Oakland Zoo was first established in 1922, but it didn’t find its permanent home until 1939, when it was thoughtfully constructed amid the rolling hills of Knowland Park. Today, Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 animals, who thrive in biomes designed to mimic their natural environments.
The sprawling African savannah is one of the zoo’s largest habitats, housing hyenas, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. The centerpiece is a 1.5-acre lion exhibit called Simba Pori, which translates to lion county in Swahili. Inside, a pride of lions freely roam an enclosure outfitted with kopje rock structures, a pond, and a booth where the king can sign autographs.
Over in the rainforest habitat, chimpanzees and white-handed gibbons swing through the treetops. Emus and wallaroos—a cousin of the wallaby and the kangaroo—roam freely in the Wild Australia exhibit, accessible via one of the zoo’s rides, Outback Express Adventure Train. Other rides include the Endangered Species Carousel and Sky Ride, a chairlift that soars above the habitats and offers Bay Area skyline views.
Play Cafe is the brainchild of parents Ericka and Ron, who were tired of seeking out places where their kids could both get out of the house and find something nutritious to eat. Luckily, they came up with the solution themselves. Within Play Cafe's confines, kids dive into a sea of plastic balls or play dress-up near a wardrobe full of costumes. The town-themed play set gives them lots of chances to act like grown-ups. They sip pretend shakes at the malt shoppe or check out the latest blockbuster at the theater. Blazes are extinguished with the help of pretend firemen, while little drivers hop onto cars to cruise around town or make honking noises in a pretend traffic jam.
At the onsite snack bar, parents fuel their brood with selections from the menu, which lists hot and cold sandwiches, edamame, and string cheese. While enjoying a salad with their brood, parents can surf the web or get some work done thanks to free WiFi. Periodically, special guests make an appearance to paint faces, play music, or teach quantum physics via sock puppet.
Measuring in at an imposing 673 yards, the 18th hole at Lake Chabot Golf Course seems, at first glance, like an act of course-design cruelty. There's a catch, though: it's a par 6. The extra stroke, combined with the hole's all-downhill orientation, turns the titanic track into a surprising birdie opportunity.
This final hole caps a breathtaking four-hole finishing sequence that rides the high ground, offering gorgeous vistas without sacrificing course play. At 259 yards, the 15th hole dazzles with tee-box views of San Francisco, Oakland, and the Bay Bridge, but its greatest gift to golfers is a high-risk chance to drive the green (pro tip: keep your driver in the bag; there's less room than you think).
Alongside the championship course, Lake Chabot unfurls a 9-hole, par-3 layout for golfers seeking a shorter round. Shaded by towering trees, the course arcs over the same elevation changes that shape its 18-hole counterpart. Before rounds at either layout, it's not a bad idea to warm up at the driving range and putting green. The Spanish-style clubhouse is also home to the Chabot Cafe, where guests can replenish and enjoy sandwiches artfully skewered with golf tees.
Championship Course at a Glance:
The crack of the bat is an exhilarating sound, whether or not the batter is about to run the bases. At Triple Play U.S.A., players can hone their skills in cages that hurl baseballs or softballs at 25–80 miles per hour with more precision than a propped-up leaf-blower. Pitchers can also keep their arms conditioned in the center's pitching tunnel, but they’ll probably have to change up their throwing pattern on the center’s half-basketball court. While resting their arms, patrons can find snacks at the concession stand or catch up on the latest scores on one of two HDTVs.
Golf legends Johnny Miller and Fred Bliss teamed up to design the course at Metropolitan Golf Links, and were rewarded with numerous accolades, such as the 2010 ELGA Chapter Award for Public Facilities from the GCSA of Northern California and Golf Digest. To achieve their links-style vision, the golf gurus incorporated the natural contours of the land and covered the terrain with omnipresent sand traps and modern turf hybrids. The result whisks golfers around a labyrinthine layout complete with straightaways, doglegs, and double doglegs, each made more difficult by heavy breezes that blow in from San Francisco Bay, which can disrupt shots and ground scorecard paper airplanes.
Course at a Glance:
Though Metropolitan Golf Links sometimes features a discounted price online, this Groupon still offers the best deal available.
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