I’m here to help you find fun things to do in Berkeley CA that you didn’t even know existed during your next trip to Northern California. One of the most popular college towns in California, Berkeley caters to more than just college students with its bohemian spirit and historic charm.
These claims aren’t just speculation, I’ve lived in California my entire life and have traveled to Berkeley multiple times. I’ve had a chance to experience the best of Berkeley and decide which activities are the top things to do in town.
In this article, I will not only fill you in on what to do in Berkeley but also provide helpful tips on where to stay in Berkeley and how to get around!
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Things to Do in Berkeley
- Cruise Around the San Francisco Bay
- Berkeley Art Museum
- Berkeley Rose Garden
- Lawrence Hall
- Berkeley Marina
- Museum of Paleontology
- UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley
- Greek Theatre
- Adventure Playground
- Downtown Berkeley
- Tilden Regional Park
- Berkeley Hills
- UC Berkeley Campus
- Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve
- Gourmet Ghetto
- Sibley Volcanic Regional Park
- Berkeley Poetry Walk
- Shorebird Park Nature Center
- Berkeley Jazz Festival
- FAQs About What to Do in Berkeley
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19 Best Things to Do in Berkeley
Cruise Around the San Francisco Bay
Located in the eastern region of San Francisco, Berkeley California has great views of the San Francisco Bay. This is one of the best things to do in Berkeley, being that the city was built around the iconic bay.
Visitors can enjoy picturesque views on a luxurious cruise around the bay, complete with meals and drinks included. Most visitors, however, prefer a more touristy, informational boat tour over the calm Northern California waters of the San Francisco Bay.
Also one of the top things to do in San Francisco, the most popular Berkeley boat tour is a cruise over to the Golden Gate Bridge, only a short ride away. Experience the sunset as you’ve never before by layering up and going for a guided cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge.
🛎️ Need a hotel? The DoubleTree Berkeley Marina hotel is one of the closest to the Berkeley Marina, where most boat tours depart. Stay here if you want to take a sunrise boat tour or if you want a view of the whole bay from your hotel window.
Berkeley Art Museum
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is one of the best things to do in Berkeley California for a casual day out on the town. Located on the University of California, Berkeley campus, it is one of the most popular attractions for both college students and the general public.
The art collection is internationally-recognized and is comprised of more than 22,000 works of art. The museum is also Berkeley’s premier visual arts venue with more than 450 film screenings annually.
The most notable collections at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive are the Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese paintings, Old Master works on paper, Abstract Expressionist paintings, and the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm.
Berkeley Rose Garden
With over 3 acres of roses, the Berkeley Rose Garden is a rose-lovers paradise. Experience the sweet scent of the flowers in a calm, Northern Berkeley atmosphere for the perfect lunchtime activity in the city.
The Berkeley CA Rose Garden caters to leisure-seeking visitors and offers much more than its huge garden. You will also find tennis courts, hiking trails, picnic tables, an amphitheater, and an ornamental pool throughout the property.
The rose garden has views of the whole city, the San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge, making this spot an ideal location for a photoshoot. You will find over 250 rose varieties in the garden, during peak bloom in mid-May. The park is open from 6 am-10 pm daily.
Officially known as the Lawrence Hall of Science, this science center is located on the UC Berkeley CA campus and is open to the public. It is one of the best things to do in Berkeley if you are interested in getting a glimpse of Berkeley college life.
Lawrence Hall offers hands-on science exhibits and a 3D theater that showcases nature and science films. Some of the current activities offered at Lawrence Hall are games like Well Played!, Fold & Fly, and Connect.
Kids also enjoy the Cambrian Explosion exhibit and the live animals on display during the Animal Ambassadors activity. If you are traveling with small children, this is the perfect activity to do in Berkeley CA but adults are also guaranteed to enjoy the many hands-on activities at the Lawrence Science Hall.
Take a stroll down to the Berkeley Marina for a relaxing Berkeley afternoon or evening. You will get the best views of San Francisco Bay from the marina, so make sure to bring your camera!
The Berkeley Marina is just a short drive from Downtown San Francisco and is the best place in town to find the most delicious, freshly-caught seafood. You will also find most boat tours departing from the Berkeley Marina area.
Stay in a hotel at the Berkeley Marina for some of the best views of the San Francisco Bay. Watch boats roll in and out of the harbor, fishermen catching their dinner, and families strolling hand-in-hand down the dock.
Museum of Paleontology
Who doesn’t like learning about dinosaurs? The Berkeley Museum of Paleontology is enjoyed by visitors of all ages but is especially popular among children.
Located on the UC Berkeley California campus in the Valley Life Sciences Building, this museum is the leading paleontology research center in Northern California. You will find one of the largest paleontology collections at UC Berkeley over any other university in the world.
