BERKELEY, Calif. — For a one-time hotbed of protest, this liberal college town is pretty chill these days. You're more likely to hear rumblings about the latest in the food revolution than people power.
But you can still have a radically good time here, whether you're interested in searching out the hidden gems of the tree-studded campus of the University of California or getting a glimpse of the city's tie-dyed past.
Getting to Berkeley from San Francisco is fairly simple. By car you drive east across the Bay Bridge and continue on I-80 east. Take the exit for University Avenue which dead-ends at the west side of campus.
On the way, detail-oriented fans of the classic movie "The Graduate" may realize that in addition to his many other problems, Dustin Hoffman was driving the wrong way when he appeared to zip along the bridge's upper deck to Berkeley. The upper deck is one-way westbound into San Francisco.
Don't have a car, or don't want to hassle with Berkeley's scarce parking? Take the Richmond BART commuter train to the Downtown Berkeley stop, just a block from the west side of campus.
Here are a few highlights of what to do next:
CAMPUS CRAWL: The central UC Berkeley campus, covering 178 acres, is open to the public and is a subject worth studying. Don't stop at Telegraph Avenue or Sproul Plaza. Walk on in and experience the sylvan setting and interesting architecture.
Free campus tours are available with a reservation; an elevator ride up the iconic Campanile, a 300-foot bell and clock tower, costs $2. The observation platform, 200 feet up, gives a great view on a clear day.
Want to dine like a dean? The public can lunch in the Faculty Club white-tablecloth dining room set in the center of campus. The draw here is not so much the fare as the academic ambience — and the chance to tune into some intellectually stimulating discussions.
Coffee's a big part of campus life and the Free Speech Movement Cafe at Moffitt Library serves up a little counterculture with your caffeine with exhibits focused on a famous 1964 protest that helped usher in an era of college uprisings.
If you've got kids in tow, the life-sized cast of a T Rex in the Valley Life Sciences Building is worth a look.
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TELEGRAPH TRIP: From Sproul Plaza head for Telegraph Avenue and check out the sidewalk vendors selling tie-dyed apparel, hand-made jewelry and T-shirts, posters and pins emblazoned with ideological statements that range from the profound to the profane.
Step into Amoeba Music (2455 Telegraph Ave.) to check out the eclectic musical selection, or browse Moe's Books (2476 Telegraph Ave.), a local institution stocked with everything from antiquarian treasures to gently used best-sellers.
People's Park is near campus, off Telegraph Avenue, bordered by Haste and Bowditch streets and Dwight Way. In 1969, police and state troopers responded to a protest in and around the park, and a young man named James Rector was fatally shot while watching from a rooftop. The incident is memorialized in a nearby mural. The park itself is small, and while it hosts the occasional rally or concert, today it is largely the province of the homeless.
EAT YOUR GREENS: Gather, a restaurant on the west side of campus, caters to herbivores and carnivores alike, offering cutting-edge vegan and vegetarian food as well as hearty meat dishes. Check out the seats, made from recycled leather belts, and try the vegan charcuterie, a specialty. Latte lovers should visit Caffe Strada at the corner of College and Bancroft. You may have to hover to get one of the tree-shaded tables, but once you do, sit, sip and relax; this is prime people-watching territory.
To end your visit, take one last stroll through campus, wandering along the shady paths along Strawberry Creek just west of the lower plaza at Sproul.
Pause to admire the redwoods soaring above and the squirrels skittering along the ground below. Savor the feeling of being in the heart of one of the world's best-known universities.
If You Go...
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Daily free tours with reservations. http://visitors.berkeley.edu/tour/general.shtml.
—Campanile bell and clock tower, open most days, $2 elevator ride, observation tower accessed by an additional 38 stairs, http://visitors.berkeley.edu/camp/index.shtml.
—Faculty Club, http://www.berkeleyfacultyclub.com/index.asp, 510-540-5678.
—Free Speech Movement Cafe: At Moffitt Library, http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/AboutLibrary/fsmcafe.html,
—Valley Life Sciences Building, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/about/hours.php, 510-642-1821.
GATHER: 2200 Oxford St., Berkeley, http://www.gatherrestaurant.com, 510-809-0400, entrees $14-$15.
PEOPLE'S PARK: http://www.peoplespark.org/
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