Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
Berkeley Art Center
1275 Walnut St.; (510) 644-6893; berkeleyartcenter.org; open W-Su 11am-5pm
Comprised of just one gallery that hosts a rotating exhibit, this art center is a low-stakes, carefree way to look at some art. Better yet, it’s free. Each exhibit is curated around a contemporary social issue. Located outside the hum of downtown, the center is surrounded by greenery and adjacent to Live Oak Park, a great place to sit and contemplate life. You’ll need about half an hour for the gallery, but this place offers far more than just art on the wall. Plan your visit so you can attend an event too! Check online for upcoming artist talks, public classes, and concerts.
Free admission; wheelchair accessible
Sather Tower/The Campanile
Sather Tower, UC Berkeley; visit.berkeley.edu/campus-tourscampanile-tour/; open M-F 10am-3:45pm, Sa 10am-4:45pm, Su 10am-1:30pm and 3pm-4:45pm
Is it called the Sather Tower? Or the Campanile? What’s the carillon? I couldn’t even pronounce Campanile. Whatever: it’s that big pointy thing sticking up over there. An iconic Berkeley landmark, the Campanile offers the best views of Berkeley and beyond. On a clear day, stare right out over the San Francisco Bay and see the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as the San Francisco and Oakland skylines. You’ll get to see all of Berkeley’s campus—well, the roofs, at least. The 307ft. tower was inspired by the Campanile bell tower (yes, a Campanile is a bell tower) in St. Mark’s Square in Venice. During the academic session, the carillon bells are played at 7:50am, 12pm, and 6pm.
Admission $3; cash only; not wheelchair accessible; backpacks and large bags must be checked at desk
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center St.; (510) 642-0808; bampfa.org; open W-Th 11am-7pm, F-Sa 11am-9pm, Su 11am-7pm
Housed in a shiny new building, the University-affiliated art museum features several exhibits, mostly focusing on film. Showing one or two per day, the museum functions as town cinema—one that shows films, not movies, for the cultured academic folk. (Read: snobs.) Grab a latte at the café, which sits in an artistically-shaped room, and then peruse the multiple galleries, most of which show travelling exhibits. The museum’s collection of Buddhist art, if on display, is particularly worth seeing.
Admission $13, students $11, free on first Th of every month and for visitors under 18; check online for scheduled guided tours; wheelchair accessible; check online for film times
Berkeley Botanical Gardens
200 Centennial Dr.; (510) 643-2755; botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu; open daily 9am-5pm
Stroll through this lush garden wonderland and see plants from near and far. You’ll be free to wander its winding paths, which will lead you to the point where its just you and the plants. There’s spotty cell service here, so you’ll really feel like you’re in the wilderness. The garden is divided up into several regions of the world, but still, their sectioning still doesn’t make seeing all of the 12,000 types of plants at the garden manageable. To give it your best shot, budget an hour or two.
Admission $12, students $10, free first W of every month, closed first Th of every month; tours Th-Su 1:30pm; wheelchair accessible
Berkeley Rose Garden
1200 Euclid Ave.; (510) 981-6637; open daily dawn-dusk
Rows and rows of roses (say that ten times fast) are sprinkled across this hillside park, just north of downtown Berkeley. Atop that hill is a stellar view looking down over the town of Berkeley and San Francisco Bay. Its semi-circular layout creates a labyrinth for you to stroll through, as you collect your thoughts or cast them away. Each of its over 250 types of roses are labeled, and are in their best state of bloom in early summer. Smell the flowers, breathe in some fresh air, and get a look at the sparkling bay.
Free admission; wheelchair accessible, but pathways are steep