Are you visiting Berkeley for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to
see and do in Bezerkeley.
When I have a visitor from out of town, I first take them to the Elmwood Cafe. It’s new. It’s old. It’s in my neighborhood. It’s owned and operated by Cafe Fanny veterans, so the attention to detail in the coffee and food is up to expectations. That’s where my peeps from out of town and I regroup and decide what to do next.
There is no such thing as typical Berkeley cuisine. The shear definition of Berkeley cuisine is that it is changing constantly. But there are probably two restaurants that scream Berkeley. One of which would satisfy any visitor from just about any place, and that would be Bette’s Oceanview Diner on 4th Street. The other one would be the famous Chez Panisse.
Bette’s, although upscale when it comes to the idea of a diner, is still affordable and the menu has something for everyone. Go for breakfast or lunch.
Chez Panisse is most affordable for lunch in the Cafe upstairs. Or go for tea or coffee and scones, just to say you’ve been to Alice Waters’ famous restaurant!
Looking for a quiet place to escape and unplug? Check out these two places to unplug in Berkeley, both of them are in garden settings.
The UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens is halfway up Berkeley’s Strawberry Canyon. Take Centennial Drive up the hill behind the Cal Stadium. I’ve both driven and walked it, but it is a hike. There is a small parking lot at the gardens. The gardens have samples of plants from all over the world, including a great collection of South African cyads that look like they came off the set of Lost in Space. There are benches strategically placed throughout the garden to sit and contemplate the landscape, and it’s a great place for a sandwich picnic. Check their web site before going, just because they feature special parts of the garden during the year.
The Berkeley Rose Garden is less effort to see and can be quite romantic, in a Victorian sort of way, when the roses are in bloom. Grown in a tiered amphitheatre, the rose garden includes varieties from all over the world and is meticulously kept. Cordnices park across the street is a great place for a picnic if the weather is cooperating, and it’s connected to the Rose Garden via an underground tunnel.
When you come to Berkeley, get your picture taken in front of Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley Campus. History has been made here many times over.
Looking for cheap food in Berkeley? Go to the student area of Telegraph Avenue for the cheapest eats at lunch time and a wide variety of choices. There is something for everyone’s taste and on a student budget, all within four blocks of the University.
The best vantage points are taken by going to the top of the Campanile on the UC Berkeley campus.
The Berkeley Marina offers great sweeping views of the bay and is the best place to watch or experience the annual Berkeley Kite Festival.
In Berkeley, outdoor enthusiasts will want to hike up one of the many trails into the hills for the views of the San Francisco bay.
Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the paths at the Berkeley Marina for spectacular views of the Bay.
If you are a museum lover, Berkeley’s best museum is The Berkeley Art Museum. It shows a wide range of work and often has interesting contemporary work in its MATRIX shows. and is home to The Pacific Film archive.
Enjoy a night out on the town? For a night of dancing, go to San Francisco. A night out in Berkeley is dinner and movie.
Berkeley is really not the place for late night dining.
The East Bay Express will keep you posted on what’s happening in Berkeley.
You can tell a lot about Berkeley from visiting – and people watching – at the Farmers’ Markets.
In the spring, if you are here in April, you should do some street hiking to experience all the Wisteria in full bloom!
In the summer you should attend a concert at the Greek Theatre.
Did you know that Berkeley is primarily known for its University and the University’s football team? Plan a visit to a game in the fall. The biggest one is when the CAL Bears take on local rival Stanford.
Come to Berkeley for hot chocolate and to peruse the four floors of Moe’s bookstore in the winter, maybe timing it for an author event.
Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked architecture of Berkeley. The city is known for it’s Arts & Crafts period homes and buildings, many designed by Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck. There are a few of them open to the public, like the Berkeley City Club, which is also a hotel. Another way to see Arts & Crafts period homes up close and personal is to scan the homes for sale in the Sunday paper and view them at Sunday Open Houses!
Go to Cafe Fanny for a great breakfast treat or coffee, and buy some bread for later in the day at the Acme Bakery next door.
Just outside of Berkeley you can visit Oakland and have lunch at one of the Taco Trucks in the Fruitvale neighborhood!
The best way to see Berkeley is to walk or ride a bike, but sites are really spread out here. If you are only going to be here for a day or two, having a car would be ideal.
Traveling with kids
Don’t miss the merry-go-round and the steam train in Tilden Park if you have kids traveling with you.
What are your favorite things to do in Berkeley, California?
Thanks to artist-at-large Kimberly Kradel for assistance with this post. All photos courtesy of Kimberly Kradel.