Best movie theater: Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to attend the No. 1 public university in the world! You arrive on campus, self-assured by the outstanding credentials you’re boasting, only to realize the time spent building up your admissions profile meant sacrificing precious cultural capital. Impostor syndrome sets in as you realize the most interesting thing you can contribute to a conversation is the square root of pi.
Enter Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas.
Despite the grandeur of its marquee, the theater’s facade speaks humility, making you nostalgic for a time in which you never lived. With its luxurious crown molding and iconic geometric-patterned ceiling, it’s nothing like the monstrous cineplexes of your suburban hometown. You’re greeted by its hospitable staff and the aroma of freshly popped corn, and though you’re momentarily disillusioned by the lack of Marvel blockbusters, Shattuck Cinemas’ theater seats, plush and inviting, guide you on a cinephilic fantasy. You find yourself in an indie oasis, introduced to the dramas of foreign fare, the quirks of coming of age and the utter shocks of fascinating docs. Imbued with the light of truth, you return to your residence hall, ready to impress your roommates with your worldliness and lead them to the promised land of Shattuck Cinemas.
— Lauren Miller
Best bookstore: Moe’s Books
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Moe’s Books, and what better way to celebrate than to gift it with the title of best bookstore in Berkeley for the seventh year in a row?
A staple on Telegraph Avenue, Moe’s has been a haven for bookworms since 1959. With four floors to peruse — including a rare books section — customers could literally spend an entire day getting lost in the shelves. From fantasy to nonfiction, contemporary to canon, there’s something for everyone here.
With the rise in print sales, it’s clear that — despite what the pessimists may say — people’s love of books isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And Moe’s is the physical embodiment of that love. With endless bookshelves, kind and helpful store clerks and the welcoming smell of paper and ink, Moe’s is a home for all book lovers.
There’s a reason Moe’s wins the title of best bookstore each year, and this time is no exception.
— Chantelle Lee
Best record store: Amoeba Music
If Berkeley has one thing to be proud of, it’s that our Amoeba Music is the 1990-founded flagship store. After all, it’s half the draw of Telegraph Avenue and one of the few long-standing institutions on the famed street. With its free, all-ages live shows and world-class Record Store Day (which happened April 13!), Amoeba Berkeley offers visitors all the music they’ll need. Its inventory stretches from used and new vinyl and CDs to band merchandise and posters alike. Given Amoeba’s size and status as a trading post, you could be just one more visit from finding that elusive LP you’ve been searching for — so why not swing by after class?
It’s no wonder Rolling Stone posed the question in 1998: Is Amoeba “The World’s Greatest Record Store?” The jury may be out, but with the opening of Hi-Fidelity, Berkeley Amoeba’s next-door weed dispensary, at least there are plenty of chances to get high by the beats.
— Caroline Smith and Nick Furgatch
Best tattoo parlor: Zebra Tattoo & Body Piercing
Whether it’s your first tattoo or your 11th, selecting a tattoo parlor and artist can be nerve-wracking and research-intensive. Some tattoos might be spur-of-the-moment decisions, but for many of us, booking an appointment is preceded by weeks of scrolling through an artist’s Instagram or scheduling consultations. Fortunately, whether it be a walk-in or a year-in-the-making appointment, you likely can’t go wrong getting tatted at Zebra Tattoo & Body Piercing.
Visit Zebra on Telegraph Avenue and the first thing that will stand out to you is the friendly, knowledgeable staff. The parlor is kept impeccably clean, and you can pick up anything you might need for tattoo or piercing aftercare. Admire the jungle scene mural as you excitedly wait for your appointment to begin. And while you should never select a tattoo parlor just because the prices are low, Zebra does keep costs reasonable (but of course, remember to leave a tip for the talented artists)! And if you’ve been admiring any of the staff’s gorgeous piercings, there’s never been a better time to get one for yourself.
