BARTable Walk: 19th Street Oakland to Lake Merritt

Get to know Oakland’s bustling Uptown and Lake Merritt districts with this BARTable walk that takes you past historical and architectural landmarks, along an urban tidal lagoon to a museum that celebrates the dynamic story of California.

Walk Time: 1.5 to 2 hours | Distance: 3.2 miles | Terrain: Level sidewalks and paved trails

The Route

From the 19th Street/Oakland station, start your walk in the Uptown district on the corner of 20th Street and Broadway in front of the I. Magnin Building. Built in 1931 for the I. Magnin department store chain, the building is known for its green terra cotta facade and art deco details. Continue on Broadway toward 21st Street and next door is the historic Paramount Theatre. Also built in 1931 with art deco influences, the theater was designed by renowned local architect, Timothy L. Pflueger, who also designed the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Its Grand Lobby is a sight to be seen with its curving staircase and ornate decoration, all lit by a “canopy of light.” After some decades of decline, it’s been fully restored and upgraded with the latest technology to offer concerts, special events and movies.

Paramount Theatre

The Paramount’s facade panels of two mosaic figures are said to be influenced by the work of Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera.

Continue on Broadway for two more blocks and take a right on to W. Grand Avenue, heading east away from Uptown. You can pit stop at one of the many eateries within a block radius. Two popular spots are California-style brasserie Luka’s Taproom and Lounge (2221 Broadway) and Drake’s Dealership (2325 Broadway) with wood-fired pizza and fresh-brewed beer from its brewery in San Leandro.

Luka's

Named for the owner’s late dog, Luka’s serves classic dishes like Southern fried chicken and ribeye steak you can wash down with American and Belgian ales.

Drake's

Down an alley off Broadway, Drake’s Dealership’s is housed in a brick building that was once the parts and service department of a Dodge dealership. 

Another spot worth a visit (or maybe on a return trip) is The New Parkway Theater (474 24th St.). Catch not only new releases at this community movie house, but also cult classics, documentaries, independent movies and special features. With super-comfy couches and cozy seating clusters (some are love seats!), it’s like you’re watching at home, but just with a few dozen of your best friends. Food, beer and wine are all available and can be delivered right to your seat. And every Wednesday is “Karma Cinema” — pay what you want for your ticket. At the end of the month, the theater donates 20 percent of the ticket sales to an Oakland-based community organization.

The New Parkway Theater

The New Parkway Theater holds trivia, open mic, poker and bingo nights and also “Baby Brigade” showings for parents and infants to enjoy a flick in a “judgment-free” zone.

Returning to the walk, continue on W. Grand Avenue and cross Harrison Street to beautiful Lake Merritt. Technically a tidal lagoon where the water level rises and falls with the tides, this “jewel of Oakland” is a favorite gathering place for city residents and visitors alike. From joggers to sunbathers to boaters and bird watchers, the Lake Merritt area truly reflects Oakland’s rich diversity. And for today’s history lesson: In 1869, it was declared the site of the very first national wildlife refuge for the thousands of migratory birds that stop over along the Pacific Flyway.

Lake Merritt

Looking across Lake Merritt (3.4 miles in circumference) to the west from the lakeside path.

Join in with the other strollers and joggers on the lakeside path and head in a clockwise direction. At the Oakland Pergola, anchoring the northeast end of the lake between Grand and Lakeshore avenues, take a breather while taking in the lake vista and maybe catching a street performance or Brazilian capoeira group practice.

Lake Merritt

Strollers make their way along Lake Merritt’s lakeside path in front of the Oakland Pergola and Colonnade.

On Saturdays (9am to 2pm), you can side trip up Grand Avenue a block away for a wander around the Grand Lake Farmers Market at the I-580 overpass. Considered to the best in the East Bay, the market features more than 50 vendors offering fresh, local produce, of course, but also prepared foods, artisanal crafts and more.

Farmer's Market

Grab a bite to eat at the Grand Lake Farmers Market. Crepes, tamales, rotisserie chicken and more.

Back at the Pergola, keep walking on the lakeside path turning west, admiring both the sweeping views of the lake and the kaleiodoscope of apartment buildings that line Lakeshore Avenue. Continue around to the west end of the lake and pass by the Kaiser Convention Center. Originally called the Oakland Civic Auditorium and then renamed in honor of Henry J. Kaiser, it was built in 1914 in the Beaux-Arts style used in so many other landmark Bay Area buildings. It’s currently closed, but if the walls could talk. Both Elvis and the Greatful Dead performed here and in 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lake Merritt

The Kaiser Convention Center served as a hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic and was also the venue for a circus and roller derbies.

Cross Lake Merritt Boulevard on to 12th Street and turn left on to Oak Street. You’ll pass the last point of interest on this walk: the Oakland Museum of California. Well worth a leisurely visit, this museum covers the story of California from the disciplines of art, history and the natural sciences. On Friday nights (5 to 9pm), the museum offers half-price admission for adults (18 and under are free!) with live music, DJs, food trucks, art workshops and even family-friendly dance lessons.

OMCA

The Oakland Museum of California is a noted example of mid-century modern architecture.

Finish up this BARTable walk by continuing on Oak Street and crossing 9th Street to the entrance of the Lake Merritt station.

Lake Merritt Station

One of the entrances available on both sides of Oak Street to the Lake Merritt station underground.

Route Map

Variations and options

  • To extend the walk: Start from 12th Street/Oakland City Center station (add 15 minutes, half-mile) and/or at the end, continue on Oak Street to Jack London Square for a waterfront stroll and then head up Broadway back to 12th Street Oakland/City Center station (add 1 hour, 2 miles).
  • Walk the route in reverse: Start from the Lake Merritt station and have lunch or dinner on Broadway and/or catch a show at one of the theaters before heading home from 19th Street/Oakland station.

What to bring

Sturdy walking shoes and a daypack with water, bag lunch or snacks (or pick up along the way), sun protection (hat, sunscreen), extra layers or rain gear (just in case). A smartphone is handy for maps and looking up information, or taking photos. And, of course, your BART ticket or Clipper card.

About the stations

19th Street Oakland Station first opened in September of 1972 and serves Oakland’s Uptown district. The station has three levels – a top mezzanine with ticket vending machines and faregates, an island platform for northbound trains of the Pittsburg/Baypoint and Richmond lines and at the bottom, a single set of tracks for southbound trains of the Warm Springs and Daly City/SFIA/Millbrae lines. The station was used for a scene in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith.

Lake Merritt Station also opened in September of 1972 and serves Oakland Chinatown and the areas west of Lake Merritt around Laney College. It features a single island platform for the Richmond, Warm Springs, Dublin/Pleasanton and Daly City lines. The station is the site of BART Operations Control Center (OCC), called the nerve center of the 104-mile system. BART’s headquarters were once above the station before moving to the nearby Kaiser Center, due to earthquake concerns.

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