University of California campus
University of California
Telegraph Ave./Bancroft Way.
The foremost attraction here is, of course, higher learning. Known for academic excellence, U.C. Berkeley boasts a faculty distinguished by 17 Nobel Prize winners. One additional prize these elite faculty members receive is special reserved parking spaces on the campus.
Many noteworthy facilities on this 1,232-acre campus are open to the public. If you are a visitor traveling to campus on a weekday, the campus offers limited hourly paid parking.
U.C. annual event
Cal Day Open House
Annually in April. Free.
Most of the university departments sponsor exhibits and events, and some campus museums are open to the public only at this event.
U.C. campus attractions
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
2155 Center St./Oxford St., downtown. Fee.
Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAMPFA is now ensconced in its new home—a building that reflects the institution’s unique half art, half film duality by mixing the repurposed existing building that was formerly the U.C. Press printing plant with a freestanding stainless steel-sheathed addition that is swirly and contemporary on the exterior. From the street, passersby can see inside through windows and outside they can view video art on a huge screen at the north end of the building facing Addison Street. This new space is very different from the former dramatic and rustically finished structure that always reminded me of an angular Guggenheim. Old and new have been merged throughout, an example of which is the wood seating sculpture known as the Crane Forum, which was made from the wood of Canary Island pines that were growing on site and had to be cut down for construction. A monumental mural is displayed on the giant Art Wall behind the forum, and periodically the mural is painted over with a new one. The Berkeley Art Museum’s encyclopedic permanent collection stresses modern and Asian art and includes a large collection of paintings by Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann. More images.
One of the leading cinameteques on the West Coast, the Pacific Film Archive has one of five world-class public archival film collections in the U.S. It has the largest collection of Japanese titles outside of Japan and one of the world’s largest collections of silent and early films from the former Soviet Union and pre-1960 Eastern Europe, plus hundreds of experimental movies by West Coast filmmakers. Film programs span world cinema from the silent era to the present and include retrospectives of important directors. Located at the back of the museum’s entry hallway, up a few steps, and through a small red door, the Barbro Osher theater looks much as it did in its prior location on Bancroft Way, but has been updated to state of the art. It is a small (232 seats) black womb filled with seats. The theater is clean, the sound system excellent, and the audience well mannered. No snacks are permitted inside. A smaller theater is integrated into the lower-level galleries, and its short shows are tied in with exhibitions. Also, a research film library is a free public resource.
Fee; some free.
Acclaimed internationally for presenting extraordinary talent, this series is famous for showcasing the latest works of established artists and the debuts of new talent.
Cal Student Store
This is where to get your official U.C. tees and caps.
In center of campus. Fee for elevator.
Modeled after the slightly taller campanile in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, this campus landmark stands 307 feet tall–the equivalent of 30 stories. Its more formal name is Sather Tower. When classes are in session, 10-minute mini-concerts are hand-played on its 61-bell carillon three times each weekday at 7:50 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. On Sundays, a 45-minute recital is performed at 2 p.m.–the perfect time to enjoy a picnic on the surrounding lawn. An elevator takes visitors up 200 feet to an observation platform for a 360-degree view of the area. See the falcons that nest atop the campanile.
2200 University Ave./Oxford St., Visitors Center, 101 University Hall. Free.
This guided tour is a good way to get an overview of the campus. A self-guiding tour brochure is also available.
Free Speech Movement Cafe
U.C. Campus, in Moffitt Undergraduate Library.
Who knew the old days are being celebrated in this cheery campus cafe? Well, the young students do, the ones who weren’t born yet when the Free Speech Movement was happening. They sit in front of their computers in front of gigantic black-and-white murals of Mario Savio famously speaking (freely) while standing atop that car. Check it out over salads, sandwiches, and coffees.
2001 Gayley Rd.
Big acts book into this impressive amphitheater because of its incredible acoustics and enthusiastic audiences. Designed by Julia Morgan. It also offers a delicious aesthetic experience for the audience that finds itself outside on a beautiful sunny day or under the stars on a spectacular clear night. Tickets are usually general admission, so plan to arrive early to claim a seat.
Grinnell Natural Area
Entrance near University Ave., across the street from BAMPFA at the southeast corner.
Dedicated to the late professor Joseph Grinnell, who was the campus’s first director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, this shady spot is home to majestic redwood trees, coast live oaks, and Monterey pines, as well as to an impressive Eucalyptus grove.
