Why Berkeley is the best college town

campus

We all can recall the days, not too long ago, when we would spend late nights scrolling through College Prowler, meticulously analyzing every rating and comment on the schools we were considering. Who could really blame us? There were so many features to take into account! Major deciding factors included library resources, Huffington Post ranking and athletic prestige … because those all play a very important role in our current college lives, right? Wrong.

It’s common knowledge that Berkeley is the Garden of Eden when it comes to college towns. You realize you’ve hit the jackpot the moment you step on campus. It outdoes other cities in almost every aspect of life — culture, tech, climate — and continually proves itself as the Julius Caesar of university locations. Here, we compare Berkeley to three other reportedly “cool” college towns (according to Huffington Post, NBC and Business Insider) — Ann Arbor, Mich., Cambridge, Mass. and Chapel Hill, N.C. — and establish nine definitive reasons Berkeley is the coolest.

1. Weather

What other city stays between 60 and 70 degrees all year long? You can expect every afternoon to be bright and sunny and the sky to scatter its trademark Cal-blue wavelength.

  • Ann Arbor: Straight out of the White Witch’s Narnia, Ann Arbor is the place where winter never ends. If you’re looking to enclose yourself in a fluffy white quarantine, go to University of Michigan. Or an insane asylum.
  • Cambridge: More bipolar than IcyHot patches, Cambridge drowns its citizens in humid heat during the summer and then, during the winter, shuts the thermostat off so furiously that Harvard students develop seasonal depression at a faster rate than they can buy themselves Burberry scarves.
  • Chapel Hill: Although it may only deliver moderately cold winters, during the spring and summer, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill promises to transform any dorm room into an easy-bake oven. Hello, pit stains.

2. Food

Alice Waters, a Berkeley alumna, practically invented the farmer’s market. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but it doesn’t change the fact that Berkeley is hella tasty. Within a one-block radius of campus, you’ll find every ethnicity represented in the form of culinary cuisine, and most of it comes at a decent price. We’ve got boba up the wazoo, a vegan option for literally everything and enough coffee shops to give you cardiac convulsions.

  • Ann Arbor: Unless you’re showering in $100 bills, you’re likely to fall into the trap of pizza and burgers. The freshman 15 has got to come from somewhere.
  • Cambridge: Similar to UMich, off-campus dining can get very expensive. My personal experience with Cambridge dining can only be described as abysmal — I got food poisoning for the first time in my life after eating at the famed Mr. Bartley’s Burgers.
  • Chapel Hill:  Decent. Crowded. High risk of developing diabetes.

4. Industry

Located a stone’s throw away from Silicon Valley, Berkeley is a mecca for startup opportunities and big-name internships. Can you say “Google scouts?”

  • Ann Arbor: You know you’ve made it if you score a job at Briarwood Mall.
  • Cambridge: OK, we’ll hand it to you, Harvard. With the crimson stamp on your degree, you’re pretty much ensured any job of your choosing. However, during your four years as an undergrad, you’re subject to the scanty employment opportunities that present themselves in the form of library assistant and barista.
  • Chapel Hill:  North Carolina is kind of like a public swimming pool — you can choose to launch yourself into the career-hungry research triangle and navigate your way through the crowd to a promising job, or you can sit on your butt like the 8 percent of North Carolina residents who are unemployed.

5. Public transit

One word: BART.

  • Ann Arbor: You can wait for a bus, which usually works, unless it’s after 5 p.m. on the weekend. Then you’re screwed.
  • Cambridge: Like the Bay Area’s situation, Boston links to Cambridge via the “T” transit system. However, unlike BART, it’s always late, dirty and falling apart.
  • Chapel Hill: If you want to use your car, you’ve either got to pay hundreds of dollars for a permit or illegally park that stallion.

6. Music and art

Let’s see … the Berkeley Repertory Theatre is a world-renowned theater company; Cal Performances hosts at least one famous performer per weekend; and you can walk into Dwinelle 155 on almost any night and be sure to find either a charity concert, dance marathon or musical presentation. Oh, and did we mention we have the Hearst Greek Theatre, an art museum, an on-campus film archive with free daily screenings and the ORIGINAL Amoeba Music? Sorry, must have slipped our minds.

  • Ann Arbor: Hey … there’s always Netflix!
  • Cambridge: Word is there’s this one bar in Harvard Square that might have a live guitarist play next month! Get excited, guys!
  • Chapel Hill: The pinnacle of artistic expression — UNC students can take a trip to the shooters bar to see Duke sorority girls ride a mechanical bull for a $5 cover charge.

7. City life

Berkeley is located right next to this little city called San Francisco. Ever heard of it?

  • Ann Arbor: Detroit road trip, anyone?
  • Cambridge: All right, Harvard, you’ve got Baaaaastaaan. Can’t argue with that.
  • Chapel Hill: If you Google “city scene near University of North Carolina,” your computer will automatically power off.

9. Nature

If the sunshine, academic stimulation and artistic abundance of Berkeley get to be too much for you, you can always spend the weekend camping with friends in the Berkeley forests or grab your skis and head over to Tahoe.

  • Ann Arbor: Michigan is very, very, very green. Take a trip to one of the gazillion “nature areas” to see more of the same pine trees.
  • Cambridge: The Charles River ain’t too bad to look at … unless, of course, it’s 20 degrees below zero and you’re smushed against the Harvard Bridge steel girder.
  • Chapel Hill: It’s a little hard to get lost in the lack of solitude and wilderness in the Research Triangle. Fear not, though! You can always visit the Durham Museum of Life and Sciences to see pictures of nature.

10. History

We were the first University of California. The Free Speech Movement started at UC Berkeley. Hippies originated in the Bay; 22 faculty members have won Nobel Prizes; telomerase, human-genome sequencing, oncogenes, vitamin E, the cyclotron, 16 chemical elements, the dinosaur extinction, universe expansion acceleration, 250 planets — all of these discoveries were made in Berkeley. Seriously, there’s something in the water.

  • Ann Arbor: Ever heard of John Allen? Nope, me neither. He founded Ann Arbor in 1824. John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon once spoke in the town. Oh, and Iggy Pop got his start there too … and … that’s about it.
  • Cambridge: Settled by the Puritans in 1630, invaded by hungry potato-obsessed Irishmen in 1845 and the site of “Legally Blonde” in 2001. In short, Cambridge is really old.
  • Chapel Hill: The town was built around a chapel on a hill. Who would have guessed?

Contact Daniela Grinblatt at [email protected].

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