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Oakland Is the Bay Area’s New Style Capital

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Budget Travel Editor-in-Chief
June 18, 2019
Stylish models in downtown Oakland
Courtesy Visit Oakland
The city’s diverse designers and boutiques are attracting fashion-forward shoppers.

Visitors to Northern California’s Bay Area have a legendary array of sights to see and experiences to savor, from the natural beauty of Marin County to the cultural cornucopia of Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and other communities. But lately, we’ve noticed that Oakland in particular is setting itself apart when it comes to attracting fashion-forward shoppers.

The city of Oakland itself has taken notice of its stylish status as well, launching a new Oakland Style digital fashion guide to help visitors and locals explore Oakland-based apparel and accessories.

Unique Local Style With Meaning

Shoppers in the know are attracted to Oakland’s style scene not only because the clothing and accessories are original and beautiful but also because Oakland style often holds deeper meaning, reflecting local history (black berets are just one example), popular culture (remember MC Hammer’s parachute pants?) and even politics. Oakland’s Sherri McMullen styled iconic looks for Michelle Obama; Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. launched the Dope Era fashion brand; Oakland native and NFL player Marshawn Lynch created Beastmode, an “athleisure” brand; and local Viscera crafts unique jewelry using a 3D printer.

We love how Oakland-inspired clothing brand Oaklandish pursues a mission to spread “local love”: with local-pride T-shirts and accessories and by creating quality jobs for inner-city locals. And we applaud vintager clothing boutique Regina’s Door for serving as a sanctuary for homeless youth, young creatives, and survivors of sex trafficking.

A Handy Guide for Visitors and Locals

Oakland Style (visitoakland.com/style) highlights five distinct local fashion styles: Town Pride, Vintage and Consignment, A Night on The Town, Elevated Style and Lakeside Lounging. “We are excited to launch the Oakland Style campaign, and to promote shopping at local Oakland businesses to visitors and locals alike,” says Mark Everton, CEO of Visit Oakland. “Oakland’s diverse makers and business owners are what make our city unique, and we are thrilled to highlight their creative products in our digital fashion guide.”

Put Oakland on Your California Must-See List

Oakland is always a good idea, whether you’re visiting for its stylish clothing or for its other ample charms, including great food, the unique urban parkland around Lake Merritt, and the exceptional Oakland Museum of California, which combines art, history, and science in a user-friendly environment. Oakland is an easy day trip across the bay from (the significantly more expensive) San Francisco and a must-stop for anyone exploring Northern California.

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Inspiration

Discover This Gorgeous Corner of Washington State Before Everybody Else Does

We love introducing you to places you've possibly never heard of. Today, we’re giving away a big secret. (Just don’t tell everybody, okay?) There’s a little corner of Northeast Washington State that boasts hundreds of thousands of acres of public land, including trails for hiking and cycling, lakes for paddling and swimming, and mountains to inspire you whether you choose to climb or enjoy the occasional sightings of native grizzly, black bears, cougars, bald eagles, and the last remaining herd of caribou in the U.S. The best part? You’ve probably never heard of Ferry County, WA, the town of Republic, or the Colville National Forest and other nearby public lands, and neither have hundreds of thousands of other travelers. That relative anonymity, of course, poses both a challenge and an opportunity for the people who live and work in Ferry County, about a 2.5-hour drive from Spokane and a 5-hour drive from the Seattle area. The area's inaugural Get Out Fest will put the region on travelers' maps. Meet the Get Out Fest From June 27 to 30, nature-loving travelers will be discovering all that the Ferry County region has to offer when the Get Out Fest makes its debut. The goal of this inaugural event is to raise awareness of the area’s opportunities for outdoor recreation and to offer tons of outdoor activities that won’t break the bank. What to Expect at the Get Out Fest First of all: $5 admission (what part of $5 admission don’t you like?) when you register in advance, $10 at the gate. Kids under 18 get in for free. Festival participants can head to the Ferry County Fairground for an array of activities. Outdoor specialists REI will offer mountain bike rides on the Kettle Crest, a guided hike along a section of the Pacific Northwest Trail, a 25-foot climbing wall, skateboarding activities, a fishing derby, and a fossil hunt. There will be outdoor movies, food, local libations (sponsored by Rainier Beer, Latta Wines, Kind Stranger Wines, and Sleight of Hand Cellars), and live music from The Cave Singers, a Seattle band. Runners may want to lace up for a half-marathon along the gorgeous Ferry County Rail Trail ($45), or the less challenging but no less beautiful 5k ($30). Local Lodging Camping costs $20 for a tent and $30 for an RV. Airbnb rentals in the area start at under $100/night. Marquee Names For an undiscovered corner of the Evergreen State, Ferry County’s festival has some very cool partners. Maybe you’ve heard of Washington’s very own Pearl Jam? The band donated a guitar that will be auctioned online to offset costs of the festival. REI Spokane will be provide free watersport rentals (kayaks and paddleboards), and the Spokane climbing gym Wild Walls and the Washington Trails Association will be onsite lending their expertise and inspiration. Learn More Learn more and book your weekend at the festival at getoutfest.com. And for a fascinating look at the years of planning that went into this inaugural Get Out Fest, read Eli Francovich’s article in The Spokesman-Review, which first put the Get Out Fest on our radar.

