From the spectacular and grandiose, such as far-reaching telescopes that penetrate the cosmos and bring back crystal-clear views of the stars, to the most curious minutiae, think "space toilets" like those used by astronauts on the International Space Station & Chabot Space & Science Center captures the science, mystery, and grandeur of outer space in an interactive and educational setting.
The big picture comes courtesy of the observatory's three high-powered telescopes, which grant Chabot with its domed silhouette and provide visitors a privileged view of the stars during daytime and evening viewings. Things narrow in scope once you enter the museum, where interactive exhibits zero in on the smaller curiosities of space and Earth's relationship to it. The aforementioned space toilet is a part of the Beyond Blastoff exhibit, where spacesuits, space gear, and space food paint a picture of an astronaut's day-to-day life. One Giant Leap: A Moon Odyssey gives visitors another taste of space exploration, this time by putting them behind the controls of the original Mercury space capsule, then puts them face to face with a 3.3-billion-year-old moon rock collected during the Apollo 15 mission. Weather becomes more than something to curse at for canceling the ball game or flooding a meteorologist's basement once visitors enter Bill Nye's Climate Lab. There, kids tasked with saving the Earth from storms and melting ice sheets are too busy developing top-secret energy-saving devices to realize they might be learning something.
Chabot Space & Science Center also features shows such as LaserMania, a classic-rock-fueled spectacle where light and sound, a 360-degree cocoon of cutting-edge laser lights set to music by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and U2, specifically, team up for an explosive sensory experience
California is too vast and diverse a state to capture through just one medium. That's why Oakland Museum of California combines art, history, and natural science collections—more than 1.8 million objects total—to tell the state’s story.
Organized around themes of land, people, and creativity, the art gallery showcases more than 70,000 works from the 19th century through present day, ranging from paintings and sculptures to new media. Encompassing more than 100,000 artifacts, including several thousand bird eggs, the natural sciences gallery spotlights seven particular landscapes, including Yosemite and Mount Shasta. The history gallery includes more than 2,200 objects that trace major periods in the state's history, tying together the lives of the indigenous people, incursions by Spanish settlers, and the giggling mad dash of the gold rush. In a nod to the history of Tinsel town, the interactive Creative Hollywood station lets visitors create an animation, add sound effects to movies, and forget a personal assistant’s birthday.
Forming the roof of each level, verdant gardens separate the galleries, while more greenery and sculptures beautify the museum's outdoor roof gardens and courtyards. The museum uses more outdoor space to hosts its Friday Nights @ OMCA, a family-friendly market full of live music, dance lessons, and local cuisine. Local and seasonal ingredients, meanwhile, flavor the dishes available in the museum's Blue Oak café. The café doubles as a residency for jazz bassist Ron Crotty, a founder of The Dave Brubeck Quartet, who grooves his way through jazz standards every Friday.
In the 1940’s, the Boeing School of Aeronautics hangar at Oakland International Airport’s North Field housed some of the company’s brightest aeronautical engineers. Their work produced several early Boeing planes, including the Thorp T-3 and T-5, both of which are now on display thanks to the hangar’s current resident, the Oakland Aviation Museum.
Most of the museum’s exhibits focus on celebrating local aviation history, such as The American Legion’s involvement in the Bay Area and the history of native Californian and Medal of Honor awardee General James “Jimmy” Doolittle. However, the museum’s collection of aircraft features a broader mix, including a replica of the Wright Brothers’ EX Vin Fiz, a TAV-8A Herrier that can take off and land vertically, and the Short Solent III flying boat that was used in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
More interactive sites include flight simulators, a kid’s area, a research library, and occasional Open Cockpit Days that let visitors climb into the cockpit of a real Korean fighter jet and turn the radio up really loud. The knowledgeable staff operates the museum with the goal of both educating visitors about aviation’s proud history on the West Coast and throughout the U.S., as well as to inspire visitors by linking aviation’s past to the future of aeronautical invention.
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.
At The New Parkway Theater, viewers nestle into love seats or lounge on cozy couches while munching on comfort food and popcorn, a weekend viewing party writ large. If its owners had their way, the biggest difference between a friend's house and their theater would be the size of the screen. Conceived as a community space, New Parkway's colorful cafe and couch-filled screening rooms encourage showgoers to make friends, sitting with strangers and striking up conversations with particularly interesting throw pillows. An ever-changing schedule reinforces the space's sense of discovery, constantly cycling through indie darlings, classic flicks, and second-run blockbusters.
The menu of comfort food comes out of the kitchen and straight to the seats, letting viewers chow down during flicks. Prepared with locally sourced ingredients, options include burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and spicy fries. Beer and wine selections all come from brewers and vintners within 100 miles of Oakland.
The Museum of Children's Arts was originally founded in 1989 around the idea that creative, curious children build stronger communities. MOCHA continues to serve East Bay schools and neighborhoods today, teaching children as young as 18 months to channel creative energy while developing self-confidence and critical-thinking skills.
MOCHA's mission is most apparent during open-studio times, which allow parents and children to work together and experiment with painting or creating traditional folk art. A teaching artist is on hand to provide guidance, assistance, and lectures on the differences between Rococo and Impressionistic landscapes. Although these hands-on experiences are an integral part of the museum, MOCHA also invites visitors to peruse its community-inspired exhibitions, such as its displays of original pieces created by students of the Oakland Unified School District.