Berkeley Travel Guide 2024

2024 Berkeley Visitors Guide

This California city may have been incorporated on April Fool’s Day in 1878, but there’s nothing foolish about this city of 102,743 people. Berkeley was started by Englishman Robert Jenkins who received a grant for 1,000 acres in this scenic area near the San Francisco Bay. For many years before it became industrialized Berkeley’s primary industry was farming and dairy. Today Berkeley is a multi-ethnic city that is often thought of as the center of the visual arts scene.

Berkeley Fast Facts

  • Berkeley was named after Englishman founder Robert Jenkins’ historic estate in the county of Gloucestershire, England.
  • Founder Robert Jenkins died in 1822 after falling from his horse. He was 45.
  • Berkeley is very compact and only takes up 18 square miles.
  • Almost half (40.94 percent) of Berkeley is water.
  • Berkeley is currently the fourth most populated city in Alameda County following Oakland, Fremont and Hayward.
  • In 1910 Berkeley was the fifth largest city in California.
  • Berkeley is home to the prestigious University of Berkeley, one of the first American universities to allow women to study with men.
  • Berkeley has one of the highest rates of bicycle and pedestrian commuting in the United States.

Berkeley Attractions

Berkeley is the home to many cultural festivals, one of the best known to be the one held by the Jewish Community Center (JCC). Each year the JCC holds a Jewish music festival presenting a large selection of skilled Jewish composers and musicians.

History buffs can visit the Berkeley History Center at 1931 Center Street and see exhibitions and archives. Horse racing enthusiasts should take some time to check out Golden Gates Fields to watch the thoroughbreds race. Live races begin at 12:45 p.m. every Wednesday to Thursday from February 8 to May 7 and August 24 to October 15.

Golden Gates Fields is located on 1100 Eastshore Highway off the I-80 at the Gilman Street exit.

Other places to visit are the Hall of Health (2230 Shattuck Avenue), the Laurence Hall of Science (Centennial Drive), the UC Botanical Garden (200 Centennial Drive), and the Takara Sake Tasting and Museum (708 Addison Street).

The Hall of Health is a health museum sponsored by the Children’s Hospital Oakland and offers interactive exhibits of the human body. The Laurence Hall of Science is a museum dedicated to maths and sciences. It offers an assortment of interactive, hands-on family-friendly workshops on anything from astronomy to fossil finding and carving events to planetarium shows.

The UC Botanical Garden is a 34-acre park that features 12,000 types of plants from all over the world. Admission is free the first Thursday of every month, excluding holidays. The Takara Sake Tasting and Museum lets visitors taste test different sake and plum wine products. Guests also get to see the sake-making process as well as a rare collection of old tools and artifacts.

Berkeley also offers a variety of tours. Those who want to travel further distances are encouraged to visit California Tours on 2015 Center Street. Here visitors can arrange for tours of Yosemite National Park, Los Vegas/Grand Canyon, Wine Country, Los Angeles/Disneyland, and even Hawaii. Shuttle and charter services are available.

Free daily brewery tours can be experienced at the Pyramid Alehouse and Brewery at 901 Gilman Street. Free public tours are also available at the Scharfen Berger Chocolate Maker factory seven days a week. Here visitors get to see the production of chocolate from fine cocoa beans using vintage European equipment. The factory is located at 914 Heinz Avenue. Visitors are encouraged to call to make advance reservations.

Berkeley Recreation

There are several museums to see in Berkeley. A few of them are the Judah L. Magnes Museum (2911 Russell Street), the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles (2982 Adeline Street), the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (103 Kroeber Hall at Bancroft Way), and the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2626 Bancroft Way).

The Judah L. Magnes Museum features items related to Jewish history, life, and culture. The Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles is all about historical lace, textiles, and costumes. Visitors can call for more information. The Anthropology Museum is full of artifacts from Native California, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and even artifacts from ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean.  The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is as the name suggests. It’s all about historical and contemporary art and film.

Berkeley is full of beautiful community parks. A few of the most popular ones for visitors are the Botanic Garden at Tilden Park on Wildcat Canyon Road (510.841.8732), the Peralta/Hopkins and the Rose Garden at the corner of Euclid Avene and Bayview Place.

The Botanic Garden is a 10-acre park with a stunning collection of native plants. It’s open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Lush vegetation, works of art and outdoor meeting places are attractions in the Peralta/Hopkins Community Gardens. And the Rose Garden is named after the 3,000 rose bushes and 250 rose varieties it carries on 3.64 acres of lush land. Reservations recommended.

Nature lovers can also visit the Shorebird Nature Center to see a 100-gallon saltwater aquarium with all sorts of sea creatures from the San Francisco Bay area, and the hands-on wildlife exhibits. The Center is open Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

If visitors are traveling with small children, the Adventure Playground by the Shorebird Nature Center is an ideal location to let children play in the playground’s boats, forts and towers. School year hours are on weekends only 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Summer hours on weekdays are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and weekends 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sports enthusiasts can check out Cal Athletics at #4426, 210 Memorial Stadium. Call for ticket information to see any one of the 27 sports teams compete from August to May of each year.

The Tilden Park Golf Course offers an 18-hold golf course with a driving range and practice green for golfing visitors. Tilden Park also offers a scenic steam train ride 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) year-round. During the summer (June 14 through Labor Day) rides from noon to 5:00 p.m. weekdays are also available. The cost is $1.75 per ride and $7 for a five-ride family ticket. Children under the age of two are free.

Berkeley Arts

Berkeley is bustling with arts entertainment. Dance the night away to live world music at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center at 1317 San Pablo Avenue. Theater lovers can check out live acting shows at the Aurora Theater Center at 2081 Addison Street or the Berkeley Repertory Theater at 2025 Addison Street. See quality dance at the Julia Morgan Center for Arts at 2640 College Avenue.

Enjoy multicultural arts at the La Pena Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Avenue) or fine arts at Expressions Gallery at 2035 Ashley Avenue. Expressions Gallery also has floral art displays.

Berkeley Communities

Berkeley is divided into four main geographic regions: West Berkeley, North Berkeley and Berkeley Hills, Central, and South Berkeley, and Campus and Elmwood.

Approximately 31,000 people live in Campus and Elmwood. This region is 2.5 square miles. Central and South Berkeley is two square miles and is the home to about 26,000 people. It is home to the popular International Food Market located at the intersection of University Avenue and San Pablo Avenue.

North Berkeley and Berkeley Hills is three square miles and home to approximately 29,000 people.

Approximately 17,000 people live in the 2.5 square miles of West Berkeley. West Berkeley works with Central and South Berkeley to organize and maintain the International Food Market, which features ten independently owned food markets.