The end of summer is going to be upon us soon, and it’s time to plan a weekend getaway. If you’re looking for an easy weekend (almost) away, we at the Clog recommend Lake Merritt. Sadly, an ordinance passed in 1912 prohibits swimming in Lake Merritt, but seeing as it’s been called a “cesspool,” we’re not sure you’d want to. But you can enjoy the lake without entering the water.
Walking is the best way to get around Lake Merritt, which has a path of 3.4 miles of shoreline that passes by various parks, buildings and shops. If you’re feeling fit, join the local joggers on their morning and evening jogs, and see the sun set or rise over Lake Merritt. At night, the Necklace of Lights illuminates the shoreline and makes an evening run a brand-new experience.
The lake is the United States’ first designated wildlife refuge, designated in 1870 after a proposal by then-Oakland mayor Samuel Merritt. (We see what you did there, Merritt.) The lake is still a stopping point for thousands of bird who migrate over California. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see some more wildlife on the inaccessible islands in the lake.
The lake itself is not wholly unapproachable. The Lake Merritt Boating Center offers rentals of a variety of boats, from canoes to catamarans, as well as a pontoon tour of the lake. (Note: Rentals are cash only!) If you’re looking for something a little more romantic, Gondola Servizio provides beautiful, “authentic” (a.k.a. wonderfully cheesy) gondola cruises. Why do all the hard work rowing when someone else can?
After your time on the lake, check out one of the many parks for a rest, or check out the must-see Gardens at Lake Merritt. The gardens cover 7 acres and provide fun and educational experiences for anyone who visits them. Among the acreage, one can find a bonsai garden, a rhododendron garden, an edible garden and others dedicated to setting the standards for horticulturists around the world.
If you’re looking for an even more informative day, the Oakland Museum of California is located right by the lake. OMCA displays Californian art, history and natural sciences all under one roof. The museum advertises galleries and collections that explore the rich history of California. Currently, there is an epically amazing exhibit on bees called “Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact” that will give you all the exposure to bees you’ll ever need while still remaining intriguing — at least, if you’re as nerdy as we at the Clog.
So, if you’re looking for a place to relax as the summer sadly draws to a close, grab your bathing suit, running shoes or museum-appropriate clothing, and head over to Lake Merritt for a day that feels like an escape, even if it’s only a BART ride away.