8 Things to do in Berkeley, California

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I only applied to two Colleges back in the late 1970s. I went to college in upstate New York but my fallback school was the University of California at Berkeley. Because of that, I enjoy visiting Berkeley and seeing what life might have been like. It is not that hard to picture because parts of Berkeley still look like they are in the 1970s.

Telegraph Avenue

This colorful street starts at the campus and is a great place to buy tie-dye, crystals, and jewelry from the street vendors. Even if you are not shopping for any of those items, a stroll down this street has some great people watching. To get here drive east on Durant Ave and park in the large parking garage between Dana St and Telegraph Ave.

Rasputin Music

Our first stop is at the corner of Telegraph and Canning and it is the iconic music store Rasputin Music. You can still find vinyl records here, tons of used CDs as well as more recent CDs and DVDs. You might also find, as we did, a live band performing.

Mars

There are plenty of modern shops on Telegraph but keeping with the retro theme, check out the “Vintage Thrift” clothing at Mars.

Sproul Plaza

Turn back to the North and head to the end of the street where it meets the campus to find the center of the free speech movement in the 1960s. If school is in session you will find numerous groups “tabling”, that is recruiting other students or promoting ideas from tables stacked with pamphlets. The bookstore is here if you want to buy a new Cal Bears sweatshirt.

University of California at Berkeley

Take a self-guided tour of the oldest school in the University of California system. Its students are some of the brightest minds in the country (average freshman weighted GPA is 4.1) but unlike the ivy league, they represent a much broader social spectrum. Hint: Don’t wear red, that is the color of Berkeley’s arch-rival Stanford.

Sather Tower Carillon

Time your visit right and you can hear one of the performances of the Sather Tower Carillon which plays 3 times a day. At the start of finals week, the performance is traditionally a dirge.

Lunch

Grab a slice of pizza at Blondies which is an institution (although a bit underwhelming) or a Crepe next door at Crepes-A-Gogo but don’t fill up because the best is yet to come.

Cream

To cap your visit get a cookie sandwich for only $1.50 at Cream on Telegraph and Channing (Cream is fairly new, and Google street view still shows a Beard Papas at that location). Two freshly baked cookies with a scoop of ice cream between them. What could be better? I got the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies with cinnamon and caramel ice cream. Yum.

 

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

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