The museum also offers other prehistoric information through its paleobotany, microfossils, and ancient invertebrates and vertebrates exhibits. In addition, the Museum of Paleontology also has public programs like short weekend courses, docent-led tours, and a research lab open house.
Lovers of paleontology can access the museum’s online resources if the drive to the Berkeley CA museum is too far out of the way.
UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (510) 643-2755 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm daily, closed first and third Tuesday of each month | Entrance: $15, adult, $12 seniors, non-students, $7 under 18 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking
Not to be confused with the Berkeley Rose Garden, the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley offers a much wider variety of native California flora. This 34-acre garden is located on the UC Berkeley California campus and is visited by students and the general public.
Enjoy more than 10,000 types of plants at the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley from native California plants to plants from around the world. Founded in 1890, this Berkeley CA botanical garden is a part of the university’s rich history.
The UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and is the perfect way to spend your morning in town. Take food for a picnic and enjoy the solitude that the garden has to offer. There’s nothing better than falling asleep to the song of birds.
This huge, 8,500-seat outdoor amphitheater is the best place to go in Berkeley California if you appreciate the performing arts. Immersed in the foothills of UC Berkeley, the Greek Theatre overlooks the iconic San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Greek Theatre has hosted a wide variety of performers and entertainers throughout its 100 years of history such as Theodore Roosevelt and the 14th Dalai Lama. The theater takes advantage of the summer months in Northern California with non-stop concerts.
This outdoor amphitheater is one of the best things to do in Berkeley for music lovers. Past concerts included The Grateful Dead, Phish, Tom Petty, Joan Baez, Pearl Jam, and more! The layout of the outdoor Greek Theatre amphitheater amplifies the music from every seat, making it an enjoyable experience for all.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (510) 981-6720 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm Monday – Friday, 11 am-5 pm Saturday & Sunday | Entrance: Free (during regular weekend hours during the school year & summer hours), $10 per child for the after-school program (Monday through Friday 2:30-5:00 pm) | 👉 Browse Hotels on Expedia
Berkeley’s Adventure Playground is a unique, low-budget, artsy playground for children. Located on University Avenue, the Adventure Playground is a kid’s favorite activity in Berkeley CA.
There are many forts, boats, towers, a zip line, and building tools for children under 18 to utilize. This playground opened in 1979 and has been a top attraction for children ever since.
For $10 a day, children have the opportunity to build, create, and learn self-confidence at this innovative playground. The attraction is open from 11 am-5 pm daily and there is always a supervisor on the premises to regulate the usage of building tools.
Satisfy your taste buds with a trip to Downtown Berkeley California. This area of Northern California city has the highest concentration of global restaurants, trendy coffee shops, and bars with live musical performances.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Repertory Theater are also located downtown, a prime place for live entertainment. Most main attractions in this area are within walking distance of each other, which saves you money on gas or public transportation.
The vibrant urban atmosphere of downtown draws many visitors each year. Visit the local farmer’s market for fresh produce, enjoy the lively art scene, or witness a demonstration downtown on your next trip to the Bay Area.
Tilden Regional Park
Located between the Berkeley Hills and the San Pablo Ridge, Tilden Regional Park is the ultimate leisure park in Northern California. The 2,079-acre park is equipped with an 18-hole golf course, hiking trails, picnic tables, and tons of space for sports.
This is one of the most popular things to do in Berkeley for residents on their days off from work. It is also the best place to walk your dog in the big city and is only a few minutes from downtown.
Trail runners and cyclists frequent Tilden Regional Park as well. Visit with your bathing suit and fishing rod in hand and head over to Lake Anza, a refreshing spot in the summer months.
The Berkeley Hills neighborhood is a top location for accommodation in Berkeley California. Removed from most downtown tourist traffic, Berkeley Hills is the place to be for some peace and quiet in Berkeley CA.
The major draw to Berkeley Hills is the abundance of outdoor activities. There are quite a few nature parks in the area from rock climbing havens to hiking oases. Scale some boulders of Indian Rock Park or hike to its panoramic lookout point for the best view in Berkeley CA.
Grotto Rock Park is another attraction in the area that’s less crowded than neighboring Berkeley nature activities. Climb to the top of Grizzly Peak and be rewarded with 360-degree views and a lovely picnic area at the top.
UC Berkeley Campus
A visit to UC Berkeley is one of the most popular things to do in Berkeley California. The university is also known as the birthplace of “flower power” and its timeless architecture attracts most Berkeley California visitors.
The liberal university was founded in 1868 and quickly rose in status as one of the top universities in the United States. The acceptance rate is incredibly low but the campus is breathtaking.
