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City Smackdown: San Francisco vs. Oakland

Each week, Yahoo Travel pits writers from rival cities against each other to determine once and for all which destination is the best. 

The Case for San Francisco - by Greg Keraghosian

Zooming through town on a streetcar. (Photo: Christopher Chan)

Sure, San Francisco is insanely expensive to live in, and to its credit, Oakland has come a long way in revitalizing itself. But as big brother/little brother battles go, this is still Jaime Lannister vs. Tyrion with swords. San Francisco’s beauty is second to none. With the exception of barbecue, San Francisco’s restaurants beat Oakland’s in every department. The revamped Exploratorium and California Academy of Sciences museums are gleaming modern marvels that even know how to party on Thursday night. And this feels almost like a low blow, but go watch a Giants game, then go see an A’s game and tell me which is more inspiring. 

The newly renovated Exploratorium is a great way to spend a few hours in San Francisco. (Courtesy: Exploratorium)

Population: 826,000

Famous faces: Mark Zuckerberg, Danielle Steele, Joe Montana, Chris Isaak.

Popular way to get around town: Ride-sharing smartphone apps such as Uber and Lyft.

Bread waiting to be put in the oven at Tartine. (Courtesy: Tartine)

Great food that gets ridiculously long lines: Pastries at Tartine and ice cream at neighboring Bi-Rite in the Mission.

Residents: Hipsters, tech yuppies, leftover hippies on rent control.

Hidden bonus of visiting: Extra-firm glutes from walking up the many hills.

Why it’s fun to visit: No one will look twice at you if you wear a costume in any social situation. Heck, they run an annual 12k race in costumes here.

Local activities: Disc golf, dodgeball, board games, cornhole … it’s the wide world of grade-school sports for grown-ups.

Number of Michelin-star restaurants: 19

Who you’ll meet in a coffee shop: Start-up founders with laptops drinking Four Barrel.

Sought after soul food at Brenda’s French Soul Food restaurant. (Photo: Protographer23)

Fried chicken that will change your life: The confidently titled Best Fried Chicken at Brenda’s French Soul Food.

What locals drink: Wine (of course), Anchor Steam beer.

Long tables, lots of microbrew beer, and hipsters at Zeitgeist. (Photo:Eudaemonian)

Best spots to get tipsy outdoors: Hanging with the hipsters at Zeitgeist or drinking German suds at Biergarten.

Things we say way too often: Anything with “hella” in it.

Sports team you should care about: The Giants (and their garlic fries).


The Case for Oakland - by Meghan Logue

A view of the San Francisco Bay from the Oakland hills. (Photo: Mark)

Removed from the hustle, bustle, and (tech) boom of its neighbor to the West, Oakland revels in its historic diversity, blue-collar roots, and all-around laid-back vibe. Now home to heavy hitters like Pandora as well as a flourishing food scene, Oakland is no stranger to innovation and renovation. It has something for everyone. If paying $12 for sushi at a baseball game is your thing, then San Francisco is your town. Oakland will stick with $6 beers and cheap pretzels at the Coliseum, thanks.

Population: 400,740

Famous faces: Jack London, MC Hammer, Angela Davis, Too $hort

Popular way to get around town: The people-powered way – on your bike!

Pizza bread at Arizmendi. (Photo: Aaron Landry)

Great food that gets ridiculously long lines: The pizza bread at Arizmendi bakery and Genova deli’s sandwiches.

Residents: Artists, musicians, homesteaders, party promoters, activists, and anyone else drawn to the sunnier side of the Bay.

Hidden bonus of visiting: A deeper tan and better Vitamin D stores.

Why it’s fun to visit: To get in touch with your creative side, attend a class at craft community space Rock Paper Scissors collective or simply peruse the offerings during Art Murmur, a monthly gallery walk and street fair.

Grand Lake Theatre is a historic landmark in Oakland. (Courtesy: Grand Lake Theatre)

Local activities: Paddle boating or a romantic gondola ride on Lake Merritt, hiking the Oakland hills, taking in a flick at the historic Grand Lake or newly re-opened New Parkway theater.

Number of Michelin-star restaurants: 1

Who you’ll meet in a coffee shop: One of the many members of the healthy creative class.

Even the photo of the fried chicken at Bakesale Betty can make your mouth water. (Photo:Jennifer Lin)

Fried chicken that will change your life: Bakesale Betty and Lois the Pie Queen.

What locals drink: Beer. Anything from budget-friendly PBR to Belgian-inspired selections at the Trappist to offerings of beloved local Linden Street Brewery.

Best spots to get tipsy outdoors: Lake Chalet for dock-side mimosas; the Claremont Hotel for classy cocktails with a view; beers and brat sandwiches at Telegraph.

Things we say way too often: Also guilty of severe “hella” overuse.

Sports team you should care about: The brave of heart should check out a Raiders game. Everyone else: the A’s are for you.