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Day Tripping in Berkeley

If you’ve got the urge to helicopter out of your rural life for a day, head to Berkeley for a good dose of urban interest. Twenty years ago I lived in Berkeley for 20 years and while many things have changed there are many of points of interest that remain. It takes about two hours to get to Berkeley from Yorkville on a good day so tack on however much time it takes you to get to Yorkville to your travel time. You can go early, spend the day and still drive home the same day if you are energetic. Better yet spend one night there and gain another half day of sightseeing before driving home. This list of attractions is truly just the tip of the iceberg. You will undoubtedly find many other things that will spur you on as you travel around the town.

Most of these destinations are in Berkley proper while a few are close by in Emeryville. Getting off the freeway on University Avenue your first stop might be the 4th street shopping area located just off the freeway at the foot of University Avenue. Here you can find a good cup of coffee or food and look into some 65 cool little specialty shops and eating places including The Stained Glass Garden, Castles in the Air, The Gardener, and the Builders Book Source. This shopping development started in the 1980’s and has been growing and morphing ever since. Also check out the big Dick Blick art supply store at 1360 Tenth Street. If you are older and familiar with Berkeley you may remember Spenger’s Fish Grotto and Brennan’s Irish Bar which were close by- also on 4th Street.

Before leaving 4th street travel down towards Oakland to 2390 4th to find Vik’s Indian Chaat (snack) House and Indian grocery market. Here you can buy a fresh coconut in the hull with a straw provided for drinking fresh coconut milk. The food is fabulous and they also have an Indian confectionary counter with all manner of fascinating Indian sweets.

From here drive up towards the hills until you get to San Pablo Ave. which is a main street. Turn right to 1220 San Pablo to check out the Tokyo Fish Market. If you love fish this is the freshest and most premium you can find (bring a cooler and ice). Continuing down towards Oakland on San Pablo make a stop at Omega Salvage. Here you can probably find an old toilet shaped like a seashell or some wrought iron shelving that looks like a trip to the French Quarter- lots of treasures. If this isn’t enough scavenging continue on to the Urban Ore Ecopark a three-acre plot at 900 Murray filled with used building supplies and just about anything else you can think of. 

Prepare to be overwhelmed. 

To get there continue down San Pablo toward Oakland turn right on Ashby stay left at the split and turn right on 9th making an immediate right onto Murray. If you are looking for new furnishings or other home goods continue down San Pablo towards Oakland and turn right on Powell. An overpass will take you to the very large Ikea Store at 4400 Shellmound. Ikea has a café with Swedish meatballs, Gravlax salmon etc. at reasonable prices and very good Scandinavian coffee. Because Sweden is a dark country this Swedish chain has a great selection of lighting products along with lots of starter modern furniture for the budget minded. Head back toward Berkeley on San Pablo and check out the big R.E.I store at 1338 San Pablo. 

Also of interest Hida Tools at 1333 San Pablo. This Japanese tool store has great hand woodworking tools and Japanese hardware. In the same neighborhood Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center at 1317 home of many amazing concerts since 1973.

Drive back down San Pablo to Ashby and turn right towards the hills. You will come to Shattuck Ave. and Adeline St. where there is an unusual lace museum and shop at 2982 Adeline called Lacis. If you are into textiles definitely worth a stop. 

Fabric lovers should also check out Stone Mountain and Daughter at 2518 Shattuck for all the basics and many of the frills including hundreds of beautiful buttons. For something really visually stunning and unusual visit Tail of the Yak at 2632 Ashby Ave. They will buzz you into a world filled with folk art, gorgeous jewelry and fascinating knick-knacks.

These last places are a mish-mash that you will just have to locate with your GPS or a map. Get yourself to Telegraph Avenue and head to Amoeba Records for many blasts from the past open Wed.-Sun. 11-7. 

While you’re there check out Rasputin Records at 2401 Telegraph. Close by is the famous Berkeley Bowl where you can find just about any form of produce known to humans along with an amazing array of condiments, meats and specialty items. Take time out to watch a movie at the Pacific Film Archives 2155 Center St. 

If you are there during the school year on a Wednesday you can attend a free concert at noon on the UC Berkeley campus in Hertz Hall at 101 Cross-Sproul Path. If you need refreshment or just want to hang with the students head to the student union at 2495 Bancroft Way. Telegraph Ave. beckons on the south side of the campus and is always changing with the times. Craving a HUGE salad with homemade bread go to Mezzo at 2442 Telegraph. 

For cheese rats the Cheese Board Collective at 1504 Shattuck Ave. is like dying and going to heaven. They let you taste the cheese before you buy it! If live music is your thing the Freight and Salvage at 2020 Addison Street is the place to meet.

I don’t want to leave Berkeley without mentioning two places that are very different from any of the above. The first is the Nyingma Institute at 1815 Highland Place which is up the hill above Euclid St. on the northside of the campus. This is a beautiful peaceful place where you can go to learn about meditation, Tibetan Yoga, or any number of useful life skills for these stressful times. A sister to the Nyingma Institute is the Dharma College in downtown Berkeley at 222 Harold Way. Here the academic aspects of Tibetan Buddhist studies are explored along with meditation and Tibetan language classes. If you are a seeker you might find what you are seeking in one of these two places.

So ends a very eclectic and random tour of Berkeley and environs. If you are a curious person who just revels in the many trails humans travel, a brief dip into the East Bay may be just what the doctor ordered. 

As Rick Steves always says “Keep traveling.”

One Comment

  1. Nathan Duffy March 31, 2023

    If you head up University Avenue from 4th street or San Pablo what have you there is a great new restaurant just past MLK on the right side at 1966 University Avenue called Garden Variety. It is a must try and in my opinion some of the best food in Berkeley. Only open 11am to 3pm M-F.

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