Alameda's unexpected group pleasures

The East Bay’s group offerings can be easily overlooked—and understandably so, residing in the shadows of one of America’s great meeting cities. But planners who take the time to investigate will be rewarded with some memorable outings and venues, and this applies to the island city of Alameda as much as anywhere.

A great mix of fun can be found at the former naval base, including the USS Hornet aircraft carrier museum.  Visitors can tour the entire humongous craft, take a flight simulator, and check out all sorts of aircraft—from old helicopters to WWII bombers. And events of up to 3,000 can be held onboard, including on the massive open-air flight deck.

Nearby, the Alameda Point Antiques Faire is held the first Sunday of each month and showcases more than 800 vendors selling everything under the sun—with all items at least 20 years old. A group could have a very cool scavenger hunt contest here, or just casually browse for treasures on a sunny day.

Also on the former base stands St. George Spirits, a great group stop with its free tours of the liquor-making process (from absinthe to vodka), lively tasting room and direct panoramic views of S.F. Make sure to have a designated driver in place, as no one who goes through even one step of their tasting menu will be fit to get behind a wheel.

Elsewhere on the island, groups can channel their inner child at the Lucky Ju Ju Pinball Museum on Webster Street, with more than 80 vintage and modern games available for limitless play following the entry fee. Parts (or all) of the meandering museum can be rented for events, as can a portable trailer with six pinball machines if you’re holding your event at another site. A casual competition could be a fun way to find out who the ‘pinball wizard’ of your group really is.

The island might not necessarily be known for a hopping nightlife, but one good spot I’ve enjoyed on a few occasions is the Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge (pictured), a quintessentially tropical enclave of gourmet cocktails and Tahitian ambience. Small groups can enliven their visit by ordering one of the ‘bowl’ drinks, a hearty cocktail for 5-6 served in a flaming ‘volcano’ bowl.

An Alameda adventure really is a group getaway planners should consider when thinking about the Bay.

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