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Editor’s note: This story was last updated in November 2023.
Let’s say it’s a Thursday evening and you’re thinking of cool places to take your friends while they’re in town. Maybe you’re new to Berkeley and want to get to know the city better. Or perhaps you’d like to take someone out on a date but can’t seem to find anything fun to do without breaking the bank. We hope this non-comprehensive guide to budget-friendly things to do in Berkeley will help you plan your social week.
Featuring iconic Berkeley activities like kite-flying at the Marina and flower-sniffing at the Rose Garden as well as more underrated attractions such as visiting museums devoted to sake or lace, we’ve organized this list by day of the week and included a section of activities you can do pretty much any time (though we recommend checking the website before you go).
Have something you think belongs on this list? Let us know at email@example.com and we’ll consider adding it.
Things to do anytime in Berkeley
🐮 Visit the Tilden Little Farm and feed the animals lettuce or celery (please don’t feed them anything else). Built in 1955, the farm features cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, ducks, turkey, chickens and pigs. Read our story. Open daily, 5 a.m.-10 p.m. unless otherwise posted. FREE
🦖 Explore the fossil exhibits on the first and second floors of UC Berkeley’s Valley Life Sciences Building. Make sure you stop by and say hi to the freestanding mounted cast of a T-rex skeleton (his name is Osborn). Visit when the Bioscience, Natural Resources & Public Health Library, located inside the building, is open. FREE
📚 While you’re at UC Berkeley, stop by Doe Library to check out the rotating exhibits on display in the lobby, admire the neoclassical-style architecture and people-watch (though you’ll most likely find exhausted students hunched over their laptops). Open Sunday-Friday (see hours). FREE
✡️ The Magnes Collection of Jewish Life and Art in downtown Berkeley was one of the first Jewish museums in the U.S. when it was founded in 1962. The museum is open during UC Berkeley’s fall and spring semesters. Check site for museum hours. FREE
🎲 Gather a few friends and head to Berkeley’s Victory Point Cafe to explore its vast board game collection over food and drinks. Open daily. $8 per person
🌹The Berkeley Rose Garden, a Works Progress Administration project that opened in 1937, features 1,500 rose bushes, 250 varieties of roses, as well as a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We recommend going in mid-May. Open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
📦 A trip to Codornices Park, located across the street from the Rose Garden (they’re connected via a tunnel), isn’t complete without descending the popular 40-foot concrete slide. Bring a flattened cardboard box to sit on to avoid scrapes. Open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
🪴The 34-acre UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, established in 1890, features more than 10,000 types of plants, including many rare and endangered species. (There’s also a garden shop where you can buy plants and other garden-related gifts.) Garden open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Shop open daily, 10:30-4:30 p.m. Closed on first and third Tuesdays. $18
🔭 The Lawrence Hall of Science’s hands-on exhibits are great for kids. An additional $4 fee grants you access to their hypnotizing planetarium, where you can lean back and enjoy a live, interactive show. Read our story about their outdoor nature lab, which opened in 2022. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $20
🚶 Go on one of the 21 self-guided walking tours highlighted in Berkeley residents Robert Johnson and Janet Byron’s Berkeley Walks ($22) and learn about the city’s diverse architecture, unusual gardens and secret pathways and parks. There are also some free walking tours available for PDF download on their website. Read our Q&A with the guidebook’s authors.
🍎 Weave through the crowded aisles at Berkeley Bowl and pick up one of the 90+ apple varieties. The popular market has been the setting of engagement photoshoots and was featured in the Netflix show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Read our tips for what to buy. (Tip: don’t sample the produce before paying … or else.) Open daily, Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
☕ Have a cup of joe at the original Peet’s Coffee location at 2124 Vine Street, which opened in 1966 and helped start a specialty coffee revolution. Stroll through the mini museum in the back hall (located in what used to be the roasting room). Read our interview with Bill Coffin, the cafe’s first employee. Open weekdays, 5:30 a.m.-8 p.m, and weekends, 6 a.m.-8 p.m.
🪁 Fly a kite at the Berkeley Marina’s César Chávez Park whenever the wind blows. You can buy one from Highline Kites, a mobile kite shop run by Tom McAlister — the man behind the beloved Berkeley Kite Festival, which ran from 1986 until 2019. The kite shop is parked on Spinnaker Way most weekends. Saturday-Sundays, 1:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Basic kites start at $14.
