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Travel Guide to Berkeley, California

Updated on May 20, 2012
Downtown Berkeley with San Francisco beyond
Downtown Berkeley with San Francisco beyond | Source

Berkeley, California is one of the most unique cities you can visit. With its reputation for activism, great artists, world-renowned eateries, and progressive politics, you'll be sure to have a colorful and fun-filled time. Here are the highlights that you should check out on your vacation to Berkeley.

Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue is quintessential Berkeley. A visit here is as close as you can get to traveling back in time. The feel is decidedly 1960s, and you'll get to experience some hippie culture. An eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and street vendors line this famous street. Often on weekends (especially near Christmas) traffic will be blocked off for a street fair of local artists and vendors.

Shattuck Avenue

Here you'll find more shops and eateries. There are two main sections of Shattuck. In Downtown Berkeley you'll find shops, popular hangouts, and some nightlife. The Downtown Berkeley BART Station is in the middle of it all at the corner of Shattuck and Center. A little farther north is what's lovingly called the Gourmet Ghetto. This has a more boutique feel and some of the best restaurants in town (and considering Berkeley's known for its food, there are some pretty good places). Cheese Board is a unique take on Pizza if you're looking for something a little different. They'll frequently have live jazz music, and its always quite busy. Chez Panisse is world-renowned (yes, really) and serves a different selection of locally-grown meals daily. This is a great place for a nice evening out.

Sather Tower
Sather Tower

Sather Tower

This is a must-see. Sather Tower, also known as the Campanile, is the bell tower located at the heart of UC Berkeley's campus. You'll be able to see it from nearly everywhere in town. Go up to the viewing deck for an awesome panoramic view of the entire Bay Area. The carillon (belled instrument at the top of the tower) has concerts morning, noon, and night during the week and in the afternoon on the weekends. If you're at the viewing deck during one of these concerts, you may want to bring along some earplugs. It's really loud!

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

World-renowned research comes out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. They offer public tours of their facilities. Be sure to make a reservation.

Berkeley Marina

Head to the Berkeley Marina if you're looking for watersports. There's also Shorebird Park Nature Center if you're looking for something educational about the Bay. After you're done touring, there are a handful of nice waterfront restaurants with beautiful views.

UC Botanical Garden

UC Botanical Garden is a research garden and museum operated by UC Berkeley. It features a diverse collection of plants including many endangered and rare species. If you're looking for an educational afternoon or just a pretty walk, this is a great excursion. It's on Centennial Drive tucked in the hills just behind campus.

Berkeley Municipal Rose Garden

Looking for a picturesque stroll? This amphitheater-shaped garden has a beautiful view of the bay and a massive variety of beautiful roses. It was constructed as a Public Works Administration Project in 1937. It is located on Euclid Avenue between Bay View Place and Eunice Street.

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Tilden Park

No travel guide to Berkeley would be complete without mentioning Tilden Park. Tilden Park is a 2,079 acre park just at the back door of Berkeley. Accessed from Shasta Road, Canon Drive, Grizzly Peak Boulevard, or South Park Drive, you hardly have to leave the city for an outdoor adventure. Here you can hike, fish, swim, and bicycle. There is also a golf course, merry-go-round, steam train, and botanic garden. Activities are suitable for all ages. You could spend a few hours or a few days here.

Performing Arts

If you're looking for a concert, check out the William Randolph Heart Greek Theater. Hear popular artists in this beautiful outdoor venue. For a more traditional performance hall, there's Zellerbach Auditorium. It offers all sorts of events from symphonies and ballet to plays and comedy.

Museums

Want to museum hop in Berkeley? The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has a great collection of art and films. Exhibits rotate so check ahead to see what will be there. The Pheobe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology is located on UC Berkeley's campus and houses the largest anthropological collection in the Western United States. The collection is highly diverse, so you'll be able to find something you like.

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    • LaMamaLoli profile image

      LaMamaLoli 5 years ago from London

      aaaaghhh! I've really got to stop reading travel hubs. Now I want to go there and my list is already long enough! I really enjoyed your hub it was interesting and thorough.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      very nice descriptions of berkeley. voted up as interesting!

    • Modern Lady profile image
      Author

      Modern Lady 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      LaMamaLoli, glad you enjoyed it, but what's the matter with a long list?

      Ruchira, thanks for stopping by.

    • LaMamaLoli profile image

      LaMamaLoli 5 years ago from London

      Nothing wrong with long list, except the longer it gets the more unreal it feels as I want to go everywhere NOW! And I can't!!

    • Modern Lady profile image
      Author

      Modern Lady 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      LaMamaLoli, better start working on it!

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      All my siblings went to UC Berkeley and my fiance's siblings and THEIR husbands are graduates from there too! So we've often visited the city and walk around downtown, feeling like hippies. I love the ambience. The campus is really beautiful too. You've mentioned some of Berkeley's main attractions. I have yet to visit Tidden park though. Great hub, wonderful pictures, and nicely written. Thanks for sharing!

    • Modern Lady profile image
      Author

      Modern Lady 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Turtlewoman, I'm a Cal graduate as well, and I absolutely love the city of Berkeley. There are so many wonderful places hidden in it. If you get a chance you should try to make it to Tilden Park. The train ride and carousel are really fun, or if you'd prefer an outdoor adventure there are some really great hikes.

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