The San Francisco Bay Area has a vast amount of quirky and interesting places to visit, many of which are accessible by BART — the public transit system for the entire Bay Area.
From the suburbs of Pleasanton to the hustle and bustle of the city of Oakland, you’re just a BART ticket away from a new and exciting adventure. So get out of Berkeley and explore.
San Francisco is teeming with attractions, but often the Arts and Crafts Market held at Justin Herman Plaza is forgotten.
Embarcadero Station: Art Market at Justin Herman Plaza
The market offers an authentic taste of the area that no other shopping mall can emulate. Amid the chaos of the financial district, the market is a short walk from the Embarcadero BART station. The market is held daily, yet there is always something new. Each day, different local artists arrive to promote their handmade goods. Products range from hand-carved wooden bowls to customized clothing and jewelry. Because all of the artists are based in the Bay Area, there is a distinct look to their work.
The products represent the Bay Area well because the materials are collected locally and the projects themselves are inspired by local landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge. The products are unique not only because they represent our area, but also because of the intimate processes by which they were made.
These local artists use materials from local forests and beaches, meaning no synthetic goods. For example, the woman who sells sea glass will sometimes sift through beach sand in search of materials for her jewelry.
— Sparsha Saxena
24th Street Station: San Francisco’s Mission District
Almost as soon as one jumps off the BART at 24th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District, it becomes quite clear what sets this station apart.
Dozens of colorful murals are splashed on the sides of buildings along a stretch of the street between Mission and Potrero. The greatest concentration of artwork is located on Balmy Street, right off of 24th as you head east for about a five-minute walk. Fans of street art should definitely stop by this hot spot, which has grown over the course of 40 years when muralists first started applying paint to walls and fences.
Towering depictions of the real to the often surreal can be found around many corners, as well as remnants of the Chicano Art Movement of the 1970s. Many works inspired by the style of Diego Rivera and pay homage to indigenous Latin American cultures.
The neighborhood also boasts some of the best taquerias in the city as well as trendy shops and cafes like the original Philz Coffee shop. While the North Berkeley branch fits in with the clean-cut vibe of its Gourmet Ghetto neighbors, the 24th Street Philz shop is clearly a product of the Mission, complete with murals of its own along its walls. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot owner Phil himself sipping coffee.
— Emma Anderson
Powell Station: San Francisco’s Chinatown
Hey Berkeleyans, if you are looking for a nice trip into the City by the Bay, hear me out. Only a BART trip away awaits a location that will make you forget you’re in the United States. Chinatown, San Francisco.
This little community in the big city of San Francisco is where you can find mouth-watering red bean balls at every corner as well as many other treasures.
All you have to do is take the BART to the Powell Street station and walk Northeast to the Grant Avenue and Bush Street intersection. Finding the main street filled with bright colors, souvenir shops and hanging lanterns is half the fun.
Once you’re there, breathe in a bit of culture and eat a little — or a lot. The farther you venture into the town, the more live fish and crowded markets you will see.
After a few minutes, you’ll get lost in the history.
Once Chinatown is checked off your summer to-do list, head on over to North Beach — San Francisco’s Little Italy — to experience another part of the world in the Golden City. North Beach is just north of Chinatown if you keep following Grant. It’s a bit of a hike, but it’s worth the trek.
— Natalie Nunez
12th Street Station, Oakland: Home of Chicken and Waffles
Kin to the famed Los Angeles soul food joint Roscoe’s, Oakland’s own Home of Chicken and Waffles is the bright-turquoise-and-gold excuse that you’ve been looking for since your last Late Night fix.
The restaurant is a straight shot South from BART down Broadway.
The name of the place says it all, or so you think ‘til you get there and see the illustrated menu (on the wall or on your table) for yourself — the combinations of meat, waffles and side dishes are daunting.
If the macaroni and cheese doesn’t tempt you, the candied yams, smothered potatoes or banana pudding will.
Fully stocked with a cocktail menu and open to throwing together for you any suggestible combination of chicken, cheese, fries and eggs, restaurant staff are friendly and eager to please, though that’s never too difficult considering the options.
The only downside is, with a closing time of 4 a.m. on weekends, the place is peaking when BART is no longer running, but the food and service are well worth the bus transfer to get you to Jack London Square. Just don’t forget the hot sauce.
