BERKELEY University of California

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Downtown Arts District + Performing Arts
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University of California

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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

Nobel Laureate parking spaces on the U.C. campus in Berkeley, California
Nobel Laureate parking spaces on the U.C. campus

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.

exterior sign at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
exterior sign at Berkeley Art Museum

Cal Performances
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. 

t-shirts at Cal Student Store in Berkeley, California
t-shirts at Cal Student Store

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.  Performance schedule.  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.

campanile on U.C. campus in Berkeley, California
campanile on U.C. campus

Campus Tours  
2200 University Ave./Oxford St., Visitors Center, 101 University Hall.  Free. 
Many different kinds of guided tours are available–think walking tours, golf cart tours, and even virtual tours.  They are 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.

interior of Free Speech Movement Cafe on U.C. Campus in Berkeley, California
interior of Free Speech Cafe on U.C. Campus

Greek Theatre 
2001 Gayley Rd.  Fee.
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.  Free.
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.

International House
2299 Piedmont Ave./Bancroft Way. 
Dormitory with public cafe and dining hall, plus special events. More description and images. 

Lawrence Hall of Science
1 Centennial Dr., below Grizzly Peak Blvd.  Fee; planetarium and 3-D show additional fee; parking fee. 
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 exhibition hall, and the original 5-inch, hand-held cyclotron is displayed inside.

Outside on the vast entry plaza overlooking the San Francisco Bay, kids can climb on a life-size adolescent fin whale and a colorful DNA molecule play structure, and everyone can enjoy the spectacular bay view.   

Though Lawrence Hall of Science exhibits are of prime interest to grade-school children, preschoolers 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.  Most also seem to enjoy tossing small balls into the Gravity Well, a big yellow vortex near the entrance.  Teens respond well to the astronomy shows in the small and interactive planetarium and also particularly like the Ingenuity Lab.  The whole family will enjoy visiting the Animal Discovery Zone to discover more about small animals such as chinchillas and turtles and rabbits, and attending a 3-D show complete wth cool viewing glasses.  Benches are available throughout. Special events are scheduled regularly, including $5 Days.  

Check out the LHS live via webcam.

giant microscope in Hands-On Biotech exhibit at Lawrence Hall of Science

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).

exterior of The Magnus museum in Berkeley, California
exterior of The Magnus museum

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.

triceratops skeleton at Museum of Paleontology on U.C. Berkeley campus
triceratops skeleton at Museum of Paleontology on U.C. Berkeley campus

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.

exhibit at Phoebe Hearst Museum in Berkeley, California
exhibit at Phoebe Hearst Museum

Strawberry Creek
Strawberry Creek gurgles near Faculty Glade.

University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley   
200 Centennial Dr.  Fee; reservations recommended.  Drop-in tour on Sat. & Sun at 1p.m.; free.  No dogs. 
Located behind the campus in lush Strawberry Canyon, this “library of living plants” covers 34 acres and contains more than 10,000 kinds of plants organized into nine major geographic collections.  More than 2,200 are rare or endangered.  Of special interest are the herb garden, rhododendron dell, old rose garden, and Chinese medicinal herb garden featuring more than 90 rare plants.  The California Area occupies about one-third of the garden and represents about 25 percent of the state’s flora.  It is one of the largest species collections of California native plants in the world.  Children particularly enjoy the greenhouse filled with carnivorous plants and the Japanese Pool, where native newts come in winter to mate and lay their eggs.  Additionally, this peaceful spot has a lawn area that is perfect for picnicking, and several picnic tables are also scattered throughout. 

Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden at U.C. Botanical Garden on U.C. campus in Berkeley, Calfornia
Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden at U.C. Botanical Garden on U.C. campus
in Berkeley, California

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. 

blooming corpse flower at Botanical Garden on UC campus in Berkeley, California
blooming corpse flower at Botanical Garden; image courtesy of venue

(; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)