20 Aug 2014
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The Definitive Island 'Staycation' Tour Guide

Making the most of week at home in Alameda.

The Definitive Island 'Staycation' Tour Guide

Open your Facebook page this summer and you will likely be inundated with narratives of your friends’ exotic vacations. Head in hands, you wonder how much more you can take. One more photo of a lavish cruise ship buffet spread and you just may lose it.

After all, you will be taking a "staycation" this year — hardly anything to brag about. 

But a week at home need not be disappointing: make the most of it with a little planning. 

No matter if the economic recession keeps you close to home this year or obligations to a child, elder or job keep you tethered within Alameda’s 12.3 square miles of land and 10.6 square miles  of water, there is plenty to do to make your own vacation memories. 

The following is a hypothetical planning guide to five days of fun without ever crossing a bridge (the Harbor Bay/Bay Farm span excepted). It does not take into account specific days and hours of operation of venues — as those may be subject to change — so you are encouraged to click on the name of each destination for more information.

For those who want their “staycation” to have more historical relevance, we suggest a trip to a local bookstore such as or one of our three public library branches in advance to troll for publications about Alameda’s past. For those who want their week to be environmentally friendly and less car-reliant, some advance trip planning using the on-line AC Transit 511 trip planner and Bike Alameda’s website may be in order. 

While some of these local excursions are family-friendly, others are not. If children are accompanying you on your “staycation,” you may choose to enlist a family member, friend or neighbor to provide a little child care during the week to allow yourself some “grown-up” entertainment time. Some things are free, others cost money. Adjust to fit your own budget. 

Put on your walking shoes, fasten your seat belt, grab a jacket and let’s go. 

Day 1 – Alameda Point & West End 

Take a brisk walk around Ballena Isle Marina followed by breakfast in the lovely outdoor courtyard at Wes Café or at the new Café Jolie (when it opens). Stop by the Alameda Farmers' Market on Haight Street if it’s a Tuesday or Saturday. Then scoot over to Alameda Point to take in the Alameda Point Antiques Faire if it’s operating, visit the Alameda Point Ploughshares Nursery and check out Bladium's indoor soccer field, rock-climbing wall and basketball court.

For lunch, head back over to Ballena Isle and enjoy outdoor waterfront dining at Pier 29. After lunch visit the U.S.S. Hornet or simply take a walk around the Marina Village Harbor.

Later in the afternoon zip over to  Rock Wall Winery’s tasting room or enjoy the Pasta Pelican Happy Hour. While there are many fine choices for dining in this area, why not be a tad adventuresome and visit India Palace nearby? After dinner head to Frog and Fiddle, which features live country and bluegrass music. 

Day 2 – Gold Coast & Shoreline 

Start your morning walking along the shoreline of Crown Beach. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to  for a home-style breakfast reminiscent of the kind your grandmother used to make.

You will want to work off that hearty meal, so launch yourself on a self-guided walking tour of Alameda’s historically important Gold Coast neighborhood with its stately Victorian homes and manicured gardens. Start on Grand Street between Santa Clara and Otis Drive and meander around side streets too. Be sure to stop at , one of the town's hidden gems. You can bathe in the sun while watching youngsters play on the swings or enjoy some cool shade under mature trees on the grassy lawn.

Head back to Encinal Avenue for lunch at Blue Dot Café, a popular restaurant with an interesting menu. Next, swing over to and see if there is a baseball or soccer game in progress. If their snack bar is open, grab a beverage and support youth athletics, then make your way to Crown Beach again and watch the kiteboarders. Better yet, call ahead and schedule a kiteboarding lesson. Nearby is the Crab Cove Visitor’s Center run by the East Bay Parks Department. Walk over there and learn more about the San Francisco Bay and our shore.

You probably have your favorite restaurants in or around this neighborhood.  One pick you may not yet have tried is the gorgeously remodeled China Gourmet, which has a full bar and extensive menu. After dinner, head over to Mel’s Bowl to play some frames or check out Rooster’s Roadhouse, an Alameda original which features local bands, or the Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge

Day 3 – Park Street & Central Alameda 

Today’s sojourn can potentially be done entirely on foot if exercise is part of your game plan. Haul yourself down to Park Street, park your car in the Alameda Civic Center Garage and set off. First stop is for a pleasant breakfast in her dining room or in the lovely sheltered garden out back.

