No matter what you enjoy doing, Berkeley has it all. From leisurely walks through the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley to delicious bites in Gourmet Ghetto, Berkeley has enough to keep you busy from dawn until dusk. Check out some of our favorite spots to visit in the city.
UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley
The campus’s botanical garden comprises 34 acres of rolling hills, featuring a collection of more than 13,000 varieties of plants and a garden shop. Visitors can walk through sections such as the Orchid, Fern and Carnivorous Plant House and the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. Extensive lawns and picnic tables make this a perfect spot to stop for lunch, and the rose garden at the top of the garden is known for its view of the bay. The adjoining Redwood Grove, which directly faces the entrance of the garden, is a great place for an afternoon stroll.
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley
Since 1908, the museum has been a world hub for evolutionary biology research with its vast collections. Home to fur, bone and beetle rooms, the museum is regularly closed to the public but opens its doors on Cal Day to showcase selections of some of its more than 600,000 specimens. Located in the Valley Life Sciences Building, this is only one of Berkeley’s six natural history museums, five of which have events on Cal Day. Visitors will pass some of the UC Museum of Paleontology’s most spectacular fossil mounts on their way into the museum.
Ecology Center Farmers’ Market
In Downtown Berkeley at Center Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, one of Berkeley’s award-winning farmers’ market is staged every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The open-air market is within easy walking distance from the bottom of campus and features locally grown produce, flowers, baked goods, cheeses, meats, jams and much more. Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park borders the market and is a great spot to sit and enjoy lunch, as well as the variety of musicians and events that often entertain shoppers.
Tilden Regional Park
A favorite with locals for its hiking and cycling paths, Tilden Park offers panoramic views of the bay, lake swimming and other kid-friendly activities. Located above the Berkeley Hills, the park’s historic Little Farm and miniature steam train are its central features. Nimitz Way is a notable trail for its walkability and views of San Francisco, Mount Diablo and various reservoirs, and it makes for an ideal day hike. The park also has its own botanical garden and the Environmental Education Center, both which are free to the public.
With fabulous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, the marina is a great place to walk, cycle or picnic. A small cafe is located the entrance to the peninsula and has ample seating and parking for those who want to grab lunch before heading over to one of the marina’s parks. With San Francisco and the city of Berkeley on either horizon, Cesar Chavez Park’s sloping grassy hills are favored by runners and dog owners. The maintained portion of the Berkeley Pier, located at the farthest point of the marina, is accessible to walkers and is a popular fishing and photography site.
Berkeley’s famous Gourmet Ghetto is located just north of campus, starting at Hearst Avenue and extending north along Shattuck Avenue through streets dotted with boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Events such as Thursday’s all-organic farmers’ market and the annual Sunday Streets Berkeley walking fair are just some of the attractions that add to the charm of one of Berkeley’s most well-known neighborhoods. Stop by eateries such as the Chez Panisse Cafe, Mission Heirloom or the Cheese Board Collective to grab lunch, then head through the Epicurious Garden for dessert and a lovely seat in its backyard garden.
Lawrence Hall of Science
UC Berkeley’s public science center is located on a hill above campus, just up the road from the UC Botanical Garden. The dome-like building overlooks the bay and has a planetarium and an animal discovery room, both open to the public on weekends and holidays, and a roster of activities and exhibits suitable for children and adults alike. With its own cafe and grassy picnic area with a spectacular view, Lawrence Hall is a great place to have lunch with an aerial view of the campus.
Berkeley’s fire trails are a dense network of wooded dirt paths that peak with a view of the city. Most of the beginner-friendly 7-mile round-trip hike is shaded by trees that makes the slow but steady incline pleasant even in hot weather. The trail is dog-friendly but unmarked, so it’s helpful to bring a GPS for navigation. Once you’re at the top, be sure to stop and enjoy the view from the bench at the trail’s peak before heading back down to your car.
The Elmwood district is located several blocks from the south side of campus and runs along College Avenue, centered at the intersection of College and Ashby avenues. Elmwood is great for shopping and is the home to some of Berkeley’s most popular gift shops, bookstores and cafes. The stores vary from upscale wine shops to small old-fashioned stationery boutiques. Browse books at Mrs. Dalloway’s with a coffee from Elmwood Cafe before heading over to the old-time theater, Rialto Cinemas, for an afternoon movie.
Arguably UC Berkeley’s most recognizable structure, the Campanile — officially called Sather Tower — is the third-tallest bell and clock tower in the world at more than 300 feet tall. The Campanile is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and will continue the celebration on Cal Day with two aerial performances at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. by world-famous dance group BANDALOOP. An observation platform on the eighth floor affords views of the bay and is accessible to the public every day of the week — for a small fee for those who are not UC Berkeley students, faculty or staff. Those who are unable to tour the interior of the tower can still enjoy its carillon concerts, which are played on the tower’s set of 61 bells every day at 7:50 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.