Wedged between Greenville, South Carolina and Duluth, Minnesota on Lonely Planet's list of "Best in the U.S." list for 2015 is Oakland, California, clocking in at number 8. For the record and some perspective the rankings, first place prize went to Queens, New York, followed by Western South Dakota.
Ever in search of scrappy, off-the-beaten-path destinations, Lonely Planet likes that Oakland is "an incubator for adventurous restaurants, from Michelin-starred avant-garde Commis to down-home soul food with modern twists at Brown Sugar Kitchen (anyone for some buttermilk fried chicken with a cornmeal wafﬂe and apple cider syrup?)." You know, the kinds of places typically grouped together to rep Oakland that were lauded in the New York Times' 2012 Oakland write up. That year it was the paper's number 5 travel destination ... between London and Tokyo.
Let's stop there for a second. Is Oakland a Tokyo or a Duluth? A Greenville or a London?These rankings are hella confusing.
Usually they make me think that no one knows where to place Oakland, except maybe to make a slapdash gesture to Brooklyn. But Oakland is neither as cheap as people say, nor as dangerous as people say. Everyone has difficulty summing it up, myself very much included, but everyone is trying to sell it anyway because yes, a lot of cool people have moved there and there's plenty of good food. And wouldn't most curious visitors to Oakland probably end up staying in a hotel or hostel in SF anyway?
Lonely Planet invokes the usuals like Art Murmur, and even nods to the sort of fun but really loud Bay Bridge trail. But to many, I would expect part of Oakland's charm is its lack of tourists and tourist traps. The picture for Oakland accompanying the rankings, rather than the Lake Merritt shot you might have been expecting, is of Heinholds' First And Last Chance Saloon. Maybe it's a tourist trap, but it's a rad one.
Now cue some commenters saying, "No, stay away! Oakland is our best-kept secret!" and some others celebrating the possibility of Oakland stealing some Gen Y tourist dollars away from SF. I'll let you guys fight this one out.