2299 Piedmont Ave./Bancroft Way.
Dormitory with public cafe and dining hall, plus special events. More description and images.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Free. Must be age 16+.
During this 2 ½-hour tour, visitors receive a general Lab Overview, which includes highlights of the 25 scientific breakthroughs discovered at Berkeley Lab–as it is popularly known. Visitors also tour the Advanced Light Source (ALS) and the Molecular Foundry–Berkeley Lab’s Nanoscience Research Facility. More description and images.
Lawrence Hall of Science
1 Centennial Dr., below Grizzly Peak Blvd.
Located high in the hills behind the campus, this hands-on museum was established by the university in 1968 as a memorial to Ernest Orlando Lawrence, who developed the cyclotron and was the university’s first Nobel laureate. The 65-ton electromagnet that was used to provide a large magnetic field for the 27-inch cyclotron in the early 1930s is displayed outside in front of the hall, and the original 5-inch, hand-held cyclotron is displayed inside the hall. Special events are scheduled regularly. Though exhibits are of special interest to grade-school children, pre-schoolers especially enjoy the water area of the outdoor Forces that Shape the Bay exhibit (picnic tables are provided here) and the Design Quest activity room with crafts materials galore. Teens often respond to the astronomy shows in the small Holt Planetarium and also like the Ingenuity Lab. The hall’s permanent exhibits include a seismic recorder and the Nano area, where you will discover a world that is normally too small to see. Couches and chairs are found throughout for resting. On weekends, the Animal Discover Room permits finding out more about small animals such as chinchillas and turtles. Outside on the vast entry plaza overlooking the San Francisco Bay, kids can climb on a life-size adolescent fin whale and a DNA molecule play structure.
The short-order The Bay View Cafe dispenses well-priced fare—including several choices for vegetarians and vegans—and provides a magnificent panoramic view of the bay and San Francisco.
Check out the LHS live via webcam.
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
2121 Allston Way, downtown. Free.
The first Jewish museum established in the western U.S., the Magnes focuses on the art and history of the Jewish experience. It recently got a new home and name and is now a research unit of U.C.’s Bancroft Library, with an archives, library, and museum. Its public galleries focus on Jewish Art (painting and sculpture, photography, works on paper and artist books, as well as digital and mixed media) and Jewish Life (thousands of objects representing personal and family rituals, synagogue and communal life, and the social interactions among Jewish and host communities in the Global Jewish Diaspora throughout history).
Museum of Paleontology
Near Oxford St./University Ave., 1101 Valley Life Sciences Bldg. Free.
Initiated in the 1860s, this is a research museum with limited public exhibits. Its collection of fossils is one of the largest and oldest in North America, and displays include a complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and the largest Triceratops skull ever found.
In the same building (room 3101; free), the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology holds one of the largest and most important collections of vertebrates in the world. Room 3101. Free.
Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
Bancroft Way/College Ave., 103 Kroeber Hall. Fee.
Part of the campus since 1901, this museum houses the largest anthropological research collection (more than 4 million artifacts) in the western U.S. Exhibits change regularly.
Strawberry Creek gurgles near Faculty Glade.
University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley
200 Centennial Dr. Fee; reservations recommended.
Located behind the campus in lush Strawberry Canyon, this “library of living plants” covers 34 acres and contains more than 13,000 different types of plants organized by continent of origin. Of special interest are the herb garden, rhododendron dell, California native plants area (this is the world’s largest collection, and it includes about 1/4 of the state’s native species), old rose garden, and Chinese medicinal herb garden featuring more than 90 rare plants. Children particularly enjoy the greenhouse filled with carnivorous plants and the lily pond stocked with colorful koi. Additionally, this peaceful spot has a lawn area that is perfect for picnicking, and several picnic tables are also scattered throughout.
The magnificent Mather Redwood Grove is located across the street and requires a gate code. The 5-acre grove was planted in 1932 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and now contains 474 coast redwoods. It became part of the garden in the early 1970s. The grove features trails and California native plants and shrubs appropriate to redwood forests, plus picnic tables, paths, and an amphitheater that is the site of summer concerts. The main garden’s Asian Area features all three types of redwood–the coast redwood (this species has the world’s tallest trees; the giant sequoia (has the world’s most massive trees); and the dawn, which was thought to be extinct until 1943, when it was discovered in China.
A 1911 Julia Morgan building, now known as Julia Morgan Hall, was relocated in 2015 from the campus to here and is now open for some events. Originally it served as the senior women’s social hall on campus.
(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)