Overview of the Jack London Square, Downtown, and Uptown Neighborhoods

Be at the Center of It All!

Walk Score: 97

Transit Score: 84

Bike Score: 84

Believe me, it was a difficult decision for me to group Jack London Square, Downtown, and Uptown all in one page, especially since they’re such distinct neighborhoods. But let me explain. While the commercial offerings and overall feel of each neighborhood is different, the home options are fairly similar. Due to the focus on commercial in these areas, residential areas are mostly limited to condos, though there are some other options as well.

Jack London Square

Jack London Square is right on the water, just south of Highway 880 and across the way from Alameda. The ferry terminal is here, offering one of the best options for commuting into San Francisco (start the day on the Bay? Yes please!). If you’re more of an underground person, Lake Merritt BART Station is also nearby. 😉

Jack London Square includes a good mix of industrial warehouses, condos and lofts, and plenty of waterfront dining and shopping, as well as walking/biking/jogging paths along the water. You can also find tons of great local events here, including Dancing Under the Stars on Friday evenings, the Jack of All Trades artisan market, the Jack London Square Farmers Market, Waterfront Flicks, and Summer Block Parties.

Downtown Oakland

Downtown Oakland is the central business hub of Oakland. Here you’ll find the headquarters of Clorox and Pandora, as well as numerous other businesses, small and large. As with any city center, transit options abound. Both 12th Street and 19th Street BART stations will take you into San Francisco, and Lake Merritt BART Station is nearby too. There are also plenty of bus and express bus options. Plus, this area is very walkable and bikeable too!

If you’re hoping to live in Downtown Oakland, condos are your best bet. This area primarily consists of apartment buildings, retail stores, towering office buildings, and mixed-use historic buildings. Downtown Oakland is a total melting pot and is continually evolving; storefronts and condominium buildings are being renovated left and right.

Uptown Oakland

Uptown Oakland is home to the landmark Fox Theater. This popular area has developed a personality of its own and has become quite a hip and trendy area and is one of the hottest neighborhoods in Oakland, with a great mix of office space, apartments and condos, green space, and local shops and restaurants. Uptown Oakland, as the name implies, sits just north of Downtown Oakland, so many of the same transit options still apply, including both BART and bus options.

As Oakland’s premier arts and entertainment district, Uptown Oakland offers the popular local event First Friday Art Murmur, live music and shows at the Fox and Paramount theaters, and a number of local art galleries and murals.

Local Amenities

Cafes and Eateries Galore

As you might expect, Jack London Square, Downtown, and Uptown offer a TON of coffee and dining options. In fact, some of my favorite spots in all of Oakland are within these areas. Here are just a few of them:

  • Hopscotch
    • Diner-like setting in Uptown with modern fusion cuisine
    • Great beer and whiskey pairings (get it, hops + scotch?)
    • 4 stars on Yelp
  • Belly
    • Gourmet tacos with a Korean flair in Uptown Oakland
    • Do NOT miss the Belly Burger – unbelievable.
    • 4.5 stars on Yelp
  • Drake’s Dealership
    • Old Dodge dealership turned beer garden in Downtown Oakland
    • Sit outside and try some of Drake’s own brews with a hot wood-fired pizza.
    • 4 stars on Yelp
  • The Gastropig
    • Care for a side of pork with your pork?
    • Bacon and pulled pork lovers unite at this popular lunch spot in Downtown Oakland, famous for its Baconslut sandwich. A must-try, obvs.
    • 4 stars on Yelp
  • Blue Bottle Coffee
    • You know a neighborhood is legit when Blue Bottle Coffee moves in. 🙂
    • Consistently stellar coffee, served with a smile, right in the heart of Jack London Square.
    • 4 stars on Yelp
  • Bicycle Coffee
    • Perfect hipster fusion of love for bikes and the need for great coffee, right down the street from Blue Bottle.
    • They deliver coffee on bikes and also offer free coffee on Fridays!
    • 4.5 stars on Yelp

Transit Heaven

Jack London Square, Downtown, and Uptown are all extremely walkable and bikeable areas, and they’re super well-connected to both the rest of the East Bay and San Francisco. Almost all major Oakland bus lines thread through these neighborhoods to connect commuters to 12th and 19th Street BART Stations.

