Ask a friend to name a Northern California destination with various restaurants, arts and culture, a vibrant waterfront and easy access, and you might hear Oakland pop up on the list. The East Bay anchor is easily accessible and navigable for faith-based groups. “Our faith-based leaders are a part of the fabric of Oakland and work in city government, public safety, education, sports management and medicine,” says Alison Best, president and CEO of Visit Oakland. “Oakland is a diverse city—and that diversity and acceptance makes it a welcoming and beautiful place.”
City of Convenience
Oakland’s proximity and accessibility are big selling points for meetings and events. Oakland International Airport, for example, sits five miles south of the city and will soon feature the new Oakland Airport Connector, a 3.2-mile train line expected to finally link together the airport, city and popular Bay Area Rapid Transit system in fall 2014. Once you arrive, Oakland offers groups a wide selection of properties, totaling some 4,000 hotel rooms that range from extended-stay and branded chains to more upscale and boutique properties. Price points can also work in a faith-based planner’s favor. “The difference can be more than $150 a night per room, compared to San Francisco,” says Best.
Finding the right venue for your meeting is easy, starting with the city’s premier option—Oakland Convention Center. It’s tucked conveniently into downtown adjacent to the Oakland City Center office and shopping complex and within walking distance of Chinatown and the waterfront. It features 64,000 square feet of versatile space that was renovated in 2012 for even greater group flexibility. Next door, the 489-room Oakland Marriott City Center adds another 25,000 square feet of space, with four more properties nearby to augment room blocks. The list of special venues runs long and creative, led by Oakland Masonic Center, Allen Temple Baptist Church and Cathedral of Christ the Light, where the plaza and courtyard can be tented for 40,000 square feet of event space.
Out on the Town
Art, culture, history and adventure all find common ground in Oakland. Attendees can spend their meeting breaks taking bayside strolls through beautiful Jack London Square or exploring Chinatown’s 25 blocks of cool shops and restaurants. Oakland Museum of California pulls together a wealth of Golden State art, history and science, while family favorites such as Chabot Space & Science Center and Oakland Zoo—set in the city’s gorgeous hillside—are available for group tours, day trip outings and special events. Oakland’s waterfront remains a favorite spot for sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding. Nearby are some great group experience options as well, from skiing in Lake Tahoe to shopping and sightseeing in San Francisco, which is about a half-hour trip via BART.