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2018 Best of the East Bay: Arts and Leisure

Renowned theater groups? Check. Oscar winners? Several. Beloved arts institutions? You bet. The East Bay’s diverse cultural scene has it all.


The Bedford Gallery exhibits the work of historic, modern, and contemporary artists—such as Ned Kahn, whose kinetic sculpture Seed Vortex was on display earlier this year.

Photo by Cali Godley

Art Gallery

Bedford Gallery at Lesher​ Center for the Arts

The Lesher Center for the Arts takes its name seriously. Not only is the esteemed cultural institution a hub for the performing arts—including theater, dance, music, and comedy—but it is also home to the Bedford Gallery, a distinct space dedicated to the visual arts. Organizing exhibitions that feature everything from inflatable art pieces to works by the African American artists of Berkeley’s Paulson Fontaine Press, Bedford Gallery Curator Carrie Lederer sets the tone for the venue’s eclectic and far-reaching shows. Diablo chatted with Lederer about her favorite exhibitions (so far) and what makes the Bedford special.


Q: What does a curator do?
A: I’m at once keeping my finger on the cultural pulse to make myself aware of what trends are out there, and also thinking about those [trends] in terms of how to create or structure a show that will be informative, visually rich, and interesting for our audience. Often, it centers on a particular subject, theme, or idea. Once I have the core idea and direction, then the work begins in terms of seeking out artists that will be appropriate for the exhibition.

Illustration by Paddy Mills

Q: What types of artists can visitors expect to see at the Bedford?
A: We have artists who are just starting their careers as well as artists who are very established, and then all those in between. ​A lot of our larger shows are busting-at-the-seams exhibitions that are built using local, statewide, national, and international artists. That mix of artists from all walks [of life] and from all over the globe often distinguishes the shows that the Bedford presents.

Q: Are there any exhibitions you have been particularly fond of?
A: That’s like Sophie’s Choice! But in this most recent season, the first exhibition was called About Abstraction: Bay Area Women Painters. Because political conversations have turned a renewed spotlight on women and their power and influence in every corner of our society—including the arts—it was really interesting to build a show that carried on that dialogue. It included 16 Bay Area women artists, and it was exhilarating to celebrate their work. Walnut Creek, bedfordgallery.org. —M.M.


Movie Theater

Century Blackhawk Plaza

"The Blackhawk location has reclining seats, which makes it so relaxing to go and enjoy any movie." Danville, cinemark.com. —Corissa Johnson, Hayward


The Oakland Museum of California attracts  about 400,000 visitors each year. Photo courtesy of Oakland Museum of California.


Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)

Over the past 49 years, OMCA has steadily (and thrillingly) redefined the role a museum can play in the community: It’s simultaneously a thought leader, gathering place, educational and artistic resource, and consummate party host. With intriguing exhibitions covering everything from hip-hop, to bees, to the photographs of Dorothea Lange, the museum continually challenges visitors to think about how art, history, and science intersect in unexpected ways. What’s more, Friday Nights @ OMCA—weekly parties featuring live music, food trucks, drinks, and family fun—have become some of the hottest tickets in town. Oakland, museumca.org. —D.K.


The 500-seat Bankhead Theater has been an acoustically perfect gem since it opened in 2007. Photo by Jeanne McGregor.

Performing Arts Venue

Bankhead Theater

Downtown Livermore’s centrally located, 500-seat performing arts venue hosts 10 resident companies, including Livermore Valley Opera, Livermore-Amador Symphony, Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre, and the Rae Dorough Speaker Series. In addition to these lauded companies, the Bankhead Presents lineup brings more than 50 performances and events to the theater each year, including shows by acclaimed comedians, international dance troupes, Grammy Award–winning musicians, and other dynamic and diverse artists. Livermore, lvpac​.org. —M.M.


Limitless Escape Games Livermore offers three mind-bending adventures for groups to decode together. Photo courtesy of Limitless Escape Games Livermore.

Group Activity

Limitless Escape Games Livermore

If you have ever dreamed of defeating a kraken, robbing a bank, or solving a murder, you’ll finally be able to fulfill your fantasy. At Limitless Escape Games Livermore, participants have one hour to find their way out of a complicated scenario, using clues hidden around the room to unravel intricate problems. Kids love the immersive details—such as the sirens blaring in the background during the last five minutes of the Bank Heist adventure—but the stimulating, complex nature of the puzzles means adults are equally entertained. Livermore, limitlessescapegames.com. —M.M.


Savor global cuisine, decadent desserts, creative drinks, and more on a Local Food Adventures tour. Photo by Slice of Love Photography.

Walking Tour

Local Food Adventures

Eat your way through Lafayette’s and Oakland’s most appetizing neighborhoods under the tasteful tutelage of Local Food Adventures. The company—started in 2014 by Lafayette resident Lauren McCabe Herpich—guides locals and tourists alike through a series of beloved, off-the-beaten-path eateries, showcasing the diverse range of cultures and flavors in the East Bay. Tours take place weekly and last two to three hours (with the exception of a Rockridge ice-cream and gelato expedition, which runs a sweet 60 minutes and is only offered during the summer). Lafayette and Oakland, localfoodadventures.com. —R.O.


