You can get away without ever really leaving the city.
Alameda is just a stone’s throw from Oakland, but it might as well be another country. This tiny island in San Francisco Bay has a long and unique history. What was originally a peninsula became a bustling ferry and railroad hub, and evolved to a resort town turned suburban oasis.
MOOR YOUR VESSEL
On the south side of the island is Ballena Bay and Ballena Isle Marina, which provides limited guest mooring at the heart of the bay, for $1 per foot, or a minimum of $30 per night. Access Ballena Bay directly from the west side of the island; do not come through the estuary. Crown Memorial State Beach is nearby. On the other side of the island, through the estuary, Grand Marina offers some guest mooring, again at a rate of $1 per foot with a $30 minimum per night, and Alameda Marina has a guest dock and select guest berths.
PIECES OF HISTORY
In the early 1900s, the area that is now Crab Cove was home to what was known as Neptune Beach, or the “Coney Island of the West.” An affordable leisure spot, it had it all, from a dance hall to an Olympic-sized pool and even a rollercoaster. It is also famously known for being the first place that popsicles and snowcones were ever sold. When the Great Depression hit, and with the advent of the automobile, Neptune Beach’s convenient locale wasn’t such a draw anymore. Neptune Beach shuttered in 1940, and all the structures were sold off. Many of the Victorian-era homes and businesses still stand and can be spotted throughout town. Crab Cove, a nature preserve and quaint visitor’s center, now sits on this site.
SHOP IT UP
The Alameda Point Antiques Faire is held on the first Sunday of every month. It is known for being the largest antiques show in Northern California, with more than 800 dealer booths. All items are at least 20 years old. You could spend your whole Sunday there, but while you’re browsing the many booths, you should look up at the skyline of San Francisco; this locale boasts one of the best views in Alameda from across the bay.
FILL THE WINE FRIDGE
If your stock of liquid libations needs a boost, Alameda has a cache of wineries and distilleries you can tour and enjoy. Rock Wall Winery, Faction Brewing and St. George Spirits are located at Alameda Point. St. George Sprits is the first brand of American-made absinthe to be legally produced in the U.S. since it was banned in 1912.
HONOR THE HEROES
USS Hornet is a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the Essex class that was decommissioned in 1970 and is now open to the public. You can take a tour of the navigation bridge and the engine room, view more than a dozen U.S. Navy aircraft, and experience a flight simulator that lets you sample the thrill of flight and taking off from an aircraft carrier. Hornet is one of the most decorated aircraft carriers in the history of the Navy, playing a major part in the Pacific battles of WWII, the Vietnam War, and also serving as part of the Apollo program. It is purported to be one of the most haunted places in the world.
THE LIGHTER SIDE
One of America’s most iconic pastimes is marvelously preserved at the Pacific Pinball Museum. It offers a selection of 90 playable pinball machines that represent the evolution of flipper pinball. Collections regularly rotate to highlight pinball art and artists. The museum offers classes and hosts parties. The best part of all is that after you pay museum admission, you can play all the pinball machines for free — no quarters needed.
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