Inspiration

Just Two Hours a Week in Nature Could Change Your Life

The news that there are positive health benefits to spending just two hours in nature per week should inspire people to get travelling more to woodlands, beaches and parks. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports has found that spending two hours per week in the natural world gives a positive boost to mental and physical well-being. Based on interviews with around 20,000 people in England, those who reported spending 120 minutes in nature in the previous week had consistently higher levels of both health and well-being than those who spent less than that. One Long Walk or Several Short Walks Are Sufficient The results indicated that it did not matter whether the two hours of contact a week was achieved in one long stint or several shorter ones. This is good news because while some people may prefer long walks at the weekend in locations further from home, others may prefer regular shorter visits to parks or beaches in their local area. Most People Don’t Spend Enough Time in Nature The findings indicated that only one in three people who had spent at least two hours in the natural world in the previous week said they felt dissatisfied, while just one in seven reported poor health. By contrast, close to half of those who spent little or no time in parks, beaches or woods in the past seven days reported low levels of life satisfaction. One in four of these people said they were in poor health. The researchers found that the results were consistent across ages, sexes and residential areas, and even among those with long-standing illnesses or disabilities. The other interesting fact was that there is no need to spend huge amounts of times to get the benefits, as the positive impact levels off, so the people in the study didn’t report increased benefits if they exceeded two hours in the wild. To read the full study in Scientific Reports, please click here.

Inspiration

Locals Know Best: Olympia, Washington

Riana Nelson started traveling the world right after graduating from the University of Michigan, thanks to performing on cruise ships and working for Disney in Beijing, China. But when she and her brothers formed Derik Nelson & Family, a trio known for unique three-part harmonies, they began working with the U.S. Department of State as Cultural Ambassadors of the United States and traveled the globe to promote cultural diplomacy through music and arts education. They perform in places like Turkmenistan, Moldova, and Albania to share their music, which blends the driving yet gentle melodies of folk-inflected rock of the 1970s, the familiar rhythms that made Nashville famous, and the contemplative lyrics associated with some of today’s popular indie singer-songwriters, like Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver. But no matter how far and wide she travels, she loves coming home to Olympia, Washington. The scenic state capital, at the southern end of the Puget Sound, is home to less than 52,000. Its creative energy and the surrounding natural wonders make it a destination for a relaxed weekend—or longer. We checked in with her to learn about her favorite spots to eat, shop, hang out, and just be. Eat Your Heart Out When it comes to sampling Olympia’s flavors, go downtown. Riana is a big fan of the local food truck culture, giving a particular shout-out to Arepa, which serves Venezuelan-style fare like killer plantains and yuca fries with garlic oil dipping sauce. The trucks park in a cluster close to picnic tables, so you can savor the fare while you soak up the city’s vibe. About a block away is Olympia Coffee, which takes java very seriously. She has an artist’s appreciation for the artistry of the baristas here. They ground beans and slow-pour everything to order. But perhaps the most exciting attraction for eating and drinking is the Olympia Farmers Market, a year-round indoor emporium where the region’s freshest flavors have been on display for 45 years. Riana has a few vendors that she regularly visits, like Johnson Berry Farm. “My favorites are the sweet and mellow popular Tayberry or seasonal Little Wild Jake Blackberry jam,” she insists. “But you can also go spicy and savory with their spicy varieties like the XXX spice Blackberry Habenero or Raspberry Chipotle.” In a clever move, they sell carry-on-friendly sizes, so stock up. She also has a special place in her heart for Skipping Stone Garden, a husband-and-wife-owned farm that peddles thoughtfully grown organic vegetables. Down the street is 222 Market, a more modern artisanal food hall in a 1940s-era building that originally housed a car dealership. One of Riana’s favorite stop is Sift and Gather, another husband-and-wife-owned business, this one famous for its gooey sticky buns. Just be sure to heed her warning: the pastries go on sale at 10 a.m. and when they’re gone, that’s it. Better luck tomorrow. Sofie's Scoops is a must for its small-batch gelato. Their imaginative flavors include candied ginger, cardamom, and salty butterscotch. If you’re looking to sit down for something a little fancier, she recommends the Bread Peddler, a refined yet laidback French-inspired bistro with superior local mussels in hard cider sauce. The sister café, also in the market, sells coffee drinks, sandwiches, and pastries until afternoon each day. Get Out Hiking and camping are one of Washington’s most terrific attractions, and outdoorsy types will find that Olympia’s surrounds are among the region’s finest. Take, for instance, the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest temperate rain forests in the country. A big reason it stands out, Riana notes, is that it’s the starting point of hiking trails that run through Olympia National Park. Another option for getting out of the city for the day is Ruby Beach, a rugged, rural oasis that’s about a two-hour drive from the city. Riana has mastered the way to enjoy the place: “Walk north along the beach to the mouth of the Hoh River. The seastacks are beautiful!" she says. "Go at low tide, and definitely be mindful of the tide tables or you won’t be able to return to your car if the tide gets too high!” Getting to and from Ruby Beach is part of the fun because along the way you can stop at Kalaloch Lodge, a collection of rustic-chic cabins that overlook the water and you can find rates that hover around $100 in the off-season, but she strongly recommends stopping here even if you’re not planning an overnight because its Creekside Restaurant is an absolute gem. She speaks whimsically about watching the ocean as you tuck into an exquisite dinner made of local products--especially during storm season. It’s one of the greatest perches for storm-watching around. There’s plenty of natural beauty in the city as well. Riana’s go-to for nature walks is Watershed Park, a 1.4-mile loop trail a few minutes from the Capitol Building that she describes as an "urban oasis." You can wander amid native plants, huge maple trees, and a variety of moss and fern species. There are more than 20 bridges and boardwalks that cross over natural springs and the gorgeous Moxlie Creek, so carve out some time to explore. Shop Around Local retailers embody Olympia’s creative, smart indie spirit. Riana is a big fan of Pieces to Peaces, a gift stand in the Farmers Market that sells a assorted styles of adorable handmade headbands (Riana has more than a few), including some for pets. Owner Danielle Hale, who Riana describes as an “incredible, badass mom,” has created something of a mini empire with her accessories, selling them far and wide by mail order. Downtown, Radiance is well worth a visit, not least because it captures the essence of the town’s freewheeling vibe. The fragrant, relaxed shop is stocked with essential oils, natural skincare products, bulk teas, and other holistic-minded goods. Psychic Sisters, which you can find by looking for the neon sigh that reads “The psychic is in,” sells funky gifts and jewelry as well as visions of your future, thanks to the mediums who work there. And, she notes, their second-hand clothing selection is a site to behold: everything is sorted by color. Got kids with you? Make sure to take them to Captain Little, a toys shop with delightful toys, puzzles, games, quirky gifts. And then there’s Browsers, an 80-year-old bookstore where you’re almost guaranteed to lose track of time. Riana loves it for the beautiful bright loft upstairs with spacious work tables and free WiFi, not to mention the Pacific Northwest-inspired postcards and books about the region.

