Oakland Festivals

Okay, so you let all of June and half of July slip by without really partaking in any seriously "summery" stuff. Don't worry, we all did. Just squeeze twice as much summer out of what's left of it with the help of this trusty guide. A dragon boat race, mariachi festival, Black Panther legacy tour, gigantic garage sale, and plenty of street fairs still await you. Most events are free (woo-hoo), but all events are subject to change (or not be as cool as we said they would be). Keep checking our updated festival guide to the East Bay's pleasantly warm summer and fall.


Fire Arts Festival

Jack London Square, Broadway at Embarcadero, Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.444.0919
Firepower without the military? Yes. Every year, Oakland's Crucible, a think tank and shop for metal works and high-risk arts, hosts a gloriously bright Fire Arts Festival in Oakland's Jack London Square. Held in the evening for maximum clarity, the Fire Arts Festival features fire dancers and amazing fire sculptures. Sip some wine, chill with a beer and prepare for the works.

Fremont Festival of the Arts

On Paseo Padre btw. Walnut & Mowry Ave. (near BART), Fremont California; Tel. +1 510.795.2244
Shop, drink, eat, and be entertained at the largest, free, street festival in Northern California ... and don't feel guilty about it for a second. All profits from your wine sampling and handcrafted doodad buying will benefit over 40 nonprofit organizations in the Tri-City community. Free.

Berkeley Kite Festival

Cesar E. Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina (North End), Berkeley California; Tel. +1 510.235.KITE
Finally accessible by foot or bike via the new footbridge, the Berkeley Marina is just waiting for your affection. Come love it up during the biggest kite festival in the West-ern Hemisphere. This whimsical event features kite flying competitions, a kite ballet, kites as big as houses, kite-making workshops for kids, and even a (kite?) event for dogs. Combine all of this with great food, music, and a sturdy windbreaker and you're set for a high flyin' weekend. Free.


International Dragon Boat Festival

Jack London Square, Broadway at Embarcadero, Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.452.4272
For more than 2,000 years dragon boat racing has been the reenactment of the Chinese legend of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and scholar who, in the 4th century BC, was so dismayed by the corruption of Chu Dynasty he flung himself into the Mi Lo River. Much beloved by his people, as the legend goes, Qu Yuan's action spurred the local fisherman into frenzied paddling from shore to shore in an effort to save him as they scattered rice dumplings into the water to appease the river dragons. Today, slender boats as long as AC Transit buses adorned with dragon heads and tails are each manned with twenty paddlers in what has become one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. Come watch these spectacular boats and athletes zip across the water looking for Qu Yuan right down at Jack. Free.

Fine Arts Fair

Jack London Square, Broadway at Embarcadero, Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.814.6000
Peruse the genius of California artists at this outdoor festival, and, if you stop by on Sunday, the genius of the Jack London Farmer's Market too. Nosh on a carrot and admire a sculpture, bite into a peach, and buy a painting. Free

San Jose Jazz Festival

Cesar Chavez Park and other downtown San Jose venues
The Bay Area's top jazz festival, the San Jose Jazz festival is hailed as one of the finest jazz festivals in the country. This three-day event brings 80 top musicians to ten stages around downtown San Jose, each of whom brings their carefully crafted style of jazz to the ears of enthusiastic audiences.

Chinatown StreetFest

Oakland Chinatown, Ninth at Franklin, Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.893.8979
I know, the Chinatown markets are always out there, and those are really fun by themselves, but it actually can get better, I swear. Add some traditional and contemporary Asian entertainment, a variety of fabulous food stands, and a smattering of gift booths, and you've got the Chinatown StreetFest! Come celebrate this vital Oaktown community during this really really fun two day event. Free.

