Have A Geek Weekend: Things To Do In Oakland If You Love To Think

Photo of Tony Bear
9 February 2017

Traveling is often about disconnecting and taking a break from ‘brain drain.’ Yet a day of focused thinking and learning is a perfect diversion from the mundane. Oakland, like San Francisco, has several stops that make for a great Geek Weekend without breaking the bank. Use a car to get around so you can be on your own schedule. Weekend parking around Oakland is plentiful and often free, and travel time between stops is 25 minutes or less.

OMCA sign | © Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Day 1 — First Stop: Oakland Museum of California

The first day of Geek Weekend Oakland begins at night, and for this stop you’ll need to come hungry. Oakland Museum of California has figured out how to make going to a museum cool – add music and food and hip people!

Fridays from 5 pm to 9 pm the courtyard of OMCA bustles with the sights and sounds of young and old having a good time. The street next to the museum is closed and filled with six or more food trucks. Dancing, encouraged by a live band and a DJ, keeps the area outside the museum doors jumping. A cash beer and wine bar is in the lobby off the courtyard. The party has a cool, blissful vibe. The discounted Friday night museum admission includes the party.

Oakland Museum Friday nights | © Cristina Bejarano/Flickr

Discounted admission to one of the area’s top interdisciplinary museums is where the real fun begins for the Thoughtful Person.

Break away from the party and roam the tons of permanent and short-term exhibits spanning natural science, art, culture, and history. Be sure to check the website and use the exhibition schedule to plan your getaway date. Tip: if on the lookout for someone who is just your type, a party at a museum is a great place to start. You might become a regular.

Geek bonus: get to OMCA before July 24, 2016 and check out ‘Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact.’ You’ll see real bee specimens under a microscope and crawl through a human-sized beehive.

‘City of Cardiff’ | © Brave Heart/Flickr

Day 2 — First Stop: Oakland Aviation Museum

If you are the type who enjoys thinking about the ‘wild blue yonder,’ a walk through the Oakland Aviation Museum is medicine. Peering down the gullet of a jet engine. Standing around under an airplane wing. Activities usually reserved for your friendly neighborhood baggage handler. Being able to do such things at Oakland Aviation Museum brings value to the price of admission.

Storied relics from world wars of long ago make up most of what’s exhibited at this museum. Other displays: mannequins in soldier’s dress, cockpit simulators, and plane maintenance hardware of all shapes and sizes. Sitting behind the controls of the infamous Norden Bombsight will make you appreciate the apps on your smartphone.

‘Jet engine’ | © Tony Bear!

The highlight of the planes on display is the Solent III, a 1940s-era flying boat featured in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Tip: call ahead and find out the select weekends for the flying boat guided tour. The plane is still an impressive sight without the tour.

Geek Bonus: get to OAM on Open Cockpit Day and crawl into the driver’s seat of your favorite warplane. There are only three Open Cockpit Days in 2016 and each day is only four hours long, so plan ahead.

‘Remember Them’ | © Tony Bear!

Day 2 — Second Stop: Remember Them: Champions For Humanity Monument

An art park takes over an entire block in the uptown neighborhood of downtown Oakland. The park is home to Remember Them,’ several 30-foot high bronze sculptures honoring humanitarians who have changed history. Unveiled in 2011, sections of the monument were added into the park over the course of several years. The four sculptures enshrine a diverse group of 25 role models. Educational plaques that teach about the international heroes share the park with the sculptures. Tip: take a tripod so you can shoot a few selfies with the monument.

Before you leave: walk up the block to Telegraph Avenue and grab dinner at one of the fast-casual restaurants. Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café serves creative American dishes. Xolo is an upscale taqueria with an innovative menu.

Geek Bonus: visit the Remember Them website and see photos documenting the monument’s creation and installation. Download and complete some of the worksheet assignments given to students as classroom curriculum.

Moon Rock at Chabot Space Center | © Don DeBold/Flickr

Day 2 — Final Stop: Chabot Space & Science Center

Chabot Space & Science Center gives every geek’s final frontier — space — a thorough examination. Chabot is our final stop for a couple of reasons. First, weekends are family time at Chabot, and during the day family members of all age groups run the place. As night falls and the kiddies head off to bed the maturity level in the building goes up a few notches.

The second and maybe the most important reason Chabot is our last stop: the three giant telescopes at Chabot become more useful as night falls. The clouds and haze of the Bay Area’s daytime skies do the ’scopes no justice. When the stars come out the geek factor goes through the roof (pun intended). The view is so noteworthy Chabot offers free admission to the Observatory Complex on Friday and Saturday nights, weather permitting.

General admission gives you the run of Chabot and two Digital Dome Planetarium Shows. These features start at various times and are of varying lengths. Check the website for an overview of movie subjects and the movie schedule. If your timing is good, catch a show while waiting for the sun to go down. Then, peer through the telescopes (there will be a wait at each ‘scope) and tour the center before closing time. Be sure and stand next to the moon rock and feel the cosmic vibe! Tip: save time by skipping The Climate Lab and Destination Universe as they are kid-oriented.

Before you leave: head downstairs and visit Touch The Sun. This interactive exhibit features views from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.

Geek Bonus: download the Touch The Sun mobile app.

By Tony Bear!

T. Bear! is a Northern-Californian-by-way-of-Arizona, and a multimedia personality who also writes for his blog “The Celebrity-free Zone.” When he’s not crafting blogs or videos, you may find him on a street photography safari, or trying out recipes to add to his Big Oven page.