and resilience.
OK, we know this isn't set in stone. But have you seen the meme that recasts the Warriors and Cavs players as the characters of Full House? With the Warriors facing off against the Cavs for the fourth year in a row, this playoffs season has felt like the return of a favorite show again. We've been so spoiled with Warriors victories the past few years that the parade has basically become an annual tradition. I won't say too much more to avoid jinxing my hometown team, but if they do win again, definitely make sure to come to downtown Oakland for the unofficial party immediately following the winning game. (Pro tip: wear sneakers and BYOB.) For a more family friendly affair, stay tuned for the officially sanctioned parade, and come early to secure your spot.
Fam Bam 4th of July Party
Lake Merritt Ampitheater, Oakland.
If you're not in a backyard with friends, family and a grill on the 4th of July, the best way to spend it as at the Fam Bam day party in Oakland. Food. Art. DJs. Lake. Sun. Fun. What more do you need? This community gathering attracts a diverse crowd and is family friendly, too. Just note: this is an anti-imperialist party led by Afrocentric Oakland, so expect expressions of community pride and resilience over patriotic flag waving.
It's no secret that the Bay Area abounds with beautiful hikes and nature spots, so I'm going to give you a quick-and-dirty rundown of the best spots in the East Bay. For those who don't have a car: bus or rideshare to Oakland's Dimond Park; behind its playground, there are trails leading to Joaquin Miller Park and Redwood Regional Park, two gorgeous oases that make it easy to forget you're still in urban Oakland. If you're looking for an waterfront adventure without taking a long road trip, Lake Anza is a lowkey place to tan and swim in Berkeley's Tilden Park, which also has gorgeous trails and even a petting zoo. Further inland is the breathtaking Mt. Diablo, with sweeping vistas, hiking and rock climbing. And Lake Del Valle in Livermore is a hidden East Bay gem; they have pedal boats, kayaks and motorboats for rent, plus two swimming beaches, hiking camping and more.
Location TBA, Oakland.
The lineup for this annual hip-hop fest is typically only announced a week ahead, but the $19.93 presale tickets sell out long before that because Hiero Day has a proven track record of being a good time. Conscious hip-hop pioneers Hieroglyphics founded the fest and headline each year, and they curate a balanced lineup of up-and-coming acts and established OGs. In 2017, Texas rapper Bun B and Oakland songstress Goapele performed alongside the East Bay's Lil B and Rayana Jay, rising L.A. rappers G Perico and Duckwrth and more.
Solano Avenue, Albany.
Albany's Solano Avenue gets packed with vendors, art, performers and activities every September (when the Bay Area actually gets some sun) for Solano Stroll, a free, family friendly festival in the sleepy town of Albany. Solano Avenue is Albany's busiest strip and has tons of international food and cute shops. Most of the restaurants set up booths at the Stroll, so it's a good chance to sample new foods without committing to a sit-down meal. The fair even has face painting, balloons and rides for kids (including a mean potato sack slide that I hear is a thrill even for adults).
Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, Antioch.
Dust off your bowling shirt and break out your curlers for that pin-up girl hairdo because Billetproof, the East Bay's premier rockabilly-themed car show, returns to Antioch in September. Car culture is huge in Contra Costa County, and Billetproof is when local artists show off the vintage Oldsmobiles, Chevys and Cadillacs they've been perfecting all year. Expect custom cars of every design, color and theme—it's a visual feast that feels part amusement park and part museum, and you'll likely find yourself unable to resist the urge to Instagram everything.
First Fridays and Third Thursdays
Oakland likes to celebrate whenever just because, and the well known art walk and street party, First Fridays, is especially lit in the summertime, when the sun is out longer and everyone seems to be in a relaxed, happy mood. All the galleries are open late; impromptu dance parties erupt on the street; and there's plenty of food and local vendors. At one First Friday, I even saw a guy swallowing swords. Third Thursdays is a new street party in Oakland more centered on music than visual art; each month, artists like rapper Gina Madrid and hip-hop-chamber music group Ensemble Mik Nawooj perform in Latham Square.