Berkeley: The Quintessential College Town

Berkeley is often called the quintessential ‘college town’, and for good reason. Besides being at the cross-roads between Oakland and San Francisco, the Berkeley campus and its surrounding area offer a nearly endless number of activities for students. I remember seeing other ‘college towns’ back when I was doing college tours, but other universities’ college towns were essentially comprised of maybe one or two streets of restaurants and cafes. But here at Berkeley’s college town, the world truly feels like your oyster! Whether you’re looking to get outdoors, peruse some art, or explore quirky parts of campus, here’s a list of some of my personal favorite places around the Cal campus.

In the mood for a hike?
1. Fire Trails: This is definitely the number one hiking spot for students and also offers some of the best panoramic views of the Bay Area. There’s tons of different trails all zig zagging through the Berkeley Hills and stretching into Oakland so you’ll never get bored of hiking one route. On a nice sunny weekend afternoon, you’ll often find students will bring snacks and a blanket to one of the many benches located throughout the Trails to relax and watch the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge.

2. Botanical Gardens/Rose Garden: The Gardens offer free admission for Cal students and have stunning arrangement of flora and fauna – over 10,000 types of plants, to be precise! Bring a book or listen to music under the shade of a INSERT tree or next to some fresh roses. Walk around the gardens for a botanical journey around the world, featuring plants from both California as well as Europe and Africa.

3. Big C: If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, the Big C is great for a short but steep hike! Home to the beloved Cal tradition with the Axe, freshman often take a hike up to the Big C with their res hall floor friends during their first week at Cal for one of their floor bonding events.

4. Indian Rock: Located near Grizzly Peak, Indian Rock is a popular spot for aspiring or seasoned rock climbers and also offers a gorgeous view of the Bay. A friend and I once brought take-out dinner and watched the sunset at Indian Rock, making for a very peaceful and delicious evening.

Museum buff?

1. BAM/PFA (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive): Check out Cal’s own art museum and film theater at Downtown Berkeley. Cal students and a guest get free admission to the museum, and exhibits rotate every couple of months and often feature local artists or displays/artifacts from Berkeley’s own art or anthropology departments. In addition, the PFA offers a nice alternative to seeing a movie at the theater – instead students can get discounted tickets to see independent long/short films, documentaries, and video series.

2. Bancroft Library Exhibits: Bancroft Library always has fascinating rotating exhibits, whether showcasing international cartoons or the history of African-American music. A walk around the halls or the exhibition room is always a great way to pass the time in between classes.

3. Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology: Having been renovated and reopened a year ago, this little museum located within Kroeber Hall sports an impressive collection of anthropological artifacts and artwork from all regions of the world. A couple of notable displays include Hawaiian Poi Bowls, Egyptian paintings, and Shuar Shrunken Heads from Ecuador.

4. Lawrence Hall of Science: The Lawrence Hall of Science is the university’s public science center located at the top of the Berkeley Hills. There’s lots of hands-on and interactive displays and exhibits and feels like a more condensed version of the Exploratorium in San Francisco. One of the coolest spots at the Lawrence Hall is their observatory that offers a spectacular view of the campus, Oakland, and San Francisco.

Or just trying to explore interesting places on campus?

1. The Map Library: At the bottom floor of McCone Hall, the Map Library houses a treasure trove of maps, records, and documents . I recently went down there for the first time and found all types of maps showing different counties or landmarks in U.S states or international cities. There were archives that detailed everything from resource use to topography and the geography of U.S counties – although I don’t necessarily need to know how much electricity an Alabaman county used in 1982, it’s still really cool to know that UC Berkeley has that information on file and tucked away in a cabinet!

2. Wurster Galleries: Students’ architectural designs or artwork is often on display throughout Wurster Hall as well as the Wurster Galleries. While Wurster itself is known for its drab outer appearance, the Wurster Library is one of the coziest places to study.

3. Eucalyptus Grove: Need a quiet place to sit? Right next to the Valley Life Sciences Building and near the College of Natural Resources is a grove of real Australian eucalyptus trees that offers a nice little refuge from the hustle and bustle of campus.

And the list could go on and on – every building on campus has something unique to offer and details the amazing work and research that our students and faculty are involved in. Although I’ve been here for four years, there’s so much of the campus I haven’t seen, but the upside of that is there’s always something new to explore both on and off campus! You’ll be a lot of things at Berkeley, but bored definitely isn’t one of them.

Author: Wendie Yeung

Hello! My name is Wendie and I am a senior here at Cal studying Economics with a minor in Public Policy. I'm originally from Sammamish, Washington and am thrilled to have been able to somewhat escape the rain these past couple of years. I have always wanted to come to UC Berkeley because of the Free Speech Movement and wanted to be part of a campus that had such a passionate student body and rich history of activism. Aside from being a campus ambassador, I am involved as a research assistant at the Design for Social Impact initiative, a leadership board member of our Model United Nations team, and serve as a member of the Vice Chancellor's Student Advisory Committee. One of my favorite things about Cal is its diverse plethora of organizations and activities, and my only regret upon graduating will be not having had the time to join all of them! In my spare time, I enjoy reading at one of Berkeley's numerous coffee-shops, hiking on the Fire Trails, and exploring the Bay Area in search of the best Sunday brunch. Post graduation, l'm going to work in technology consulting at Deloitte based in their San Francisco office, so luckily I won't be too far from Berkeley. Thanks for reading, and Go Bears!