Lake Merritt : Michelin's recommendations
The shores of this 155-acre saltwater tidal lake offer a haven of green serenity near the bustling heart of the city. The shimmering expanse of water was a marshy tidal slough until 1869, when Dr. Samuel Merritt, an ex-mayor who owned land on its shores, dammed the outlet at 12th Street to create the lake. In 1870, he successfully lobbied the California legislature to declare it an official wildlife refuge. Although many private landowners built mansions at its edge, the city eventually secured the properties and turned them into public parkland. A pleasant esplanade winds around the lake's 3.5mi shoreline, broadening on the northern side into Lakeside Park (Bellevue & Grand Aves.) This lush oasis of 122 oak-shaded acres includes a bandstand, show gardens, and Children's Fairyland (699 Bellevue Ave.; 510-238-6876; www.fairyland.org), an amusement park for the very young.