Lake Merritt, Oakland
Surrounded by tall buildings, this unlikely brackish lake is a secret oasis in the middle of busy Oakland. The 3.4-mile perimeter makes for a lovely jog, and there are plenty of benches for leisure-seekers and people-watchers. The oldest wildlife refuge in North America, the lake hosts many bird species, including herons, egrets, and occasionally brown pelicans.
Come evening time, it’s all about the gondola ride. These private boats are equally perfect for romantic escapes or group (up to six) outings. Rides start at $40. Visit gondolaservizio.com to reserve ahead.
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Take BART to Lake Merritt station.