Berkeley Bucket List

I’m falling more in love with Berkeley by the day. From the endless outdoor recreation areas to the food, the art, the people- you name it, I’m a fan. Here’s to learning and loving one’s own patch of earth nearby.

Highlights
2501 Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Orinda, CA 94563, USA
This is my favorite 30-35 mile ride in the East Bay, and spring and fall are the times to see the colors really pop. Make your way up and out of Berkeley on Spruce and head straight on Wildcat Canyon to enter the majestic Tilden park, when you hit the four way intersection with Grizzly Peak Blvd. You’ll spin past Inspiration Point and head down a dreamy descent to the intersection with San Pablo Dam Rd. Turn left there and stay on this road for just over 5 miles. At the light for Castro Ranch Dr, turn right. Keep an eye out for rough roads for a small stretch before you end up turning right on Alhambra Valley Road (the intersection pictured). You’ll start to see painted descriptions on the road that you are officially on the ‘Three Bears Route’. They arrive at your front wheel in the order of Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear; with the size of the bear referencing just how big each climb will seem. After making right on Bear Creek Road (you’ll be entering the Briones Regional Reserve), you’re well on your way among the bears. Once back up at the intersection with San Pablo Dam Rd, be sure to head straight back up Wildcat Canyon Road. It’s a steady three and half mile climb to get back up to Inspiration Point, where this time- you deserve a break and a moment to soak up the scenery. Make your way back through Tilden, retracing your steps from where you came and be sure to swing by Cheeseboard on Shattuck for a slice or two to celebrate your triumphant return.
1603 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA
Using Sightglass coffee, Bartavelle serves the BEST latté in Berkeley! Opened in late 2012 this unassuming café already has a local following. Small place with stand-up only zinc counters inside plus outdoor seating. The small plate menu uses local ingredients in inventive ways and often they add menu items according to what’s in season. Open for breakfast and lunch. They have a relationship with Kermit Lynch Wines next door so you can pair your lunch with one of Lynch’s wines. Nice staff.
Oakland, CA 94611, USA
Looking for a great afternoon or evening hike, high above the clouds of the East Bay? Need a few good labyrinths and a volcano to make it desirable? It so happens, I’ve found your place. Located on the border of Oakland and Contra Costa, the parking for Sibley is on Skyline Boulevard. This is a Regional Preserve and is managed by the East Bay Regional Park District. All the perks of hikes in this part of the Bay are here and include a great network of trails, soaring views and many a grassy vista. It also claims an extinct volcano and at least four or five labyrinths for potential meditation. You have two major continental plates to thank for the geological grandeur and a few thoughtful locals for the peace of mind, found within.
2109 Cedar St, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA
This has become my go-to plan for friends visiting the area. It includes fine French takeout dining from Gregoire’s on Cedar and Shattuck, and a one mile walk up to the best local sunset view you’ll ever find (smack dab in the middle of a Berkeley neighborhood of perfect houses). You’ll find locals, students and climbers that have been bouldering on nearby rocks, all gathered up top to witness the skyline and sunset. You’ll see the Bay Bridge, the city of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands and more. Welcome to dinner and a show.
Golden Gate Bridge, California, USA
There is perhaps no landmark of San Francisco, and perhaps even the entire state of California, more iconic than the Golden Gate Bridge. This much-photographed bridge spans the Golden Gate, the strait separating San Francisco (to the south) and Marin County (to the north). The 2.7-kilometer-long (1.7-mile-long) bridge was completed in 1937 in one of the most remarkable engineering feats of its time. Although the idea of traversing the Golden Gate by way of a bridge had been discussed for decades, the fear that fog and wind would make the project nearly impossible discouraged planners. In the end, the bridge was completed in four years at the cost of $35 million as well as the lives of 10 construction workers. A pedestrian path along the bridge offers stunning views of the bay and San Francisco as well as an up-close look at this Art Deco wonder.