Niles Antique Fair and Flea Market

Niles Blvd. (off 880 South), Fremont California; Tel. +1 510.742.9868
Isn't it amazing how one person's junk can be another person's treasure? So, let's think of Niles Antique Fair and Flea Market as a giant treasure hunt, one with over 500 vendors and the largest concentration of garage sales ever held on one day in the East Bay. You're bound to find that wide toothed crimper, missing piece of china, '73 Schwinn, bobble-head Kirby Puckett or bounty of Avon products somewhere out there. In fact, real die-hards aren't too proud to show up at 4am with a flashlight, and, of course, a treasure map. Free.

East Bay Gay Pride Celebration

Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 14th St. at Broadway, Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.663.3980
San Francisco got one in June, now it's the East Bay's turn. Come show your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex pride and support at this annual Oakland celebration. Complete with community exhibitors, arts and crafts, and fabulous entertainment, this festival will be a hoot. Free.

The Annual Scottish Gathering and Games

Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton California; Tel. +1 800.713.3160
Whether you want to trace the heritage of your Scottish clan, listen to some Celtic music, watch highland dancers compete, or be fitted for a kilt -- this is the event for you. However, if you'd rather buy some bagpipes, eat a meat pie, down a pint of ale, or watch the World Heavy Event Championships, (I'm serious)- this is also the event for you. Go figure. Free-$14.


Oakland Art & Soul Festival

Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 14th St. at Broadway, Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.444.CITY
With such a great name, this fest is bound to be a good one. Rumored to be the home of West Coast blues, the Oakland Art & Soul Festival features soul-stirring music and heart-warming visual art. (Don't worry; there will be G-rated activities for the kiddies too.) Come celebrate Oakland at its heart, right down on Broadway. Free.

Garin Apple Festival

Garin Regional Park, 1320 Garin, Hayward California; Tel. +1 510.795.9385
Tour a vintage apple orchard, sample delectable apple wedges, savor delicious apple cider, play good old-fashioned games, and enjoy live folk music all at this very hearty event. You know what they say. Free.

Solano Avenue Stroll

Solano Ave., Albany California; Tel. +1 510.527.5358
Okay, now this street party really has a bit of everything. Face painting, acrobats, a dog grooming station, jazz music, Birkenstock repair, Cajun music, a Morse code workshop, Latin music, a basketball hoop shoot, dunk tank, petting zoo, fortune teller, hip-hop dance performance, old-time photo booth, hula dance performance, a silent auction, a swing performance, magicians galore, a kidtown, a teentown, a craft alley, free condoms, stilt walkers, puppeteers, a truly fabulous parade, and more ... a lot, lot, more. I know, this "Mardi Gras of the West Coast" sounds less like a "stroll" than a super-stimulating-extravaganza. But, take a second while you're there to clown around as part of this year's theme, "Send in the Clowns." Sep 10, 2006. Free.

Italian Festa

Dunsmuir Estate, 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct., Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.615.5555
Feel like feasting at one of numerous Italian food booths, relaxing to some beautiful Italian music, checking out some Italian folk dancing, or just practicing your rusty Italian? Come on down to the East Bay's largest Italian cultural event in its eleventh year. Capisce? Plus, this year the Italian Festa is held at the historic Oakland Dunsmuir Estate. Sept 24, 2006. Free-$13.

Ongoing Oakland Events

Bicycle Tours of Oakland

10th St. entrance of the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.238.3514
Get a little exercise, and a little knowledge. The Oakland Museum of California leads leisurely rides (5 miles of flat terrain) through Oakland's history every third Thursday from July to October. Advance registration is encouraged. Free.

Black Panther Legacy Tours

1 Adeline, Oakland California; Tel. +1 510.986.0660
Have a free afternoon coming up? Always wanted to know more about the BPP? For all you know, you may be living in Bobby Hutton's old house. Investigate Oakland's revolutionary history, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, by partaking in one of these eye-opening tours. See where the Ten Point Program was written, stand where Huey P. Newton was murdered, walk where the BPP initiated the first free breakfast program for children. Tours are hosted by Huey P. Newton Foundation and must be set up ahead of time. By reservation. $25.