15 Famous Things Oakland is Known For

A big city on the east side of San Francisco Bay, Oakland is famous for producing Hollywood superstars. It is a city with a lot of culture to offer.

People can expect many historical institutions here, along with political entities that fought for the rights that Americans enjoy today.

Below are 15 other things that make Oakland famous.

What is Oakland Known For?

1. The Birthplace of Popsicles

Oakland is credited as the birthplace of popsicles. Some people, however, claim that it is San Francisco.

As the story would have it, Frank Epperson created the popsicle in 1905 in Oakland. Frank was 11 years old at that time.

He invented the popsicle by accident. He left is fruit soda outside with a stick in it. The drink froze, yet still tasted good. The kid named this invention “Epsicle.” 

It was in 1923 when Epperson debuted the product in a park. The kids called it Pop’s ‘sicle, a shortened version of Pop’s Epsicle.

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2. Redwood Parks

The Redwood Regional Park is a famous spot not only in Oakland but also in San Francisco. Its official name now is Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park.

The park is famous because it contains the largest natural grounds or the coast redwood, a species of redwood.

The park has some of the biggest and oldest trees in the woods. Apart from coast redwood, the park is also home to many eucalyptus and pine trees.

The park has a trail that people can follow as they marvel at the sheer glory of the trees. The park is also huge, giving people 1,830 acres of scenic views.

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3. City Murals

Oakland is popular for its street murals. There are over a thousand murals that one can see in the city, and these murals are not inside museum but on walls on the streets.

Artists from all parts of the world come here to paint walls and houses. Some of the most popular murals are:

  • Solidarity Fever in 8th and Clay
  • Welcome 2 Afrikatown in San pablo and Grand
  • Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural in 26th Broadway and Telegraph

Because of the sheer number of murals, Oakland itself is a living museum. It is a testament to the city’s respect and support for the arts.

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4. Black Power Movement

One of the famous political parties in the city in its history was the Black Panther Party, or BPP. It was a black power political group that started in 1966.

The core fundamentals of the party were of Marxist and Leninist origins.

The party had what it called “copwatching” as they were tired of the abuses of the Oakland City Police Department.

The party was also responsible for social programs in 1969 such as giving free breakfast for kids, providing educational programs, and putting up community health clinics.

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5. Lake Merrit

One of the most popular and iconic places in Oakland is Lake Merrit. It is unique because the lake is in an urban site.

Lake Merrit expands to three miles within the city. The lake is also an old refuge for wildlife.

Lake Merrit has the nickname Jewel of Oakland. There are many things that one can do here, including walking, boating, and visiting the sailboat house.

6. The Homelessness Problem

Oakland made a name for itself because of its seeming failure to address homelessness in the city.

Back in 2019, there were 4,000 homeless people in the city, and this number rose from 2,761 two years prior to that.

The city’s response to homelessness is to implement several intervention steps in the process. The government created encampments as shelter for the homeless. The government is also serious in reducing its growth through using state and federal funds.

So far, the government has achieved a reduction of 880 people from being homeless in 2020. They also doubled the transitional housing capacity in two years.

7. Jack London Square

The Jack London Square is a famous entertainment destination in Oakland. It is located by the waterfront.

The area was named after Jack London, an American writer. He was a pioneer of commercial fiction, and he made a fortune from his writing.

Jack London Square started out as a seaport in the 1800s. Now, it is a place where one can find historic landmarks, restaurants, and entertainment. Essentially, it is a hub for nightlife. The bars and restaurants here are not typical the mill—they provide an ambiance of saloons in the 1800s.

8. The Historic Fox Theater

The Fox Theater is famous because it is old. The one in Oakland opened its doors in 1928, and about 20,000 people attended the event.

Today, the Fox Theater is a concert hall that has a seating capacity of 2,800 people. It used to be a movie theater, running movies until 1970. It is a historic building, so it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The place survived a fire in 1973, but it was poorly maintained. It was once dubbed as the “urinal of the world.” The theater received a makeover in the year 2000.

9. Picnic on the Cemetery

Oakland is famous because people here have a picnic on a cemetery. Particularly, people do this in the Oakland Cemetery. Some people may find it weird, but it is a culture in the city.

Here are some of the most popular spots:

  • North Public Grounds
  • Eastern Wall
  • Gowitt Lot
  • Potter’s Field

A family or a group does not even need to have a relative buried here. Sometimes, the Oakland Historic Foundation organizes a picnic, and they hand out freebies to the people who come. 

10. Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was not born in Oakland. However, he moved to the city in 1964 after dropping out of college. He, along with another martial artist, founded the Jun Fan martial arts studio in the city.

Bruce Lee is a legend, and he was a popular martial artist, instructor, actor, and director. He was a philosopher. Bruce Lee also holds several push-ups and physical feats such as doing push-ups with only two fingers.

Bruce Lee is also the one who created and mastered the one-inch punch. Bruce Lee was the person who popularized Eastern martial arts in the United States. He also starred in acclaimed movies like Enter the Dragon and the Green Hornet.

11. Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks was born in Concord, California, but has a strong connection with Oakland. He lived in a house in Magellan Drive in Oakland Hills, where he practiced acting.

Tom Hanks is a versatile actor, and he is known for his ability to do both comedy and drama. He is an American cultural icon and made movie hits like Castaway and Forrest Gump. All his films grossed more than $4.9 billion in North America, and more than $9 billion worldwide. 

12. Clint Eastwood

Like the other two actors, Oakland is famous for being the home city of Clint Eastwood. Clint was born in San Francisco but moved to Oakland and Sacramento.

Clint worked several odd jobs before he got drafted in the army in 1951. He served in the Korean War, and he was a lifeguard at Fort Ord. Clint’s acting began in the 1950, and he remains as an iconic figure in the movie industry until today.

13. The First Mai Tai

Mai Tai is a cocktail made of rum, lime juice, and other ingredients. It is a popular drink that reflects tiki culture. Victor Bergeron claimed that he invented the drink back in 1944 in Oakland.

However, another person who knows Vic, Donn Beach, also made the same claim. Don said that he created the Mai Tai in 1933. Don’s recipe, according to experts, is much more complicated than Victor’s.

Regardless of who among the two created the drink, it still originated from Oakland.

14. The Wave

The wave is a metachronal rhythm that comes from spectators. Legend dictates that a cheerleader from Oakland created it in 1981.

Based on this story, the creator of the wave was “Krazy” George Henderson. The first wave happened on a televised event on October 15, 1981. The game was between the A’s and the Yankees. 

15. Filming Locations

Like many big cities, Oakland is a favorite filming spot.

Below are some poplar movies shot in the city.

  • Mrs. Doubtfire
  • Moneyball
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • The Matrix Reloaded

Oakland was also an inspiration for some filmmakers. Particularly, Oakland has a representation in Disney’s The Incredibles.

Pixar studios was at Emeryville, a neighboring city, and it is not unusual for the artists to copy some Oakland landmarks. For example, the fight scene on a lake in the middle of the city was a representation of Lake Merrit.


Oakland is a colorful city that has a diverse culture. It has high respect for the arts. Although homelessness is one of the things that make Oakland famous, or infamous, the government is doing what it can to help reduce the problem and eventually fix it for good.