Inspiration

San Francisco's 5 Best Fog-Watching Spots

On the spectrum of anthropomorphized inanimate objects with a hefty social media presence, San Francisco’s Karl the Fog (@karlthefog on Twitter and Instagram) is a clear favorite. Emerging in 2010 as the voice of the city’s seminal weather event, he’s since become a cultural touchstone, earning mentions in local weather reports and online media and even featuring as an answer to a question on Jeopardy. (“I'll take ‘Never Saw That Coming’ for $1,000, Alex,” he says.) Though the person behind the accounts has chosen to remain anonymous over the years, Karl’s fame has only grown, and he’s picked up a few well-known fans in the process—actresses and Broadway bombshells among them. “One of my favorite followers is Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc),” he says. “Not sure how she found me all the way from NYC, but I'm ready to perform a duet any time she's up for it.” For the release of his first book, Karl the Fog: San Francisco’s Most Mysterious Resident (on sale June 11), we asked the newly published author to tell us about the best places his fans can go to pay their respects. "While you can love (or hate) me from anywhere in San Francisco, these are a few spots that rise above the rest," he says. 1. Mt. Davidson "If you're looking for my chilly embrace, this is the best place to find me. It's the highest naturally elevated spot in San Francisco, so I chill here a lot. And on a few lucky days of the year, I don't make it to the top so you can stand on the edge and look down at a sea of me." (From Karl the Fog, by Karl the Fog, published by Chronicle Books) 2. Sutro Bath / Lands End "Iconic spot to enjoy San Francisco past (Sutro Baths), present (trails around Lands End), and future (me coming in from the Pacific Ocean in about 20 minutes)." 3. Cupid's Arrow / Bay Bridge "Tony Bennett claims he left his heart in San Francisco, and anyone who stands at Cupid's Arrow and watches me sweep over the Bay Bridge on a Fogust morning could claim the same thing." (From Karl the Fog, by Karl the Fog, published by Chronicle Books) 4. Bernal Heights Park "Excellent location to watch me bubble over the hills of Noe Valley and Twin Peaks and jog toward downtown and Salesforce Tower, my new arch-nemesis." (From Karl the Fog, by Karl the Fog, published by Chronicle Books) 5. Mt. Tamalpais "Wanna get high? Like, really up there? Drive up to the top of Mt. Tam before dusk and plant yourself somewhere with a view. Watch the sun slowly set across the sky into me, creating an ocean of red and purple cotton candy."

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