The Bay Area has a wide diversity of people living here, and its communities reflect the many cultures represented. Families can learn a lot about the different cultures by taking a field trip to different communities in the Bay Area. Get a glimpse of some cultural communities in the area.
African American Culture
The East Bay has many opportunities to enjoy and learn about African American culture. Liberation Park in Oakland, a parcel of property licensed by the Black Cultural Zoner Community Development Corporation, has become a center for cultural events. Located at 7101 Foothill Blvd., the park is home to an outdoor roller-skating rink and hosts a variety of events focused on black and east Oakland vendors. More information about the park can be found at blackculturalzone.org/liberation-park.
In downtown Oakland, the African American Museum and Library includes art, exhibits and information on African Americans who shaped Oakland and Bay Area history and culture. Located at 659 14th St., the first floor is a non-circulating library with books by and about African Americans. Self-guided and group tours are available, and the museum also offers online events. Learn more at oaklandlibrary.org/aamlo.
The Oakland Museum of California at 1000 Oak St. often features African American focused events including its ongoing exhibit “Black Power” which explores the history of the Black Power movement in California. Visit museumca.org for more information.
Art + Soul Oakland, a festival usually held in July, showcases the work of many black musicians and artists and includes a variety of food options such as soul food and barbecue. Go to artandsouloakland.com for more information.
Across the bay in San Francisco, the Museum of the African Diaspora is a museum dedicated to the art and stories focused on the migration of people from Africa. One of the current exhibits, “Black Venus,” explores the legacy of Black women in visual culture. It runs through Aug. 20. The museum at also offers a summer art program for African American teens, school programs and speaker events. Additional information is at moadsf.org.
The Chinese Community
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest in North America.
If you really want to get to know Chinatown one of the many walking tours is a good option. San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tours in Chinatown. On the one and half to two-hour tour you’ll discover local alleys, family associations and temples, dim sum, herbal apothecaries, jade jewelry shops built by the community and more.
You can also just wander on your own from the gorgeous entry gate on Grant Avenue, sampling treats and popping into stores.
The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a popular place to visit. It offers regular tours where visitors can see how these treats are made as well as a shop.
Two popular times to visit include the two-week Chinese New Year celebration with its famed parade in January or February and the Autumn Moon Festival, which takes place September or October.
Among other great places to experience Chinese culture or to learn about the history of Chinese immigrants in the Bay Area is China Camp State Park, four miles east of San Rafael on San Pablo Bay, which includes the remains of a Chinese shrimp fishing camp dating to the 1870s. A replica Chinese sailing junk docks there during the summer. Visit parks.ca.gov/?page_id=466 or friendsofchinacamp.org.
Another area to explore is Oakland Chinatown, also founded in the 1870s. While smaller than San Francisco’s, this Chinatown is actually a diverse pan-Asian neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and many markets offering produce, herbs and traditional cultural items and imported goods. A Lunar New Year Bazaar is typically held in January and the Oakland Chinatown Street Festival, one of the largest Asian festivals in the country, takes place the fourth weekend in August. Visit facebook.com/chinatownchamber or visitoakland.com for more information.
San Francisco’s Mission District is known for its rich Mexican culture. A good way to enjoy this culture is trying the cuisine. Some great spots to grab a burrito or taco are La Taqueria (2889 Mission St.), Taqueria Cancun (2288 Mission St.) and Papolete (3409 24th St.).
If you want to get your food to go, head to Dolores Park (19th and Dolores streets). This Mission District landmark is the perfect place to have a picnic on a sunny day and enjoy fantastic views of downtown San Francisco.
Another great way to enjoy the Mexican culture of the Mission is to check out its murals. The community has two mural projects that are directly involved with the community: Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) and Precita Eyes Muralists. CAMP is a group of artists that create murals in Clarion Alley. CAMP artists give tours for schools. It asks for a sliding scale donation starting at $15 per person donation and children 12 and under are free. Precita Eyes is an arts organization that provides tours of murals and low-cost art classes for all ages. Check its website for tour and class information.
The Mission District comes alive on Memorial Day weekend every year for Carnaval San Francisco. This two-day multicultural celebration features a parade with colorful floats, dancing, global cuisine, international music, arts and crafts and more. You can spot young and old dancing along the parade route. For more information, visit carnavalsanfrancisco.org.
Another area worth exploring is Fruitvale. If you head to this vibrant Oakland neighborhood, you must check out Peralta Hacienda Historical Park. It is full of history about Native and Mexican Americans and features tours, events, youth programs and interactive museum exhibits. The six-acre park includes the historic adobe area, 1870 Peralta House and the Peralta nature area. Learn more about Peralta Hacienda Historical Park at peraltahacienda.org.
In San Jose, be sure to check out the Mexican Heritage Plaza. Opened in 1999, this unique facility in the heart of San Jose is home to the School of Arts and Culture. There are community classes for both adults and children. The plaza includes a theater, pavilion, art gallery, classroom space and an outdoor square and gardens built in the style of a traditional Mexican plaza. Among events are plays and other performances, art exhibits, community events, corporate meetings, weddings and more. For more information, go to mhplaza.com.
Other Cultural Centers
The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) at 736 Mission St. in San Francisco has special exhibitions by Jewish artists and activities for families, screenings, workshops and more.
There’s a great gift shop too, where you can pick up books, tchotchkes or Hanukah gifts. Don’t miss the chance to grab lunch at Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen on the first floor. You can get a white fish sandwich or cream cheese on lox on a homemade bagel or bialy. Still hungry? They make their own babka in-house. More information is available at thecjm.org.
In Novato, be sure to check out the Museum of the American Indian, located on the actual site of a Miwok village at 2200 Novato Blvd. The Museum was founded in 1967 after an explosion of construction in the region unearthed archaeological objects. The museum has an extensive collection of more than 2,000 arts and items from indigenous people of the Americas. Currently the museum is closed for renovations so be sure to check the website for updates on its reopening: marinindian.com.