On a clear day, you can see nearly 200 miles in every direction from the top of Mount Diablo. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Scenic Drive

Mount Diablo

Sweeping vistas and nerve-rattling turns provide much of the excitement during a drive up to the Mount Diablo summit. Access Mount Diablo State Park at either the North Gate entrance in Walnut Creek or the South Gate in Danville, and make the leisurely journey to the top of the 3,849-foot-high mountain. Depending on traffic (the roads are popular with cyclists, especially on weekends), the drive can take up to 45 minutes, but the panoramic outlook at the top—with visibility of more than 8,539 square miles on a good day—is worth it. parks​.ca​.gov. —R.O.


Taste local beers with Whole Brew World owner and cicerone Jean Calixto. Photo by Michaela Joy Photography.

Brewery Tour

Whole Brew World

Craft-beer lovers: Let Whole Brew World owner and experienced cicerone Jean Calixto whisk you away to some of the East Bay’s best microbreweries on her popular beer tours. Board a comfy van (affectionately known as “Dubbie”), and embark on a 4.5-hour excursion that includes tastings and behind-the-scenes brewery visits. Options include trips to breweries in Oakland and Berkeley, Alameda and San Leandro, Martinez and Concord, and the Tri-Valley—plus an Uptown Oakland beer walk. Since the tours are limited to eight people, the fun-filled experience remains intimate enough for guests to become fast friends. Customizable private tours are available as well. wholebrewworld​.com. —R.O.


The Lafayette Art and Wine Festival takes place on September 15 and 16 this year. Photo courtesy of Lafayette Chamber.

Community Event

Lafayette Art and Wine Festival

Now celebrating its 23rd year, this lively two-day event takes place in downtown Lafayette every third weekend of September. Attendees can raise a glass (or two) to the 250-plus fine arts and crafts creators showcasing their work at the festival, while enjoying live music performed on four stages and family-friendly activities in the Kids’ Zone. The celebration also highlights local restaurants, food vendors, wineries, and breweries. Admission is free, and drinks and activity tickets are available for purchase. lafayette​festival​.com. —R.O.


Golf Course

Boundary Oak Golf Course

Founded in 1969 and considered one of the top public courses in Northern California, Boundary Oak Golf Course offers 18 holes, a driving range with 60 stalls, and a practice area. The challenging and beautifully landscaped green is a highlight for experienced golfers, while newer players can practice their swing in the shade on the driving range. (The course also offers golf lessons and clinics.) For smaller crowds and gorgeous sunset views, golfers can tee off as late as 6 p.m. Walnut Creek, playboundaryoak​.com. —M.M.


Photo courtesy of Jaguar PS/Shutterstock.

East Bay–Bred Movie Star

Editor Pick: Zendaya

For some, 21-year-old Zendaya is best known as a style icon. (See her stunning appearance in a Giambattista Valli goddess gown at this year’s Academy Awards and her recent curated fashion collection with Boohoo.) Others know her as an A-list movie star thanks to her roles as a classmate of your friendly neighborhood spiderweb slinger in Spider-Man: Homecoming and as a trapeze artist in The Greatest Showman. (Next up: She’ll voice a yeti in the animated film Smallfoot, out September 28, and she’s been cast as the lead in Euphoria, an upcoming HBO drama pilot.)

But for East Bay residents, Oakland native Zendaya (aka Zendaya Coleman) is a hometown hero. Before costarring in Disney Channel’s Shake It Up (from 2010 to 2013), the singer/actress/dancer spent her formative years at Orinda’s California Shakespeare Theater, where her mother was the longtime house manager.

“I’m the Cal Shakes house kid forever,” Zendaya told Diablo in 2013. “I know where everything goes at that theater because I learned everything about that place from my mom. No matter what, no one can take that title away from me.”

Even as an adult, Zendaya has stayed true to her East Bay roots, partnering with Google at a March event in support of the development of a computer science curriculum at Roses in Concrete Community School in East Oakland. She also took 200 students from both Roses in Concrete and Fruitvale Elementary to a screening of A Wrinkle in Time earlier this year.

“She was just so authentically present with our youth and has a really solid moral compass,” Roses in Concrete founder and Board Chair Jeff Duncan-Andrade says. “Our students grew up watching her when she was on Disney, but most didn’t know she was from Oakland. Learning that she is from our city has been transformative for them—seeing that path to opportunity and understanding that [success] doesn’t mean you leave Oakland behind.” —R.O.


Concert Venue

Concord Pavilion

From May to October, some of the best musicians and comedians of our time wow crowds at the Concord Pavilion. Chicago, Kevin Hart, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have already performed at the expansive outdoor venue this year, and shows by Imagine Dragons and the Steve Miller Band are coming soon. Here are some key stats about the amphitheater. Concord, live​nation​.com. —M.M.


By the Numbers

9: High school graduations scheduled at the Concord Pavilion in 2018.

15–18: Shows there per year.

3,600: On-site parking spaces.

12,500–13,500: Capacity of the venue, which varies by removing seats to create a pit.

145,000+: Tickets sold in 2017.

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