Jack London Square

Jack London Square 
Situated on the inlet of the Oakland Estuary, this shopping  complex borders the city’s huge commercial shipping area.  People come here to stroll the spacious modern walkways closed to cars, to browse a variety of shops, and to dine in myriad restaurants.  Also, boat-watching (on the estuary) and train-watching (slow-moving trains pass regularly on the tracks at the area’s northern edge) is enjoyable, and nightlife is lively.

Jack London Square attractions

Alameda/Oakland Ferry 
Board the ferry here for Alameda.  San Francisco destinations are the Ferry Building, Pier 41, the Giants’ AT&T Park, and Angel Island State Park.

ferry docked at Jack London Square in Oakland, California
ferry docked at Jack London Square

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon 
48 Webster St.
Built in 1883 from the remnants of a whaling ship, this tiny, informal, funky bar with a tilted floor pays tribute to the area’s waterfront past.  Jack London, a longtime Oakland resident, was a regular customer during the period when he was an oyster fisherman here.  In his “John Barleycorn” novel, he makes reference to the bar.  Though somewhat menacing in appearance (it is impossible to see in through the thick windows), this saloon makes a good spot to wet a dry whistle and is a National Literary Landmark.  While here, notice the still-functioning gas lamps and a clock that stopped at 5:18 a.m. during the 1906 earthquake.

Jack London’s Cabin is across the way.  Moved here in 1970, this rustic one-room hovel is the top half of the cabin believed to have housed London when he prospected in Canada’s Yukon Territory during the 1897 Klondike gold rush.  (The bottom half is in Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory.)  Free.

exterior of Jack London Cottage in Oakland, California
exterior of Jack London Cottage

Jack London Square Farmer’s Market
40 Webster St.  Free. 

produce at Jack London Square Farmer's Market in Oakland, California
produce at Jack London Square Farmer’s Market

USS Potomac 
Berthed at N end of Jack London Square; Visitor Center at 540 Water St./Clay St.  Fee. 
This 165-foot-long, all-steel vessel served as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “floating White House.”  Having undergone a 12-year, $5 million restoration, it is now a National Historic Landmark.  Two tours are available.  A stationary Dockside Tour, and a History Cruise with or without lunch.  Each begins ashore with a background video and the chance to study some historical photos, including one of Elvis Presley (who once owned the yacht) presenting it to his friend Danny Thomas for St. Jude’s Hospital.  More photos testify to the degeneration from its original purpose of chasing rumrunners into being used for drug running, and its eventual sinking near Treasure Island.  Governor Ronald Reagan passed legislation to restore her and, happily, with the help of the Port of Oakland and many dedicated volunteers, she now operates as a public museum.  FDR, who was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from sinusitis, preferred the Potomac to the White House on sultry summer days.  He relaxed on this simple, but comfortable, ship as he led the country through the Great Depression and World War II.  Aboard, visitors can see his surprisingly small and simply furnished cabin and his private elevator mounted within a false smokestack (it may be used by visitors in wheelchairs).  The radio room, pilothouse, and various guest rooms are also open for inspection.  The cruise goes out of the estuary, past the gigantic maritime crane horses that urban legend says inspired George Lucas’s similar-looking snow walkers in The Empire Strikes Back, on past Treasure Island, and then around Alcatraz.  A favorite spot to settle in is the lower fantail deck lounge in back, with a seat so deep that the legs of loungers must be stretched out straight.  

Danny Thomas and Elvis Presley on the USS Potomac, now in Oakland, California
Danny Thomas and Elvis Presley on the USS Potomac, now in Oakland, California;
image courtesy of venue

Mural Walk Take a self-guided, or guided, walking tour of the area’s murals. More description and images.

510 Embarcadero West/Washington St.  Fee. 
Across the railroad tracts from JLS, this popular jazz club attracts the circuit elite, and the audience can order light snacks and sushi during the show.  For the one-drink minimum, I recommend either the tasty Flugelhorn cocktail made with various rums or a carafe of sake made in Berkeley.  Alternatively, a California-Japanese restaurant, complete with a tatami room and separate sushi bar, is also available.

jazz performer at Yoshi's in Oakland, California; image courtesy of Visit Oakland
jazz performer at Yoshi’s;
image courtesy of Visit Oakland

Jack London Square restaurants

66 Franklin St. 
In good weather it’s hard to beat soaking up some rays here on the front deck overlooking the estuary—several fire pits are available–but the inside area is also quite pleasant.  Definitely order the thin-crust pizza.  It is made with unleavened dough and cooked at 800 degrees in an Italian Valoriani oven.  More don’t misses:  Brussels sprouts, flash-fried cheese curds, and housemade ginger beer.

patio at Forge in Jack London Square in Oakland, California
patio at Forge in Jack London Square

Scott’s Seafood 
2 Broadway, at Jack London Square. 
With window tables overlooking the estuary and live background music emanating from the bar, this upscale fish house is a great place for a celebration.  In addition to fresh seafood, the extensive menu also offers some pastas and steaks.  A New Orleans-style Sunday brunch features complimentary champagne and live jazz. 

98 Broadway.  Must be age 21+. 
This huge restaurant/bowling alley/beer garden sprawls through a 50,000 square foot indoor/outdoor space that was previously home to Barnes & Noble.  It includes 18 bowling lanes and 3 bocce ball lanes, plus  billiards, video games, and live music.  An outdoor beer garden holds more than 300 people.  The menu includes standard bar fare like wings, burgers, and pizza, as well as some more exotic items.

Jack London Square hotel

Waterfront Hotel
10 Washington St., at Jack London Square.  5 stories; 145 rooms.  Heated pool, sauna; fitness room.  Wine & cheese M-F afternoon; restaurant; room service.  Parking fee. 
This contemporary hotel offers an atmosphere of casual luxury and features a glass-enclosed swimming pool deck overlooking the estuary.  More than half of the rooms have water views.  The San Francisco ferry docks adjacent, and the hotel operates a free BART shuttle.

Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square in Oakland, California; image copyright Louis Benainous Louis
Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square; image copyright Louis Benainous Louis