Alameda: The Island by the Bay

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The unique island of Alameda, tucked away in the middle of the Bay Area, has an undeniable charm. Victorian houses line quiet streets and downtown shopping districts add to the small town vibe. History and hip collide in a culture that appreciates making the old new through vintage clothes and antique stores. Views of the San Francisco skyline abound and island culture is appreciated through Hawaiian cuisine and tiki themed bars.

Getting there: Alamada Ferry (2990 Main St.)
One way to get into the nautical spirit of Alameda is to ride the San Francisco Bay Ferry. Ferries depart from San Francisco, South San Francisco, Angel Island or Oakland to Alameda’s Main Street port. Check the schedule to ensure route operation.

Park Street Shopping District and Park Street Antiques
This downtown street dates back to the late 1800s and is still home to many buildings from the turn of the century. The small businesses are vital to the community and the active street is filled with shops, restaurants and bars as well as the historic Alameda Theatre. At one end of the street is Park Street Antiques, filled with three floors of vintage clothing and antiques.

Pacific Pinball Museum (1510 Webster St.)
Relive your youth and bring the kids to play pinball at this Alameda institution. Over 85 pinball machines are displayed in chronological order, starting with the Parlor Bagatelle made in 1878 and going through the more contemporary, such as the popular Addams Family and Fireball. After an admission charge, most games are free to play, while some are for display only. Many of the machines have a story to tell, which owner Michael Schiess is happy to share.

USS Hornet (707 W Hornet Ave.)
History is bursting out of this 4,356-square-foot ship. Launched in August 1943, this aircraft carrier participated in World War II, the Vietnam War and the first Apollo moon landing before it was decommissioned in 1970. It has been restored to look like the day it retired. Bring walking shoes and give enough time to fully explore this expansive ship (visitors have been known to come back the next day). Knowledgeable guides give tours regularly and there is a flight simulator for up-and-coming aviators. Special events, dances and after hours mystery tours are held throughout the year.

Crown Memorial State Beach (Eighth Street and Otis Drive)
Beachgoers, bicyclists and bird enthusiasts flock to this 2.5-mile stretch of park along Alameda’s southwestern shore.

Hang Ten Boiler (2306 Encinal Ave)
A recent addition of seafood and Creole to the menu inspired the owners to change the name from the Hawaiian Drive-In to the Hang Ten Boiler. The menu features traditional Hawaiian BBQ, which is served in heaping proportions with steamed rice and island style mac and cheese. The new additions include crab, crawfish, clams and shrimp with a sauce of your choice. Don’t forget about the signature garlic noodles.

Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge (1304 Lincoln Ave.)
This throwback to the 1960s tiki era comes complete with bamboo huts, a waterfall, tiki décor, and most importantly, expertly made tropical cocktails made with local ingredients and fresh squeezed juices. No island is complete without a lush environment to end the day. Stop in for surf music, luau themed events and happy hour mai tais.

Alameda Point Antiques Faire (2900 Navy Way at Main Street)
Held the first Sunday of every month, this market brings up to 800 booths filled with collectibles, jewelry, clothes, furniture and home decor. Antique connoisseurs and bargain hunters mingle as they wind their way through the extensive grounds. The fair opens at 6 a.m. and goes until 3p.m., with admission charges that fall throughout the day. Lunch from a variety of food trucks can be enjoyed while viewing the San Francisco skyline and the Oakland naval supply center.

Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

Published on April 20, 2013

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