It wouldn’t be Berkeley without the U.C. Berkeley campus (just call it “Cal” if you want to sound like a local). This home to more than 37,000 students is also the unofficial central park for the city. No matter where you wander, you’ll run across dance groups practicing a routine, musicians running through a tricky section of music, or maybe the do-it-yourself student parkour club launching over bannisters and benches. That’s not to mention the occasional free-speech moment or rally with megaphones and placards—part of the Berkeley scene since the ’60s.
To get yourself oriented, buy a ticket to ride the elevator up to the 200-foot observation platform of the century-old, 307-foot-tall Campanile (aka Sather Tower), a handsome landmark that can be spotted from all the way across the bay in San Francisco. From the top, take in the ridiculously good views of Oakland, the City by the Bay, and Golden Gate Bridge. Back on earth, stroll through groves of mature coast redwood, eucalyptus, and oak along Strawberry Creek.
During college football season, Cal football games are a hot ticket, with students, alumni, and anyone else lucky enough to nab a seat packing the university’s stadium when the Golden Bears take to the field. But other star athletes from this Division 1 university can be seen competing without the crush. Check the university website for swim meets, soccer matches, as well as baseball games in the famously snug Evans Diamond, where fly balls ricochet off adjoining buildings, keeping fans on their toes.
For an itinerary of more unofficial, under-the-radar campus highlights, go to the Cal Secret Spots Microguide, curated by Visit Berkeley. Discover places such as the hidden Faculty Club, a Craftsman-style restaurant and event space that has been on campus since 1902, or the sprawling gardens of the chancellor’s house.