Oakland, located in west central California across the bay from San Francisco, is the state's eighth-largest city. Originally settled in 1820 and named after the huge oak trees found in the area, Oakland grew dramatically during the gold rush of 1849 and was incorporated as a city in 1854. About 50,000 refugees fled to Oakland after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, many settling there permanently. The opening of the (San Francisco-to-Oakland) Bay Bridge in 1936 helped the city's growth; during World War I, Oakland was a major shipbuilding center, attracting a huge blue-collar work force.
Today, Oakland is a major center of commerce and industry, home to Fortune 500 companies such as Clorox and Golden West Financial, and around 400,000 people in just 56 square miles of land. Along with San Francisco, San Jose and several smaller communities, Oakland is part of the Bay Area known for its thriving economy and world-class cultural attractions.
The Oakland Museum offers art, natural sciences and California history under one roof, along with scenic gardens and ponds. The city is also home to the Ebony Museum of Art (for African American works), the Pardee Home Museum (historic architecture) and the Chabot Space and Science Center. A more sophisticated scene in San Francisco, with its plethora of art and music venues, is just 10 miles away. Wine lovers flock to Sonoma and Napa to the north.
Plenty of outdoor diversions are available in and around Oakland. Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach, right on Oakland's side of San Francisco Bay, is a convenient and popular area for swimming, picnicking and sporting activities. Oakland's Lake Merritt, America's largest urban saltwater lake, is a great spot for boating, jogging and bird watching (it's also the oldest bird refuge in the country). Briones Regional Park, about 12 miles northwest of downtown Oakland, has more than 5,000 acres of wilderness, wildlife and trails for hikers, runners, and horseback riders. For a winter getaway, skiing and snow sports are available within a 2-hour drive at a Lake Tahoe and other Sierra Nevada Mountain resorts.
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