Take a tour of the campus to get a better feel for Berkeley CA life. The campus is open to the public and the many attractions like the Lawrence Hall of Science and the Berkeley Rose Garden are frequented by students and visitors alike.
🛏️ Need a hotel? The Graduate Berkeley hotel is less than one block from the university campus and is our top pick for accommodation near UC Berkeley.
Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve
This small regional park is nestled between the Berkeley and Oakland Hills behind the historic Claremont Hotel. This prime location is clean, safe, and completely free to the public.
The preserve is primarily used for its premiere hiking and equestrian trails. The view from the 0.75-mile Stonewall trail summit is one of the most spectacular in the city. You will be able to see all of Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland from the top.
Gwin Canyon Trail is another popular hiking location at Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve. It takes hikers above Claremont Creek and throughout groves of native California flora. Keep your eye out for local fauna as well, as they are known to be abundant in this area.
Gourmet Ghetto is a nickname for the business district of North Berkeley with a delicious array of restaurants. Also known as the birthplace of California cuisine, the Gourmet Ghetto area is a food lover’s paradise.
Since its beginnings in 1966 as the original spot of Peet’s Coffee, the area has since grown into a historic Berkeley culinary arts hotspot. Gourmet Ghetto has a global reputation and several restaurants that shouldn’t be missed.
Be sure to stop by The Cheese Board Collective for an artisan pizza with unique flavors or Gregoire for famous Berkeley potato puffs served with aioli sauce. If you prefer Japanese food, then Cha-Ya’s sushi and noodle soups are for you.
Sibley Volcanic Regional Park
Technically located in Oakland Hills, Sibley Volcanic Regional Park is only a short 10-15 minute drive from the Berkeley California Marina. This is the perfect escape to the outdoors during your trip to Northern California.
After you’ve done the major city attractions, get your fix of physical exercise at this regional park. It is one of the top things to do in Berkeley California for exercising. Berkeley weather can drop below freezing during the winter months, so it’s best to enjoy the hiking trails of Sibley Park during the summer months.
There are 11 major hiking trails in the area ranging from 1 to 7 miles roundtrip. The RoundTop Skyline Trail is the most popular trail and is suited for individuals of all hiking levels.
Berkeley Poetry Walk
Berkeley has a rich history with famous poets like Jack Kerouac living amongst its residents. Berkeley CA restaurants, bars, and cafes were frequently visited by such lyrical geniuses since the early 1900s. Berkeley has carried on the tradition of poetry with the sidewalk poetry walk.
The sidewalk of Addison Street is lined with cast-iron poetry panels with works by Allen Ginsburg, Kerouac, Shakespeare, and Alice Walker among others. This attraction highlights that urban spaces are full of language and color.
Lovers of poetry and first-time Berkeley visitors admire the attraction equally. The Poetry Walk is perfect to check out if you have time to spare in the city.
Shorebird Park Nature Center
This scenic marina park offers a visitor center with educational exhibits, picnic areas, and play areas. It’s one of the top things to do in Berkeley CA for families with small children.
Group tours at the Shorebird Park Nature Center include informational videos, group workshops, and a tour of the facilities. When your little ones need a break from learning about native California birds and ecosystems, take them on the facility playground or to the communal picnic tables for lunchtime.
Berkeley Jazz Festival
The Berkeley Jazz Festival is held once a year at the university Greek Theatre overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Enjoy the live rhythm of local and internationally-known jazz musicians at this famous annual event.
The Jazz Festival in Berkeley California has been a tradition since 1967 and has not skipped a single festival since then. I recommend getting to the campus before the festival starts so you can take a look around the beautiful university before you enjoy a night of jazz. This way, you can cross two Berkeley CA activities off of your itinerary in one day.
👉 Want more? See my full list of things to do in Northern California.
FAQs About What to Do in Berkeley
Is Berkeley worth visiting?
Berkeley is definitely worth visiting. There are many things to do in Berkeley and it is only a short, 25-minute drive from San Francisco, making it the perfect day trip.
What activities are at UC Berkeley?
UC Berkeley has a botanical garden, a performance hall, a sports stadium, and a science hall that are all open to the public. Enjoy a free concert, theater performance, or picnic at UC Berkeley.
What do students do for fun at UC Berkeley?
There are many events on campus like sports games and themed dress days for UC Berkeley students. In addition, there are also fun day trips near Berkeley like San Francisco or Oakland.
What’s Berkeley famous for?
Berkeley is famous for its University of California, Berkeley. This is one of the most prestigious universities in California and people move to Berkeley from around the U.S. just to attend school here.
You’ve made it to the end of my best things to do in Berkeley guide. Enjoy the many activities this college town has to offer and be sure to check out my California road trip itinerary to plan for your upcoming trip!
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