When it comes to tourism, Oakland is in good hands. Just look at the buzz we've been getting -- including nods for top destination, most exciting city and coolest city. These honors don't come by accident. The nine marketing and PR pros at Visit Oakland work hard to get on the radar at media outlets around the world.

This past weekend, they brought in about 15 journalists from the Bay Area Travel Writers (myself included) to check out what residents see every day -- the great parks and cafes, museums and music in what's billed as the "Sunny Side of the Bay."

The first stop was the Oakland Museum's Friday night food truck event known as Off the Grid. Travel writers can be a tough bunch, but the food from these gourmet trucks is so good, diners must queue up to order.

Inside the museum, the Bay Bridge troll was the big draw. The good luck charm attached to the span after the Loma Prieta quake is on display now, and the journalists clamored to see it. Saturday began with coffee and pastries at the trendy downtown cafe, Farley's East, which boasts the city's first "parklet" -- two street spaces set aside for seating, not cars.

From here, the group walked to a landmark -- the Cathedral of Christ the Light. To say that the docent-led tour made an impact would be an understatement. "This place could convert the most unabashed atheist," one writer said after the visit.


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All along Lake Merritt, there were walkers and joggers, enjoying the afternoon sun. The journalists boarded a gondola and slipped seductively across the lake under the rising sliver of an autumn moon. The string of lights cast a romantic reflection along the water's edge -- each one a pearl in an exquisite necklace.

The love affair continued at the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill, with warm bowls of orecchiette pasta and house-made sausage.

A nightclub like Yoshi's needs no introduction. Most travel writers have heard of it and many have already been there. Saturday night, Ramsey Lewis packed the house and showed journalists, first hand, Oakland's celebrated diversity.

On the last day, the group had breakfast at Lakeshore Café, a tour of the USS Potomac, time at the Jack London Farmer's Market, wood-fired pizza at Forge and kayaking on the estuary.

For the writers, it was a high-octane weekend in a city full of surprises. For the people in charge of promoting Oakland, it was all in a day's work.

Note: The journalists who stayed at the Waterfront Hotel were not only centrally located, they had a window to life on the estuary. They seemed charmed by the symphony of seabirds and kayaks and sailboats and tugs that moved in perfect harmony along the waterway.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-723-2525 by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.