If you’re looking to hit the mall, you’re in the wrong place in this artsy and refined city across the bay from San Francisco. Berkeley doesn’t do cookie-cutter anything, including shopping. Instead, seek out items from around the world, one-of-a-kind crafts, and just plain cool stuff.
One of Berkeley’s most appealing shopping districts centers around Fourth Street, best known for its quality housewares and furnishings. You’ll find such well-known outlets as CB2, Design Within Reach, and Sur la Table, as well as California-based Ruby Livingdesign. There are also plenty of places to have a nice lunch, and a plaza that often hosts performing musicians. If you have kids who love all things creepy and crawly, head over to Fifth Street to pop into Vivarium, an exotic pet store with an astounding array of snakes, lizards, frogs, and tarantulas—fascinating even if you’re not considering a new pet. As a consolation, head over to Five Little Monkeys, a toy store that specializes in educational and sustainable toys for children of all ages.
Another worthy destination is the Addison Street Arts District, which is anchored around Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, a nonprofit community performance space long known as an outstanding spot for folk and world music. No need to grab dinner before heading there for a show: The venue’s upscale concessions area offers soup, pizzettas, and ciabatta sandwiches before every performance. Or stroll the Poetry Walk, a stretch of Addison Street sidewalk embellished with snippets of poetry—the only place of its kind in the U.S.