— Shannon O’Hara
Best thrift shop: Buffalo Exchange
If you’ve ever tried to sell your clothing at Buffalo Exchange, you know how selective the shop can be when choosing pieces to put out on the floor. But for buyers, this is what makes the chain thrift store a local favorite. Stylish brands, ranging from millennial classics such as Forever 21 and American Eagle to upscale labels such as Steve Madden, are offered at bargain prices. For the best steals, peruse the coat rack for your next winter coat, or peak at the shoes on display throughout the store. And if you’re second-guessing whether the dress you tried on really does highlight your features as much as you think it does, just get advice from any one of the impeccably dressed staff members working the floor. Don’t forget to check out the quirky vintage clothing section or the unique jewelry pieces located near the cash register. And if your haul is too much to carry, you can spend a couple extra dollars on one of Buffalo Exchange’s reusable bags, which are so stylish you’ll want to start carrying your books in them too.
— Shannon O’Hara
Best local artist: Luna Velazquez
Many UC Berkeley students slog through the day, putting aside true interests and passions in order to juggle their (likely many) academic and extracurricular obligations. Luna Velazquez is not one such undergraduate. That’s not to say that the sophomore doesn’t have her fair share of responsibilities, but in between facing the mounds of ethnic studies readings she’s assigned and participating in events at the campus Multicultural Community Center, Velazquez purposefully carves out time to write and create music.
The vocalist released her first album, Still Life, in the middle of last year. It’s at once sultry and effervescent, an acutely self-aware 10-piece composition. More than anything, it’s an album devoted to healing, especially for women of color. For Velazquez, writing music is a process of renewal and invigoration, and the end result undeniably reflects as much. Be sure to give Still Life a listen — and to say hello if you see the artist herself around campus!
— Ryan Tuozzolo
Best art gallery or museum: Berkeley Art Center
Enveloped by dogwood trees and the thick, overgrown ivy of Live Oak Park, the Berkeley Art Center, or BAC, offers a serene environment to enjoy the distinct local art of the Bay Area in its gallery and studio. Since 1967, the BAC has been hosting exhibits featuring Bay Area art that reflects contemporary cultural trends. Many of its exhibits follow the historical trends that resonate with Berkeley’s community members and celebrate the diverse and revolutionary thinking of nearby artists.
To coincide with the rise of digital mediums of art, the BAC has begun to incorporate interactive virtual reality technology into its exhibits. Students, teachers, community members and visitors from across the Bay come to the BAC to take workshops or have more intimate interactions with the artists themselves. Unlike at many other art studios, BAC staff members offer visitors the opportunity to engage in direct dialogues with the artists — sometimes taking tours outside of the center and into the city of Berkeley or the larger Bay Area community, thus integrating the BAC and the local community, all while instilling a creative mindfulness into the center’s visitors.
— Layla Chamberlin
Best playhouse: Berkeley Playhouse
Housed on College Avenue in the historic Julia Morgan Theater — built in 1908 on a budget of $2 per square foot — Berkeley Playhouse is an artistic staple, bringing impactful theater to the city of Berkeley. The theater itself is small, creating an intimate theatergoing experience. Audiences in the dark theater become completely engrossed in the events onstage before inevitably spilling out of the tiny lobby into the brightness of the day outside.
Berkeley Playhouse not only puts on five professional shows per year, including beautifully staged classics such as its most recent production of “West Side Story” — it also put son youth productions and offers camps and classes for those interested in theater. It is in this way that Berkeley Playhouse earns its title of the best local playhouse, providing audiences with the best Berkeley theater of today while investing in the talent of tomorrow.
— Grace Orriss
Best nonfood place to take a date: Berkeley Rose Garden
Trudging up the steep hills of Euclid Avenue has never been more worth it. For your next springtime date, hold hands as you stroll through the rows of gorgeous roses, which bloom in a variety of colors such as lavender, white and yellow. While the endless line of parked cars that appear on particularly sunny weekend afternoons might suggest the spot is overly crowded during these times, the garden is spacious enough that you’ll still feel like you’re the only two people there. Cuddle under a blanket on one of the benches conveniently placed between rose beds, or take the stairs to the bottom of the garden to sit by the water as you watch the sun set over San Francisco. Even if the roses aren’t in bloom, you can still enjoy unbeatable views of the Bay. Bust out your old racket for a game of tennis on one of the public courts, or take a stroll through Codornices Park, located just across the street.
