Prospective students, history buffs, or anyone interested in learning about the town’s most profound cultural influence should take advantage of the free campus tours (reservations required), which depart Monday through Saturday at 10am, and Sunday at 1pm from the Visitor Services center, 101 Sproul Hall (tel. 510/642-5215; www.berkeley.edu/visitors), The student-led tours are heavily used by prospective scholars, so in springtime your group may swell to 200 and your guide may dwell rather tediously on the school’s rivalry with Stanford, but everyone is welcome, and you’ll get heaps of fascinating historical information about the educational institution that fomented some of the strongest protests of the 1960s and 1970s. There are tons of milestones that Cal is responsible for, including the discovery of vitamins B, E, and K, plutonium, uranium 238, and the stumpy London plane tree, a hybrid that you’ll only see here and in San Francisco.
A noteworthy building you’d only have access to on the tour (or with a student ID) is Le Conte Hall, where the first atom splitters did their work. (Keep your eyes peeled for parking signs that read, in total seriousness, reserved for nl—meaning Nobel Laureate; you know the parking situation is grim if you need a Nobel Prize to get a space.) The Doe & Moffitt Library doesn’t allow public access to the 10 million books in its stacks, but its lobby areas, lined with glass cases filled with priceless manuscripts, is open to all. In a reading room upstairs, you’ll also find Emanuel Leutze’s 1854 “Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth,” which was intended to be a companion piece to his “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (now at New York’s Met). Your tour will end with a discussion of the messy student protests for freedom of speech, in 1969, that resulted in the death of a student protester.
UC Berkeley has two noteworthy museums. The first is the hands-on, kid-friendly Lawrence Hall of Science (east of campus at 1 Centennial Drive, tel. 510/642-5132; www.lawrencehallofscience.org). Open daily from 10am to 5pm. Admission is $17 for adults; $14 for seniors 62 and over, students, and children 7 to 18; $11 for children 3 to 6; and free for kids 2 and under. The second is the UC Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, between College and Telegraph Avenues (tel. 510/642-0808; www.bampfa.berkeley.edu), which features paintings, a sculpture garden, a library, and a film study center. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Admission is $10 for adults; $7 for seniors, non–UCB students, visitors with disabilities, and children 17 and under; and $6 for UCB students.
Cal also boasts the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theater, an 8,500-seat outdoor amphitheater, that’s been host to the greatest talent and celebrities of the last century, from Elvis to the Grateful Dead to the Dalai Lama. Chances are there’s a fantastic show during your visit, where you’ll take in the amazing acoustics while enjoying views of the entire bay and San Francisco skyline. There’s not a bad seat in the house, but you may want to pay for reserved seating unless you plan to get there early to claim a spot on the lawn. Check the website for the calendar or call the box office (tel. 510/642-9988; https://commerce.cpsma.berkeley.edu/CPPresents/calendar) for more information.
Golden Gate Park might have the name recognition, but Berkeley has some of the most extensive and beautiful parks around. Plus you can count on temperatures being 10 to 20 degrees warmer than San Francisco. If you want to wear the kids out or enjoy hiking, swimming, sniffing roses, or just getting a breath of California air, head for Tilden Park, where you’ll find plenty of flora and fauna, hiking trails, an old steam train and merry-go-round, a farm and nature area for kids, and a chilly tree-encircled lake. The East Bay’s public transit system, AC Transit (tel. 511; www.actransit.org), runs the air-conditioned no. 67 bus line around the edge of the park on weekdays and all the way to the Tilden Visitors Center on Saturdays and Sundays. Call tel. 888/327-2757 or see www.ebparks.org for further information.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.