This is probably one of the largest museums to showcase Asian Art (well, outside of Asia.) It's huge - it's clean - it's well-done. They go beyond the Ming Vase and explore things like Indonesian puppets, Tibetan sand art, and have thoughtful and world class special exhibits and activities.
PROS: It's a great museum.
CONS: It's $10.
I love science musuems - and I love the Exploratorium - don't get me wrong. They have wonderful hands on exhibits that make everyone go, 'ooooh, cool!' Unfortunately, perhaps too many people have handled the exhibits as they seem old and tired. The upside is they do have a great science outreach program and special exhibits.
PROS: Everyone loves interactive science.
CONS: A little worn out.
All tourists must make a stop at Pier 39. It's mandatory. You'll hear people equate Pier 39 with the word "trap", but it's not soooo bad, particularly if you know how to avoid the pitfalls of any trap. There are lots of stores carrying knick knacks and seafood restaurants featuring chowder - and of course those infamous sea lions (they're free!) There are a couple of other activities and outings to partake in (but you'll have to pay for those.)
PROS: tourist fun
CONS: can get out of hand if you're not careful!
If you can ignore the really bad customer service attitude that seems to afflict all H&R Blocks I've visited, then this branch could work for you. I personally, have a difficult time trusting anyone who is rude to people with my taxes. From the front desk staff to the actual para accountants, they were all apathetic and smart alecky. No thanks.
PROS: Name recognition.
CONS: Ugh. Poor Service.
You might as well go if you live in Oakland, but if you're a tourist, there's really not that much to see here. The exhibits all focus on California - history, science, arts - which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but the exhibits aren't terribly exciting. A good museum is one that you want to re-visit at least once a year. The museum is well-kept (except the poor koi pond) and they do have visiting exhibits, so all is not lost.
PROS: It's a museum!
CONS: Not terribly exciting.
This is Oakland's main library, and it's not bad! There are dedicated areas for teens, children, and the "regular" library showcasing oodles of books, periodicals, multimedia, and reference materials spreading out over several floors. The librarians are knowledgeable and love to help. The Oakland History Room with old maps and pictures is a lot of fun also.
PROS: It's a library!
CONS: Hours are not the same everyday - check ahead of time.
The branch on Grand is easy to get to and the lines move pretty quicky. The tellers are courteous, and the people that sit at the desks are helpful. The Grand branch needs a little modernization (It's staight out of the 70's), but it does what it needs to get done. The only reason I bank with Bank of America is convenience. It was the first account I opened, and I can't be bothered to change.
PROS: Straight up banking.
CONS: '70's ambiance
If you like French-Japanese food - you have to try Maison Akira at least once in your lifetime. I had a prix fixe (around $50 or $60) and every morsel of food was an absolute conversation piece. Also, Chef Akira's legendary miso marinated sea bass is quite a treat. The food was wonderful, and the service was impeccable. Best of all, you can wear you jeans and you won't fee under dressed!
PROS: great food - beautiful ambiance
Le Cheval has enjoyed accolades and hype for quite some time now. If you don't mind waiting for a table and a loud, crowded dining area, you have to try this Vietnamese restaurant. Even though it's not the most authentic, the clay pots, entrees, and specials are culinary delights. They have cheap and very fast lunch combination, perfect for the work week.
PROS: Quite tasty!
CONS: Can be a long wait for a table.
If you work in downtown Oakland, Sushi Zone is a nice upscale alternative. They offer lunch combinations of Japanese restaurant staples (tempura, teriyaki, gyoza, sukiyaki), and of course sushi. It's not the best place around to get sushi, but if your tired of the same old same old... There's really nothing too remarkable about this place - other than maybe the ambiance.
PROS: sushi in downtown oakland
CONS: not very authentic - but still not too bad