Five free things to do in Berkeley and Oakland
BERKELEY, Calif. — This famously liberal college town is known as the cradle of the Free Speech Movement, but speech isn’t the only thing that’s free here.
Whether you’re strolling the redwood-shaded University of California, Berkeley, campus, or slipping across the Oakland border for a dose of Golden State history, you can exercise your limbs and your intellect without giving your wallet a workout.
Here are five suggestions to get you started on your gratis gallivanting. Hike
Set in the hills above Berkeley, Tilden Park is the jewel of Berkeley’s many green spaces. You can take one of the many hiking trails — Nimitz Way is popular with bikers, hikers and equestrians — or picnic in one of the meadows. If you have young ones in tow, a stop by the Little Farm is mandatory; take along some celery or lettuce to feed the placid animals.
If you do decide to spend a little cash, there are modest fees to enter the Lake Anza swimming beach, ride the vintage carousel or ride a miniature steam train. If you’re looking for a straightforward walk, another option is Claremont Canyon, which offers a short climb to the ridge top with sweeping views of campus and San Francisco Bay. This is especially lovely at sunset, although be aware the last part of the trail is both steep and slippery. Smell the roses
Oakland and Berkeley both have rose gardens tucked into residential areas. The Berkeley garden is a Works Progress Administration project and has a terraced amphitheatre and redwood pergola. The Oakland garden, officially the Morcom Rose Garden, is a relaxing oasis not far from bustling Grand Avenue with its eclectic mix of restaurants, coffee bars and stores. For major flower power there’s the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, which has more than 13,000 plants from around the world, including the puya raimondi plant, known as the “Queen of the Andes,” that’s in the South American section. There’s a $10 fee to visit most days, but the garden is free on the first Wednesday of each month. Step into history
Jack London was born in San Francisco but spent his boyhood on the Oakland waterfront and you’ll find him immortalized there by way of a bronze statue at Jack London Square, a retail and restaurant complex. There’s also a replica of his log cabin next to Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon where London studied as a schoolboy and later made notes for his books. Not far away you’ll find the Oakland Museum of California which features exhibits on art, history and the natural sciences and charges no admission on the first Sunday of the month. See the street scene
You haven’t really visited Berkeley unless you’ve strolled Telegraph Avenue, a collection of bookstores, cafes and other stores lined by vendors selling various arts and crafts. Stop in to Amoeba Music to see the huge record collection and take in the mural at the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph commemorating the creation of People’s Park, a UC-owned block of land taken over by student and community activists in 1969. Get schooled
Set close to downtown, the UC Berkeley campus is easily accessible. Here you can stroll along redwoodlined creeks or stretch out on the grass and watch the world go by. Check out the landmark bell tower (Campanile). It costs $3 to take the elevator and stairs to the top, but you can enjoy the sound of the tower’s 61 bells anywhere on campus. Music plays at various times with longer concerts on Sundays at 2 p.m. Don’t miss Sproul Plaza, which is near the Telegraph Avenue entrance to campus. A granite circle set into the paving stones commemorates the 1964 Free Speech Movement. The protest is also memorialized at the Free Speech Movement Cafe at the entrance to the Moffitt Library. Here you will find four wall-mounted cases with rotating exhibits as well as occasional forums, panels and other exhibits. If you do have cash in your pocket, this would be a good place to get a cup of organic, fair trade coffee.
Sure, the best things in life are free. But caffeine is pretty good, too.
At top, a statue of Jack London is silhouetted at sunset at Jack London Square. At right, racks of tie-dyed t-shirts are
shown for sale on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. People make their way to Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon
at Jack London Square.