Yes, you read the headline right. Sandwiched between London and Tokyo in the number five spot on the New York Times’45 Places to Go in 2012” is our very own Oakland.

Oakland has long had its critics. But despite 2011 being one of the toughest for the city’s image in recent history, it managed to place highly on the annual list of must-visits in the world.

Downtown Oakland. (Photo by: Craig Miller/ KQED)
Downtown Oakland. (Photo by: Craig Miller/ KQED)

New restaurants and bars beckon amid the grit. Tensions have cooled since violence erupted at the recent Occupy Oakland protests, but the city’s revitalized night-life scene has continued to smolder.

The historic Fox Theater reopened in 2009 and quickly cemented its status as one of the Bay Area’s top music venues, drawing acts like Wilco and the Decemberists. Meanwhile, the city’s ever more sophisticated restaurants are now being joined by upscale cocktail bars, turning once-gritty Oakland into an increasingly appealing place to be after dark. James Syhabout, the chef who earned Oakland its first (and only) Michelin star two years ago at Commis, followed up in May with the instant-hit Hawker Fare, a casual spot serving Asian street food. Big-name San Francisco chefs are now joining him. Daniel Patterson (of two-Michelin-star Coi) opened the restaurant Plum in late 2010 and an adjacent cocktail bar later, and another restaurant, called Haven, in the recently renovated Jack London Square last month. INGRID K. WILLIAMS

This isn’t the first time Oakland has made a travel list. Lonely Planet’s 2011 Guide of America’s Top 10 suggests Oakland’s taco trucks along with San Francisco burritos.

About 9.6 million tourists visited Oakland in 2011, according to the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau.

You may be wondering where San Francisco placed on the list.  Well, apparently bacon-laced donuts and artisanal ice cream weren’t enough to earn the city a place on the list at all.

Oakland Named a Top Tourist Destination 6 January,2012Lisa Pickoff-White

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