— Sarah Springfield
Fremont Station: Fremont Festival of the Arts
Looking for some fun in the sun? Take part in the 29th annual Fremont Festival of the Arts on August 4 and 5 — the largest free street festival west of the Mississippi.
From Downtown Berkeley, take the BART southbound on the Fremont line and exit at the Fremont station which is just two blocks from the festival. There will be over 600 artisan booths, selling exclusively handmade merchandise, ranging from artwork, to jewelry and clothing.
Three stages will feature 16 performances throughout the course of the festival. The Gourmet Marketplace, a festival tradition, includes a vast assortment of specialty packaged foods for purchase, including honey, garlic dips, marinades, BBQ sauces and olive oils from gourmet vendors. Other happenings at the festival include Business Alley, an outdoor trade show, Kid City with entertainment for children, and of course, numerous refreshment booths. All food booths are run by non-profit organizations.
The Wine Garden, a specialty wine booth, highlights premium drinks made by local wineries, catered food, and special entertainment, all of which are an integral part of the festival’s Wine Garden experience.
— Nick Cotter
Downtown Berkeley: Cinnaholic
In most cities, I have found that a sweet tooth and an allergy to dairy products usually don’t have the most symbiotic relationship; going out for ice cream or ordering dessert is never much of an option.
In Berkeley, however, I have been pleasantly surprised by the steps that some establishments have taken to accommodate offbeat diets or allergies, and to create spaces in which there is no need to request special accommodations at all, meaning you don’t have to listen to friends telling you how much you’re missing.
Particularly, Cinnaholic, a “gourmet” cinnamon bun restaurant on the corner of Center and Oxford Streets, has succeeded in creating an extremely extensive, completely vegan menu of fluffy, creamy, risk-free cinnamon rolls. From their “Old Skool” original bun to their more daring “Gone Bananas” roll, Cinnaholic has created a delectable plethora of toppings, combinations and flavors that finally gives options to vegan dessert lovers. The best part? Most of my friends don’t even realize their treats are vegan until I join them for a roll — a sure sign of vegan perfection.
— Anna Horrocks
Downtown Berkeley: Brazil Cafe
This colorful and exotic food truck, shack on a bike store’s parking lot, and hole in the wall store in downtown Berkeley is home to some of the best food I have ever feasted on in our great college town.
Both the cafe and the food stand are close to the BART station — the restaurant is near the corner of Shattuck and University Avenues and the stand at University and Walnut Street.
Their carnitas sandwich, “Obama’s favorite,” is particularly impressive. This ornate shack offers a series of great combos that include a drink affordable for students and worthy of a hefty lunch.
I really enjoyed their vegetarian options; especially the Carnival sandwich that includes ricotta, cilantro garlic sauce, carrots, corn, avocado, jalap, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions.
Not only is the food fantastic, but the service is also unprecedented. I’ve never had anyone present the hand sanitizer like a prize, and squirt it in the palm of my hand!
The last little take away is you get a free bracelet to commemorate your first visit, which is a ribbon with a saint’s name on it. It is customary to have someone else tie it upon your wrist with three knots – each representing a wish. When the bracelet breaks off (years later) it is said that your wishes will come true.
— Shanna Holako
19th Street station, Oakland
When rolling to downtown Oakland for a night out East Bay style, consider spending your evening at some of the great venues right off of the 19th St. Oakland BART station.
Head down towards San Pablo Avenue for a night of local beats and grooves at The New Parish. This dancing hot spot features all kinds of artists, from Dan Deacon to local hip-hop word poets like Iamsu!, performing on July 7. Best of all, these shows often admit guests of all ages or accept 18 and up, so under-agers are more than welcome to come enjoy all of the funky jams that this place offers.
Next, wiggle on over to The Stork Club on Telegraph for cheap grungy metal and punk shows in this dingy dive bar from heaven. Super cheap drinks, one dollar popcorn, First Friday Follies (a burlesque show coinciding with Oakland’s monthly Art Murmur), walls lined with vintage collector Barbie dolls: who could ask for more? This unique nighttime locality also has underage shows sure to please all.
At the end of the night stop by Cafe Van Kleef for an atmosphere akin to your crazy aunt’s attic, amazing blues performers, and of course their infamous Greyhound.
— Anjelica Colliard