The Grand-Lakeshore district is the crossroads of Oakland. Seemingly everyone in town spends time here, whether they walk in from the surrounding neighborhoods, ride in on one of the major bus lines that pass through or drive in for a couple of hours of shopping and noshing. The well-known diversity of the city can be seen here from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. most days of the week. The district is also just a short walk from Lake Merritt, Oakland's crown jewel, making it a great place to stop before or after a leisurely stroll along water.

Grand Avenue cuts through several Oakland neighborhoods, from its beginnings as the border between downtown to uptown to where it transects Piedmont and becomes Pleasant Valley Avenue. The length of Grand that creates one side of the Grand-Lakeshore district runs from the 580 Freeway north to about Weldon Avenue, give or take a block depending on the state of the economy in any given year.

This wide, four-lane boulevard has seen and survived many changes of time, fashion, and taste. Nowadays, the avenue is a relaxed and easygoing social center perfect for finding breakfast, a midday espresso or late night drinks.

The Lakeshore Avenue shopping and dining strip is a shorter stretch than Grand, but the street is narrower and more businesses are packed in, so it's constantly alive with diners, shoppers and people watchers. The tree-lined street is a great place to stroll, eat, window shop, and catch up with friends.

Connecting the two is the brief but busy Lake Park Avenue. For all of the car traffic, foot traffic Lake Park keeps a park, a classic hamburger stand and a popular farmers' market thriving. All of these and the diversions on Grand and Lakeshore make the district a place where finding something fun and interesting to do is an easy way to spend a few hours.

Sights & Culture

The Grand Lake Theatre

A good first or last stop (depending on when you'd like to kill a couple of hours) is the Grand Lake Theater. Built in 1926 and similar in design and feel to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, the Grand Lake was one of three movie palaces, along with the Fox Oakland and the Paramount, which Oaklanders visited to escape the depression years. In addition to films, the theater also had live concerts. You can still experience the old-time grandeur when the Grand Lake has its weekly rendition of the Wurlitzer mini-concert (every Friday and Saturday night). The organ rises up out of the floor -- along with its conductor -- and a short set of show tunes is played before the film starts. The theater is also well-known for its progressive political marquee messages. Grand Lake Theater is at the corner of Grand and MacArthur.

Grand Lake Farmers' Market: With the renovation and enlargement of Splash Pad Park, its home, the Lake Merritt Farmers' Market has improved as well. There are more seasonal produce vendors than ever at this Saturday event, selling everything from beets to greens to melons to mushrooms. There are now also several purveyors of prepared food, including pancakes, tamales, samosas and roast chicken. Sometimes you'll even be able to find parking right behind the market, under the 580 Freeway. Splash Pad Park, Lake Park Ave., (800) 897-3276.

Splash Pad Park: Where once lapped the northern most arm of Lake Merritt, now stands revived and revitalized Splash Pad Park. After construction of the 580 Freeway in the 1960s, the park became little more than a wide traffic island until citizens came to the rescue in the late 1990s. With the design savvy of nationally-known (and Oakland-based) landscape designer Walter Hood, a street was removed, native plants sprang up and places to sit appeared. Today, Splash Pad Park today provides a place to meet friends, hang out before the movie starts and eat a take-out lunch. Along Lake Park Ave., between Grand Ave. and Lakeshore Ave.