While not as large as some of its neighbors, Berkeley carries more punch per square mile than any other city in the Bay Area. While its reputation as a liberal city ensures plenty of opportunities for people watching, preparation goes a long way in having the right experience.There are surprises to be had in this community north of Oakland. Do not act surprised if and when you come across a protest just go with the flow and rest assured that more conventional entertainment can also be had.
Journey to the heart of the city where the University of California campus hosts not only a politically charged atmosphere but also more than 30 museums. With few lines with which to contend, it is easy to visit them while still maintaining a pace to the day. Researching current exhibitions on the campus website beforehand will ultimately will be worth the time and effort.
Learn about Ishi, the last wild Indian who lived on the campus during the early 20th century. The Phoebe A. Heart Museum is within easy reach of public transportation. Housing the largest anthropological collection in the Western U.S., this museum also routinely displays artifacts from ancient cultures throughout the world. Free admission is a price hard to beat. Scheduling ahead can lead to a fuller tour of the museum’s collection at five dollars a head.
Art lovers might want to head over Bancroft Avenue on the south side of the campus to the Berkeley Art Museum. The modernist building thrives upon a diverse range of exhibitions known for “artistic innovation, intellectual exploration, and social commentary.” Past exhibitions have focused on themes such as Islamic identity, Chinese painting and alternative communities. Innovative artists including Sebastiao Salgado, Brue Nauman and Jay DeFee make their presence known here.
As the hour turns you may here a chime. Looking up you see a faraway tower and hear what sounds like pop-music played with bells. Following your instincts will take you to Sather Tower. An imposing structure of 307 feet, riding the elevator to the top of “The Campanile” offers panoramic views of San Francisco Bay hard to find elsewhere. If you arrive at the right time, you can also enjoy the carillon, a keyboard instrument that utilizes sets of bells rather than strings. If you plan ahead, your request for a specific song can be played.
Jewish music is alive and well in Berkeley, home to the world famous Jewish Music Festival. Good music mixes with a celebration of the Jewish experience and identity in a multicultural world. The festival’s website offers information on upcoming events both in the city and throughout the world.
Be prepared for Chez Panisse. This restaurant in North Berkeley through its creator Chef Alice Waters defines California cuisine but reservations must be made in advance. Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton was unable to secure a spot in the dining room the day he called. It might be the best meal you’ve ever had and a proper climax to an exciting day in Berkeley.