Plus, the Jack London Square Ferry Terminal adds an additional commuting option. How cool would it be to start and end each day with a ferry ride? Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

On top of all that, the Broadway Shuttle offers a fast and free connection between the ferry, BART, Amtrak, and downtown shops and restaurants. See? I told you this area is transit heaven.

Local Events

These neighborhoods are the hub for local events, from farmers markets to gallery openings to community festivals, you’ll find them all here.

  • Oakland Art Murmur
    • Art galleries throughout Oakland open collectively on the first Friday evening of each month, making these neighborhoods come to life.
    • There are a TON of art galleries to check out throughout Jack London Square, Downtown Oakland, and Uptown.
  • Local Markets
    • There are several weekly farmers and artisan markets in this area.
    • The Jack of All Trades Market every 2nd Saturday in Jack London Square is an eclectic artisan market featuring one-of-a-kind items, live music, and DIY workshops.
    • On Sundays, year-round, you’ll find the Jack London Square Farmers Market right on the waterfront.
    • Take a break on Fridays to visit the Old Oakland Farmers Market, chock full of organic veggies and great local food options.
  • Dancing Under the Stars
    • Free outdoor dance classes on Friday nights in Jack London Square all summer long.
    • Each Friday features a different dance theme, from salsa to swing. Beginners welcome!
  • Waterfront Flicks
    • Outdoor screenings of hit movies all summer long, right by the water in the heart of Jack London Square.
    • Grab a bite to eat, bring a picnic blanket, and enjoy a great family get-together or date night.
  • Art + Soul Oakland
    • National recording artists and hot local bands unite in this two-day music and food fest in Downtown Oakland.
    • There’s something for everyone – family fun, diverse performances, artisan market, and great food, beer, and wine options.


Public Schools

  • Lafayette Elementary School | Grades K-5
    • GreatSchools Rating1/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far below state average
    • School size: ~235 students


  • Westlake Middle School | Grades 6-8
    • “Westlake offers an exceptional urban middle school experience for students. We are one of the Oakland schools that made the highest gains in the recent standardized test scores.”
    • GreatSchools Rating2/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far below state average
    • School size: ~525 students


Public Charter Schools

  • Lighthouse Community Charter School | Grades K-8
    • “For over 15 years, Lighthouse Community Public Schools have been a beacon for public education where each graduate fulfills the promise of a better, brighter Oakland. Our schools are innovative models for public education that puts each child at the center of their own learning, and our results speak to our success.”
    • GreatSchools Rating3/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: Below state average
    • School size: ~490 students



  • Oakland School for the Arts | Grades 6-12
    • “Oakland School for the Arts is a public charter school in the Oakland Unified School District that opened its doors in 2002 with a mission to offer immersive arts experiences in a college preparatory setting.”
    • GreatSchools Rating9/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far above state average
    • School size: ~785 students


  • Oakland Charter High School | Grades 9-12
    • “At Oakland Charter High School, we provide our students with a rigorous academic program allowing them to pursue the college of their dreams and achieve any goal they set for themselves.”
    • GreatSchools Rating10/10
    • Average parent/community rating: 3/5 stars
    • Test scores: Far above state average
    • School size: ~350 students


Private Schools

  • Beacon Day School | Grades K-8
    • “At Beacon Day School, we share a single vision: to prepare our students to be passionate, life-long learners who are productive, healthy contributors in an ever-changing world. Beacon has delivered on this promise since 1982, because Beacon Day School is as powerful and innovative in its practice as it is in its theory.”
    • GreatSchools average parent/community rating: 4/5 stars
    • School size: ~110 students

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