Next, take yourself on a walking tour on Central Avenue starting at Oak and heading towards Grand Street. Tall sycamores line your path and you will see at least two churches of architectural significance —  Twin Towers and First Congregational. Take your picture by the grand columns of historic Alameda High. If you have the energy, detour over to Santa Clara Avenue and marvel at the newly refurbished stained glass windows at First Presbyterian Church.

By now you will have worked up an appetite for lunch. Park Street is awash in luncheon eateries. Ones you may not yet have tried which are definitely worth sampling are , , (where you can see them toss their dough by hand) and , where burritos are made fresh to order.

Next take in a matinee at Alameda Cinema. Be sure to peek inside the main theater that has been brought back to its original splendor, even if your flick is playing in one of the other theaters in the complex. Afterwards, head down Oak Street to the main branch of the Alameda Free Library. If the café in the rear is open, grab a cup of coffee and set off on some bargain hunting nearby at the , and .

Head over to the Marketplace on Park Street and treat yourself to a neck rub at On the Spot Massage, a pastry at Feel Good Bakery, followed up by perhaps another cup of joe at the Beanery.

Before-dinner drinks and snacks may next be in order at the or . Dinner at followed by comedy, music, bingo or other entertainment at Rhythmix Cultural Works rounds out your jam-packed day. 

Day 4 – East End 

After yesterday’s full itinerary, today’s pace will slow down a notch. This morning begins with a leisurely stroll along Gibbons Drive. Soak in the peace and quiet of this gracious neighborhood with its interesting architecture and canopy of majestic trees.

Next head to for breakfast. Grab a cup of coffee to go and trek down to . Watch children at play, see swimmers in the pool, enjoy the rose garden and catch the action on the bocce ball court. This park has a lot of picnic potential, so you might want to pick up deli food from or Mona’s Table before setting off and spread out a blanket on the grass.

When you're done at the park, head over to on Blanding Avenue and walk down the promenade behind the shopping center, which has engaging views of the estuary. If your timing is right you may catch jet ski drivers zooming past or people paddling in canoes. You might also want to visit a newish consignment store nearby with an eclectic array of items, .

We promised today would be more leisurely — so head on home for a nap. (One of the benefits of a “staycation” in Alameda is being able to run home in between activities and sleep in your own bed at night).

For dinner, why not try German fare at just east of Park Street or at  Little House Café, which is now serving dinner, on Blanding just one block West of Park Street. Tonight’s entertainment? Whatever is booked for . Could be music, comedy or just about anything. Grab your after-dinner coffee and dessert here and settle in for a cozy evening of professional entertainment or play their nice selection of board games.

Day 5 – Harbor Bay/Bay Farm

We start today at this neighborhood’s venerable morning hang-out, , located in the . Sit indoors or outside and enjoy delicious fresh pastries with your morning pick-me-up. When you are done, ask Michael, the owner, to point you in the direction of the lagoon path behind Safeway. Take a leisurely stroll along the winding walkway and watch the local ducks in flight and squirrels scurrying past.

For lunch, try the , a family operation that offers a wide luncheon menu, then later make your way over to the Alameda Ferry terminal parking lot and discover a sweeping view of the Bay. There are walking paths that ring most of Harbor Bay. Bike or walk as far as you like.

Call in advance and see if tours are available of Peet’s Coffee Artisan Roasting Plant and cruise past the Oakland Raiders Headquarters nearby. If it is open, you may want to check out the newly remodeled  — it is small but impressive.

This may be a day to pop home for a little nap or to do some puttering, or you may wish to get a book and your favorite lawn chair and enjoy many of the little pocket parks sprinkled throughout Harbor Bay Isle. Keep asking locals to point you to one. There are so many, everyone has their own favorite.

Come early evening, you can drop in for happy hour at La Penca Azul back at the Harbor Bay Landing Shopping Center. Then walk around the corner for dinner at and your day will be complete. Late nightlife on Harbor Bay is all but absent outside of restaurants that stay open past the dinner hour. Last year movies were shown at night in Leydecker Park and there is often night softball played on the Leydecker diamond.

Check the Alameda Patch calendar of events before your "staycation" and see if there is anything special happening that week.

Are you following Alameda Patch on Facebook? Or Twitter? Don't worry, we won't be reporting there on any off-Island exotic travel.  

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