Lake Merritt is truly a uniquely beautiful lagoon in the center of Oakland, California. On a sunny day, you can always find many families taking walks around the park as well as many activities happening close by. Needless to say, this Lake has a ton of life! The community really livens this place up making it a great location to get active and enjoy some good energy. On Saturdays, the farmers market takes place just a block from the Lake and is filled with endless fresh and local fruits and vegetables. You can oftentimes find a local artist providing some free entertainment as well!
Here are some facts to know before you take a trip to Lake Merritt:
The path around the lake is 3.4 miles and you will see glimpses of a botanical garden, Fairyland (an amusement park for children), and some wildlife. The Lake is dog friendly, there is no entry fee and you have to pay for metered parking or find free street parking nearby. The walking trail around the lake is wheelchair and stroller accessible. Being in the center of Oakland, there are many restaurants and stores nearby, including Lake Chalet that is located on the Lake itself.
There are three restrooms available to the public. One located near Eastshore Park, in the most east side of the lake near the library and one located near Snow Park on the western part of the lake and the other located in the center near Lakeside park and the Japanese garden.
Here are the top five things to do during your trip to Lake Merritt:
Lake Merritt is very well known to be an excellent location for jogging or running. With 3.4 miles of mostly flat, well-paved terrain, it makes the perfect destination for a nice cardio workout. I would suggest coming earlier in the morning as Lake Merritt can get crowded as the day progresses. The path is usually wide enough for runners to pass other walkers though.
If running isn’t your thing, other forms of exercise can definitely be practiced here. Near Eastshore park and Lakeside Library is an outdoor exercise station completed with 3 pull-up bars and bars to do tricep dips and pushups. Also, being that there are several open grassy fields, you can bring a mat and practice any other form of exercise here. Sometimes you will even find groups working out together or even join in on some salsa by the lake!
2. Have a Picnic
As mentioned earlier, Lake Merritt has many open grassy areas to enjoy a nice lunch with a beautiful view. There are also a few benches and picnic tables located sporadically around the lake. If you didn’t bring food from home, there are many restaurants nearby to pick up some food from. If you’re coming on a Saturday then you can pick up some fresh foods or purchase some cooked food from the local vendors.
3. Take a Stroll in the Japanese & Bonsai Gardens
The Bonsai garden is free to enter and is open from 8 am to 4 pm and 5 pm in the summer. You can enjoy beautiful bonsai trees and stunning plants. To get directly to the garden, you can go to 650 Bellevue Avenue and park directly in front.
4. Boat Ride
You can rent a canoe, pedal boat, or kayak for under $20 an hour with a refundable $20 deposit. Them boat rentals are available from July to October and hours vary. Be sure to check the website for al the information on rentals. You can also rent a sailboat or launch your own boat, you just need your siling certifications and pass the sailing test! Also, note that they only accept cash at the boat rentals so be prepared. The address to the boating center is 526 Bellevue Ave.
5. Necklace of Lights
At night, there are more than 4,000 lights that are lit around the lake creating a romantic vibe perfect for an evening stroll with a special someone. Also, during Fall, the Lake hosts an Autumn lights festival full of live music, entertainment, and of course, lights!
Lake Merritt is truly a gem in the lively city of Oakland, California. It is diverse and full of activities to engage in and a beautiful community to interact with. I hope this list has been helpful in giving you some insight into your next trip to Lake Merritt!
To read more about my adventures in the San Francisco Bay Area, check here!