As I drove to Oakland yesterday to cast my vote, I was thinking about how the city needs a really good PR agent. Why? Because when I tell people that I used to live in Oakland, they think I would walk over piles of dead bodies to get to 19th Street BART. OK, so Oakland does have a high homicide rate, and there are some places you wouldn’t want to venture out at during the wee hours of the night and, yes, Mayor Dellums is a total douche bag. But (and this is a big but) Oakland has some pretty cool spots, and they remain relatively unknown. So next time you venture into the East Bay, check out some of these cool things to do.

Oakland Art Murmur. The Art Murmur is held the first Friday of every month to promote the local arts. A group of galleries hold an open house that allows people to wander in and out to see exhibits on display. In addition, you can usually catch a street performance, view outdoor art installations or get involved with local, grassroots organizations. Best of all, it’s free.

Urban Capture the Flag. It’s just like the classic childhood game, just transported into downtown Oakland. Anyone can play, and it’s now year round.

Mountain View Cemetery. OK, I know you’re probably thinking I’m really morbid or something, but this cemetery offers some of the most beautiful, sweeping views of the Bay Area. If you are so inclined to visit the graves, check out the famous residents down “Millionaires Row.”

Zachary’s Pizza. Best pizza. Ever.

De Lauer Super Newsstand. Have an urge to check out the St. Petersburg Times at 4 a.m.? Go to De Lauer’s. Located on Broadway in downtown, this is not only one of the few 24 hours newsstands in the Bay Area, but it has a massive collection of books, magazines and newspapers that are local and from out of town. It’s like stepping back into the ’50s.

This is just a small sample of Oakland’s charm. It really is a cool place to be.

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