— Shannon O’Hara
Best hiking trail: Berkeley Fire Trails
We’re lucky to be on a campus with all the benefits of an urban space but even luckier to be just a quick walk away from some of the nicest hiking in the Bay Area. Extending into the Berkeley Hills is a vast network of winding, intricate trails that span about 7 miles up into the Tilden and Claremont Canyon area. The Berkeley Fire Trails are perfect for a change of pace from the daily grind and a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle of campus life.
The trails are divided into two sections — lower and upper — and are accessible near the UC Botanical Garden and the Lawrence Hall of Science (while you’re there, check out those attractions as well!). Winding up and down the hills, the trails take you through lovely wooded areas and past some truly breathtaking vistas. Keep your eye out for turkeys, deer and other wildlife sightings, too. Another bonus: The trails are marked on Google Maps, so you can plan ahead or have a virtual guide at the ready in order to navigate while you’re there.
— Camryn Bell
Best booth on Telegraph Avenue: Tony B. Conscious
The intersection of Telegraph and Durant avenues is a wonderful snapshot of the interaction between UC Berkeley and the surrounding community, with restaurants packed along the length of both streets, students bustling back to their dorms and apartments and street vendors trying to capture the attention of passers-by. Tony B. Conscious, one of such vendors, has found his niche right at this intersection. Nestled into the corner by the Bank of America, this artist has made his street stall a piece of art in its entirety. His website tells the story of an individual who not only produces visual art but also identifies as a poet, actor and activist. His pieces, which he arranges for view across the sidewalk, are primarily spray-painted over handmade stencils.
With a microphone headset and music blasting, Conscious performs for Berkeley in order to capture folks’ attention to his beautiful pieces of art. A staple of the iconic Telegraph Avenue, he undoubtedly deserves this spot among the Best of Berkeley.
— Malini Ramaiyer
Best place to get Cal gear: Bancroft Clothing Co.
If you’ve recently been admitted to UC Berkeley, the first item on your to-do list is likely to pick up some new Cal swag for you and your family. Located directly across from the edge of campus, Bancroft Clothing Co. offers a number of stylish and well-made sweatshirts, tees and other apparel at a fair price. You can also pick up a handful of smaller souvenirs such as Cal-themed shot glasses, socks, mugs and hats, which can make great thank-you gifts for the high school teachers who wrote your letters of recommendation.
Bancroft Clothing Co. isn’t just the destination of choice for incoming freshmen — current students can refresh their Cal wardrobes before the Big Game (that is, if you even needed an excuse to acquire more Cal gear). If you’re a particularly committed fan, you can even purchase one of the faux fur beanies designed to look like the head of a bear. It’s a fashion choice that’s sure to scare away those pesky Stanford fans.
— Shannon O’Hara
Best health care center: Tang Center
Need a doctor to check up on that really nasty cold that just won’t seem to go away? Check out the Tang Center. Want your prescription conveniently refilled practically on campus? Head on down to 2222 Bancroft Way. Concerned that having a bad day has become more of a norm than an abnormality? Tang’s professional counselors are available to speak with you.
UC Berkeley is a notoriously stressful school to attend — not to mention the fact that college marks the first time many young people are living on their own, away from home. Luckily, the campus health care center is making a concerted effort to look out for everybody on campus, be it through ensuring physical, emotional or mental well-being. Tang has resources for its patients to combat most stressors or common ailments, and its highly skilled staff is consistently friendly and welcoming while doing so. Don’t hesitate to book your appointment if you feel the need, or simply stop by sometime to try out the massage chair!
— Ryan Tuozzolo