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Berkeley Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in BerkeleyWhere to Stay
Although Berkeley doesn't have quite as many high-end hotels as San Francisco, you can still live the high life at the classic Claremont Hotel and Spa. Social and cultural life in Berkeley is dominated by the the university campus, so staying near the college at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza is another good choice. University Street, the main corridor connecting the UC Berkeley campus and I-80, offers many comfortable and moderate lodgings, as well.
Avoid: Telegraph Avenue hotels unless you like night noise.
Hot Tips: Contact UC Berkeley for discount stays in dorms and other university locales.
What to Eat
Since most of downtown Berkeley is defined by campus life, you'll find dozens of grab-and-go restaurants, such as the charismatic Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe. If you're looking for high-end gourmet, Alice Waters started the organic food movement with her famous Chez Panisse restaurant right in Berkeley. And if Chez Panisse is booked, skip across the street for some delectable pizza at the always popular Cheese Board.
Take It or Leave It: Winding through campus from small cafe to cafe is not a bad way to spend a day in Berkeley.
Hot Tips: Reservations for lunch at Chez Panisse are much easier than dinner.
Be Sure to Sample: Tri-tip at Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe.
Things to See
There is undeniably one main attraction in Berkeley: the University of California. This world-class learning center has Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners speaking on a weekly basis, so be sure to check the university calendar for upcoming events. If you need to stretch your legs after a long lecture, hike up Strawberry Canyon for a good workout and a grand view of the Bay. You can visit the Lawrence Observatory at the top and smell the flowers at the Berkeley Rose Garden on the way down.
Avoid: Driving to Berkeley on college football game days.
Take It or Leave It: If you like Haight Street in San Francisco, you'll enjoy Telegraph Avenue of Berkeley.
Hot Tips: The Berkeley Arboretum is free once a month - check their schedule.
Places to Party
As young as San Francisco feels, Berkeley is younger - and has thousands of undeclared majors to prove it. If the university is the young heart of this city, then Telegraph Avenue is its most wild appendage, with nightlife focused on live music and all-night raves most days of the week. If you need something a bit slower, head a few streets down to Shattuck Avenue, especially the ever-popular Jupiter Bar right up from the downtown BART station.
Take It or Leave It: Berkeley's nightlife is nearly shut down when school is out.
Hot Tips: Get your money and your hops' worth of beer with Jupiter's house-brewed Quasar, a Double India Pale Ale.
Where to Shop
If you want to shop until you drop, jump on the BART and hit San Francisco's endless shopping possibilities. If you really want to bring something home that says Berkeley, the tie-dye shops on Telegraph might do the trick, as well as the classic record store Amoeba and the legendary bookstore Moe's. Or get straight to the heart of Berkeley: grab a Berkeley Bears T-shirt at the University Bookstore to impress your friends back home.
Avoid: Hawkers on Telegraph - they know not what they sell.
Hot Tips: The Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings has wonderful, local food and some interesting local crafts.
Best Local Souvenir: A Moe's book with a free Moe's book marker.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Notable for its history of liberalism and social activism, Berkeley has a refreshingly open-minded approach to life and the world in general. Although it has experienced some public unrest at times, especially during the 1960s when every issue seemed to have a political side, the city as a whole has redirected its energies and experienced the sort of cultural flowering that is usually only seen in larger cities. The aging hippie population is still present and occasionally quite vocal, but the overall feel of Berkeley today isn't of rebellion and anger, but rather of acceptance, tolerance and creativity. This mindset has led to an impressive variety of cultural opportunities. There are several theater and dance companies, and live music is offered every single night of the week, somewhere. Folks in Berkeley tend to favor jazz, folk, world music and indie rock, and venues are a bit smaller than you may be used to, but that just serves to make the experience more personal. Art galleries, music stores and book shops abound, along with museums, public festivals and impromptu street corner concerts. Dining in Berkeley is a unique experience too — it has a flavor all its own. Inspired by the success of businesses such as... Read more »