Summer is here and the land of the free and the home of the brave beckons! Here are my suggestions on how to spend a sunny day in Berkeley – views AND eats. Start off the day by going right up the Berkeley hills to Tilden Park. Wander around, take short hikes, and ride the toy steam locomotives filled with enthusiastic adults and kids.
Some are so tiny you gotta see to believe! And the place is crawling with adult steam train enthusiasts who often bring their own “toys” to display!
From Tilden one can work backwards down the hills towards campus. On the way a stop at the Lawrence Hall of Science is mandated. Get the kids to climb on the whale sculpture, or learn some science on the fly!
If you are lucky enough to have a clear day and the stop is in late evening then you have a treat waiting for you. Walk to the edge of the terrace and feast your eyes! Three bridges and two cities lie in front of your eyes.
Keep going downhill and you arrive at the U C Berkeley Botanical gardens. A large and sprawling garden (I think there is an entrance fee – the best things in life are NOT free!), it is divided into sections for different kinds of vegetation.
One of my favorite spots is the dawn redwood grove near the Japanese pond. This living fossil is amazing for its verdant foliage and majestic yet graceful stature.
The other is the miniature recreation of the pygmy forest of the Mendocino region. Pack a picnic lunch to eat in the rose garden and enjoy the views around and afar.
Moving downhill towards campus, the football stadium is spectacular and a game is just the ticket if you want to see college sports enthusiasm, big brass bands and cheerleaders!
NOTE: For another day, there is a hike through Strawberry Canyon with spectacular views all around.
On campus make sure to stop at Sproul Plaza – maybe some madness will be ongoing! Remember that this is where it all began in the 60s and then governor Reagan ordered teargassing! From the Wiki:
“The combination of a stairway that can be used as a large raised platform and a ready audience makes Upper Sproul Plaza a popular location for student protests, the first of which occurred in 1964 during the Free Speech Movement, when Mario Savio spoke from the Sproul Hall steps, and folk singer Joan Baez gave an early performance. A small round brass marker, embedded in the concrete, declares them as the “Mario Savio Steps.” Upper Sproul Plaza was also the site of early teach-ins and protests against the Vietnam War, the 1969 tear gassing of People’s Park protesters by the National Guard, 1985 protests against University investment in apartheid-era South Africa, and many other political events.”
Here is a rare Ansel Adams picture of Sproul Plaza in its calmer moments:
And then a walk through the historic Sather Gate leads you into the temple of learning that is UCB!
If you’d rather run away from the “temple of learning” then run towards Bancroft avenue and the maze of stores and eating places. I recommend Mario’s LaFiesta – cheap family style Mexican food, the Chili Rellenos are outstanding. Or just go down University avenue to Long Life Vegi House for an all vegetarian and excellent meal. On Shattuck are another couple of favorites – Cha -Am Thai Cuisine (try the Green curry Thai HOT if you dare) or just a few doors down is an institution! Alice Water’s Chez Panisse is worth a visit. I usually go upstairs to the cafe as they have more choices and better prices.
Hope you have fun!
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