The Perfect Day in Berkeley, California

Berkeley, California is a city known for its innovative food, love of upsetting the status quo, and of course outstanding academics. I still can’t believe that it took me so long to visit Berkeley, but when I finally did, what a perfect day trip it ended up being.  Here is my idea of the perfect day in Berkeley. I hope the next time you are in the San Francisco or Sacramento area, you will take a day to experience this vibrant university city.

First stop: Fourth Street

This strip of beautiful shops and fun restaurants was the perfect way to begin our day there. The doors of many shops were left open, inviting us to stroll in and out. This one had so many unique things for sale, including gorgeous paper from Italy.

Berkeley shopping

One of many unique shops on Fourth Street

We had our two small children with us, so this fun toy store, The Ark, was a welcome sight. If you have kids or just enjoy hand-crafted or unusual toys, I would highly recommend it.

Berkeley toy store

Paradise for children?

A traveling parent always needs a stash of things to keep kids busy: these erasable cards we bought at the toy store were a hit.

kids at restaurant

Keeping busy during lunch at Zut!

Right in the heart of 4th Street is Zut! Bar and Bistro. The friendly atmosphere, reasonable prices, and excellent food made it a wonderful place to have lunch.  The Middle Eastern sampler was fantastic.

Berkeley restaurant

Fourth Street has plenty of options for food in all price ranges

Peet’s Coffee is just down the street from Zut! and The Ark. The patio was crowded with volunteers for Greenpeace, professionals, and students, and we relaxed over some of the best coffee around.

Next stop: the University of California at Berkeley

We drove up the hill and around the campus, but I look forward to returning to Berkeley to do a walking tour. On this visit, we had the botanical garden in our sights.

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley campus

Last stop: the botanical garden

The UC Berkeley Botanical Garden was the main reason for our visit, and it didn’t disappoint. The garden is spread over 34 acres and houses more than 13,000 plants, including rare and endangered species.

botanical gardens California

The desert section of the Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden is situated in the Berkeley hills, with beautiful views to take in as you wander the paths.

botanical garden Berkeley

There is so much to love at the Botanical Garden.

botanical gardens Berkeley

The combination of fun on Fourth Street, views of the campus, and amazing nature at the botanical garden made for the perfect day in Berkeley. There is much more to see and do in Berkeley, and I hope to get back there very soon.

Have you been to Berkeley? What suggestions do you have for a day in Berkeley?

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  • monique says:

    great post – thanks for the suggestions for our next trip there. my husband (and my father in law) used to live there – he always takes us up to grizzly peak for fantastic views! –
    monique recently posted..wallpaper for posh bookwormsMy Profile

  • Goody says:

    Thanks for sharing Jenna. Berkley is one of the cuty haven’t visited yet…now got a reason why to go…and do not have to plan my day trip! 🙂

  • This sounds like a great day trip! And it’s a bonus that I only live 45 minutes from Berkeley, so I could actually go 🙂
    Annette | Bucket List Journey recently posted..What to Wear in London (& What I Wore)My Profile

    • Jenna says:

      If you live so close to Berkeley, I’m sure you’ve made that day trip a few times already! There’s much more for me to do there still, so I’m looking forward to going back.

  • Next year, I will explore a lot of Berkeley, including Cal and a tour of campus, on my College Football Travel Tour next year (may squeeze it in this year – we will see). I haven’t spent that much time in Berkeley (except for work) so I look forward to exploring it!
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..8 things to do in Kauai when you’re not lying on the beachMy Profile

  • Cassie Kifer says:

    Great tips! I’ve been to Berkeley 100 times (Kevin went to college there, goes to every football home game, sometimes I join or just hang out in town during the games) and haven’t been to the botanical gardens! We keep saying we are going to go there on a non-football day, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    I also don’t get down to 4th Street enough. I like the gourmet ghetto area of Shattuck and spend a lot of time at the tea and food shops there, but I need to get down to explore 4th street again.
    Cassie Kifer recently posted..Finding Food Adventures at the San Francisco Ferry BuildingMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      So glad you found this helpful because I haven’t been to Berkeley much but I love the botanical garden so much that I would go every year. Thanks for the tip about Shattuck!

      • Kevin says:

        Came across this old post, and just wanted to chime in about Berkeley, which as Cassie said, I know a ton about. To expand a little about the campus, it’s a beautiful walk with tons of open space for kids to play and run around, plus Valley Life Sciences Building has a T-Rex skeleton as well as a Pterodactyl and Triceratops on display (just down the hill from the Campanile, which by the way has an incredible view at the top).

        Then, you might have avoided Telegraph Ave on purpose, but I think it’s actually an awesome place for kids, and full of really cheap, really incredible, diverse food options (they have to appeal to college students with no money). Between Top Dog and IB Hoagies (cheesesteaks that rival anything in Philly) on Durant, and Fat Slice or Blondies on Telegraph for pizza, there’s plenty of cheap foods the kids will love. I’d also recommend Steve’s Korean BBQ on Durant.

        You can spend a whole day in Berkeley just walking around campus and seeing the architecture, then heading to Telegraph for food, then an late afternoon stop at the botanical gardens (when the light is perfect for photography).
        Kevin recently posted..See You Tomorrow for Our East Bay SweetsCrawl!My Profile

        • Jenna says:

          Thank you so much for chiming in! This post reflects what we did in one day there, but there is certainly much more to see and do there. I will keep all your suggestions in mind for my next visit.

  • Maureen says:

    Hi Jenna,

    Great post! I highly recommend Indian Rock for sunrise, sunset or just for a gorgeous view in Berkeley. Don’t be intimidated by the steep climb! Walk around the left side and one can easily walk up the side of the rock.

  • Sophie says:

    College Ave and Telegraph Ave are both really great places! I also recommend going into the Berkeley Hills! Another idea is going to the waterfront which is beautiful! And if you have a dog Point Isabel is awesome although I’m not sure it’s in Berkeley. I have lived in Berkeley my whole life and still do!!

  • Tuesday S. says:

    I love going up in Sather Tower (aka the Campanile)! It’s only $3, and there’s a great view of Berkeley. I also love driving up to Grizzly Peak, where there’s a good lookout.
    I’m new to Berkeley and California, and I love your website! Great ideas for things to do all over 🙂

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you! And thanks so much for the suggestions for Berkeley. I plan to go there again soon and will try the places you mentioned.

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