Introduction to Berkeley, California
Berkeley, located in northern California's San Francisco Bay Area just north of Oakland and 10 miles north of San Francisco, is one of the country's hippest cities and one of the best places for educational pursuits. Berkeley claims arguably the best public university in the nation, the University of California at Berkeley, which has existed since 1872. Both the city and the university are famous for a tradition of free thinking, cultural diversity and activist politics. In the 1960s, Berkeley was the site of Vietnam War protests and was the backdrop for the film The Graduate. In the 1970s, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) linked Berkeley to San Francisco and Oakland. Today, Berkeley remains a socially conscious, politically active city, with a young, diverse population of around 105,000. Sharing the Cal Berkeley campus is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which conducts scientific research within 15 divisions and 76 buildings. Also known as Berkeley Lab, it has 4,000 employees. Over the years, nine of its researchers have won the Nobel Prize.
Although San Francisco is a nearby cultural hub that rivals any on the planet, Berkeley has a distinct cultural presence of its own. It has gourmet and specialty foods shops (Scharffen Berger chocolates, anyone?) that rival San Francisco's, it's closer to the Napa and Sonoma wine regions than San Francisco, and it has bragging rights to one of the finest restaurants in the country, Chez Panisse, a leader in what is known as California cuisine. It is home to the Berkeley Art Museum, with eleven galleries and an emphasis on historic and contemporary films. Other cultural attractions include Aurora Theatre Company, the Berkeley Opera Company, and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Berkeley Sports and Leisure
Some of the country's best college athletics can be seen right in the city. The Cal Berkeley Golden Bears play football at Memorial Stadium and basketball at Haas Pavilion. For big league action, there are six pro sports teams just a short ride away within the Bay Area: major league baseball's San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, the NFL's San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, the NBA's Golden State Warriors and the NHL's San Jose Sharks.
A comfortable climate, a superb park system and access to ocean and mountains make Berkeley a great city for outdoor recreation. Aquatic Park offers boating, bird watching and biking/hiking trails around the lake. Caesar Chavez Park has 90 acres of land, paved trails and wildlife. Berkeley Rose Garden has over 3 acres of roses, plus tennis courts and hiking trails. For rock climbing, there's Contra Costa Rock Park, Cragmont Rock Park, Great Stoneface Rock Park, Grotto Rock Park and Mortar Rock Park. Briones Regional Park, a few miles northwest of the city, has more than 5,000 acres of wilderness, wildlife and trails for hikers, runners, and horseback riders. For a winter getaway, skiing and snow sports are available within a 2-hour drive at a Lake Tahoe and other Sierra Nevada Mountain resorts.
Berkeley at Night
With 30,000 students in the city and a young population (its median age is 32), Berkeley has a very upbeat nightlife. Plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs are available within Cal Berkeley area, along Shattuck Avenue and along San Pablo Avenue heading south toward Oakland. And there's always San Francisco just across the Bay.