Don’t forget the East Bay when planning a San Francisco meeting

With all of the amazing attractions and endless dining and lodging choices, it’s hard to beat S.F. for a California event. But as a longtime East Bay resident I feel compelled to remind groups and planners that the other side of the Bay has numerous charms of its own.

Here are a few of the best venues, attractions and lodging/dining options to consider in Berkeley, Oakland and beyond.

Dining

For a group into ‘farm-to-table’ freshness in a hip setting, check out the renowned Chez Panisse—birthplace of the California Cuisine movement—or the even more affordable Gather, both in Berkeley. And make sure to plan well ahead for Chez Panisse, especially with a good-sized group. Yet another fantastic choice is Trader Vic’s, set right on the water in Emeryville with excellent bay views and ample private dining space; you’ll have to splurge a bit, but it’s hard to top Vic’s for a special occasion.

Spectator Sports

San Francisco’s AT&T Park deservedly grabs the spotlight as a top-notch sporting venue for baseball games, but the East Bay offers better affordability and accessibility for spectator sports. The Oakland A’s and Golden State Warriors host their games right by a handy BART (subway) stop, with A’s tix seriously cheaper than those of the cross-bay Giants. And if your group might be inspired by some school spirit, the University of California – Berkeley (CAL) showcases relatively cheap Division I sports fun running the gamut from football to hoops to hardball.

Museums and More

The Oakland Museum of California offers plenty of insights into the Golden State, particularly its artwork and natural history, and offers a wealth of cool venues for event-hosting as well. A special Nature section will be debuting next spring, making the museum even more inviting.

Lodgings/Conferences

I’ve attended a number of events at the Oakland Marriott Downtown, which has an ideal central locale and an excellent top-floor banquet/function space available. Its location within a few blocks of a key BART station makes reaching San Francisco and the rest of the bay easy.

For a regal retreat, the Claremont is one of the nicest upscale properties in the Bay—and its outlying neighborhood is perfect for strolling and exploring.

Great Outdoors

Tilden Park is a superb bastion of nature and much more, especially for groups that might be tying a family vacation into a meeting event. A vintage carousel, steam train excursions and the best swimming in the Bay Area (at Lake Anza) are among the highlights; but groups can also partake of the countless hiking trails, picnicking spots and sweeping lookout points all around the park.

For something less structured and a bit offbeat, groups can explore the Albany Bulb, a jut of land adjoining a small beach that is a hidden hotbed of public art and sculpture.

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