1807 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710, USA
Don’t let the name of the diner fool you- there’s no ocean view on Fourth Street in Berkeley, but after one glimpse at the menu, you won’t mind. Bette’s in an institution and many of my colleagues over on Cedar St will admit to being a patron even more than once a day, since Bette’s adjoining to go storefront hits the spot at any time of day. My favorite way to experience Bette’s is a weekend brunch and do know, that there’ll be a wait. There are worse things than being forced to wander the charming stores of Fourth Street, Bette’s coffee in hand, while waiting for your table. It’s more than worth the wait. Bette’s has been around for over two decades and I swear, those waffles, souffles and scones are only getting better. Be sure to come hungry and know that you’ll leave happy.
1200 Euclid Ave, Berkeley, CA 94708, USA
This city-owned park in Berkeley will steal your heart, even before you find the stone slide! While I was exploring the park for the first time, I’d already been wowed by the little league park of my dreams, the magical Redwood trail running section and of course, the famed, tiered rose garden itself. Then I heard the sound of sliding cardboard and loads of laughter. Check out your Berkeley map and find the green patch titled ‘Berkeley Rose Garden’ on Euclid. Feel free to bring your own empty pizza box or other piece of cardboard to do your sliding on, but know that there are many left behind for your use, in case you forget.
3800 Main St, Alameda, CA 94501, USA
The Alameda Antiques experience is such a cool way to spend the morning of your first Sunday of any month on the calendar year. It’s the largest show in Northern California and it has over 800 dealer booths that are selling items at least 20 years old. Depending on how early you come, the entrance fee per person will change. If you’re there at opening hours 6 AM to 7:30 AM, it’ll be $15 a person (cash) to get in. If you arrive between 7:30 AM and 9 AM it’s $10 and from 9 AM to 3 PM it’s only $5. It’s tiered this way because the ‘getting is good'/better in the earlier hours when the most sought after, big finds are still available. If it’s a sunny day, bring a hat or some sunscreen. Make sure you’ve had some coffee and a bit of breakfast and be sure to have cash if you’re seriously looking to shop. The people watching is as good as the antiques and there are some fabulous food carts when your blood sugar starts to dip towards dangerous levels. If you’re a photographer, it’s a great way to spend the morning inspired by the people and the prizes. If you’re looking for that dream dining room table, bedroom night stand or vintage suitcase, you’re in the right spot. Be sure to explore the official website for loads of parking, shuttle and logistics. Start a month off right in the Bay Area with a trip to the Alameda Antiques Faire!
2049 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA
Welcome to my new favorite, neighborhood cafe near the intersection of University and San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. The space is inviting (both inside and out), the communal tables and cozy chairs plentiful and the Four Barrel coffee delicious with all that organic breakfast fare. The hours are 7 am to 6 pm on weekdays and 7 am to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The owners value the works of rotating artists and the result is always such a treat. When you’re in Berkeley, make a trip to Local 123 for friendly service, delicious coffee, some sun on the back patio and a few delicious nibbles.
Wildcat Canyon Rd, Orinda, CA 94563, USA
You’ll love the views you’ll have of the EBMUD Watershed while you’re hiking or mountain biking along Nimitz Way in both Wildcat Canyon Regional Park and Tilden Regional Park. The views really open up once you’re in the area considered the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the East Bay Skyline National Trail. I’d encourage you to grab one of the printed maps you’ll find at every trailhead in the park that is next to a parking lot. If you park in the Inspiration Point parking lot, you’ll end up exiting the lot and turning right on the Nimitz Trail. It’s a lovely, rolling, paved path that turns into the East Bay Skyline Trail. It’s up to you how far you’d like to go and whether you’d like to create a loop or do an out-and-back hike. With map in hand you can easily descend by taking a left off the Nimitz Way at several different points, such as Laurel Canyon, Wildcat Peak Trail, or Conlon Trail. Just know that your return back up to Inspiration Point via the Meadows Canyon Trail or the Curran Trail means you have some beautiful uphill terrain. If you’re a trail runner, a dog walker, or just someone that values a long walk in a beautiful spot to clear the cobwebs, Tilden Regional Park should be your go-to place in the East Bay. Happy hiking!
Meadows Canyon Trail
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this, but it was the first time I had my phone on me while I was hiking up Meadows Canyon Trail. Not only is this spot one of my favorite places for a sunset in the East Bay, it’s apparently also a great spot to journal, paint and dream. If you head in to Tilden Regional Park, I’d suggest you park at the Loan Oak Trailhead. From there, you’ll head left up the Meadows Canyon trail. Once you’ve gone 1.43 miles you’ll hit the Curran Trail and you’ll want to make a left to be able to head up into the Inspiration Point parking lot, so that you can see the view from the far side. Then, return the way you came and head south on the Curran Trail. You’ll quickly descend to the intersection where you can take a right on the Wildcat Gorge Trail that will lead you all the way back to the same place you parked your vehicle. The entire time you’re on the Wildcat Gorge Trail, you’re in the shade of the trees and following the stream. Roundtrip, the hike is only about 4 miles. Welcome to the East Bay, a place that Monet would have loved to paint, after all that time in Giverny, France.
1220 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94706, USA
Husband and wife Isamu and Tazuye Fujita opened up Tokyo Fish Market in 1963. Since 1971 it’s been an extended family affair and the fish market, grocery store and gift shop (two different buildings on San Pablo Avenue) are fabulous places to head for lunch or dinner options. You’ll truly feel like you’re stepping into Japan and you’ll be amazed at how affordable the food is. Head to Tokyo Fish Market and know that you and your stomach, will be impressed.
More From AFAR