🪨 Indian Rock Park, located in the Northbrae neighborhood, offers stunning views of the Bay, especially at sunset, from atop a giant mass of rhyolite, millions of years old. It’s a popular destination to watch the sunset over a Cheeseboard pizza. Climbers make their way up the steep walls, but the stairways carved in the stone will also get you up to the top. Open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
🪨 Here’s another rock with a scenic view. Head toward the back of Cragmont Rock Park, also located in the Northbrae neighborhood, and you’ll find a two-story cliff to climb. It’s a good place for beginners, but you’ll want to go with someone who can show you the ropes. Open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
🦆 Lake Anza in Tilden Regional Park, is a popular recreational swimming spot during the summer months — at least when the water isn’t covered in squishy fern or toxic algae. We recommend walking the lake’s perimeter and picnicking on the sandy beach or grass lawn. Open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. FREE ($4 to swim when lifeguards are on duty)
🍓 When Strawberry Creek Park was built in the 1980s on an abandoned rail yard, its centerpiece, a section of daylighted creek, marked a watershed moment (pardon the pun) in Berkeley’s environmental history. Today, it’s a popular place to hang out or attend the occasional live outdoor concert. We recommend stopping by the cozy Hidden Cafe while you’re there. Open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
🌳 Nestled a nondescript hillside oak grove, John Hinkel Park in North Berkeley is a neighborhood treasure that’s too great to gatekeep. Local theater groups Actors Ensemble of Berkeley and Inferno Theatre regularly put on free outdoor shows at the park’s 1934 outdoor amphitheater. Read our story from 2022 about the park’s $1 million renovation. Park open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
🏀 The 13-acre San Pablo Park, which opened in 1914, is the city’s oldest park. There’s a soccer field, softball field, and several basketball and tennis courts. Here’s how to reserve one of the city’s sports fields or courts. Open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
🌼 The Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, which sits behind the fancy Claremont Hotel, offers sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. The .75 mile Stonewall Panoramic Trail takes you through a eucalyptus grove and up a short-but-steep hill. It’s a great place to go wildflower spotting; here’s a PDF guide from the East Bay Regional Park District. Open daily, 5 a.m.-10 p.m. FREE
Weekend events in Berkeley
🚂 Take a short scenic ride through Tilden on a real steam locomotive. The Redwood Valley Railway Company’s miniature trains have delighted East Bay families for more than 70 years. If you’re prone to mosquito bites, we recommend bringing bug spray. Saturday-Sunday (and most holidays and summer weekdays), 11 a.m. -6 p.m. $4
🛤️ Located a short walk downhill from the Redwood Valley train is the Golden Gate Live Steamers, the nation’s oldest live steam train club. You can ride the tiny steam trains, which run on propane (and member donations – the club is a nonprofit), for free. Read our story. Sundays, 12 p.m.-3 p.m. FREE
🎠 Here’s another Tilden gem: a merry-go-round built in New York in 1911 that was used in the Universal Studios film “So Ends Our Night” (1941). Reservations are encouraged but not required. Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. $4
🌱 Take a docent-led tour of the 10-acre Tilden Regional Parks Botanic Garden on weekends and holidays. Read our story about its award-winning rock garden, which opened in 2022. Saturday, 2 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. FREE
🪘 The eclectic Berkeley Flea Market has been a South Berkeley staple since the ’70s. Browse through clothing, jewelry, fabric, soap, vinyls and other goods from local vendors — many of whom are retired or disabled — as community members jam out on the drums. Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Ashby BART Station.
🐠 Volunteer to clean up the Berkeley coastline and compile data about trash and marine debris. Buckets, bags and gloves will be available. Meet at the Shorebird Park Nature Center at 160 University Ave. Third Saturdays, 9-11 a.m. FREE
🧺 The Downtown Berkeley Farmers Market, one of three in Berkeley, features locally grown produce, baked goods, prepared foods and more. Put on by the Ecology Center, the market accepts CalFresh EBT and WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) checks. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Center Street at MLK Jr. Way.
👃 The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents in North Berkeley is the only museum dedicated to perfumes in the U.S. You’ll get to choose 4 samples to take home with you. Read our story. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. $25
🍵 Universal Chan, a Berkeley-based meditation center, holds a tea tasting at its Kensington location at 445 Colusa Ave. Every other Saturday, 2 p.m. $25
🖼️ The Berkeley Historical Society & Museum’s History Center is located in the Veterans Memorial Building. Thursday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. FREE
🥭 Sunday brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram, or “Thai Temple.” Food sold in the temple’s backyard food court include curries, pad thai, fried chicken, beef noodle soup, taro fritters, and, if you’re lucky, mango sticky rice (which usually runs out before noon). Here’s a Berkeley High Jacket article about this “hidden gem.” Every Sunday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. 1911 Russell St.
🏢 Take a 45-minute-long guided tour of famed architect Julia Morgan’s Berkeley City Club. Fourth Sunday (except in December). 1-3:30 p.m. $10
🔔 Head toward UC Berkeley’s Campanile, the third-largest clock and bell tower in the world, for a carillon recital. Programs are available online 30 minutes before the concert starts. (We also recommend taking the elevator up to the observation platform at least once – more, if you’re a fan of our resident peregrine falcons — while in Berkeley.) Every Sunday during the fall and spring semester, 2 p.m. FREE
🍶 Learn about the sake production process and taste five types of sake at Takara Sake’s West Berkeley museum and tasting room. Takara says its museum is the “only one of its kind within the USA.” Ages 21+. Thursday-Friday, 1-5 p.m., and Sundays, 12-6 p.m. RSVP required. $20
Monday events in Berkeley
🍻 The Starry Plough Pub offers traditional Irish Ceili dancing every Monday. 7-11 p.m.
Tuesday events in Berkeley
🧺 The South Berkeley Farmers Market is held every Tuesday. 2-6:30 p.m., Adeline Street and 63rd Street.
🍸 Kip’s Berkeley hosts a weekly trivia night, with prizes for first and second place. Register your team in advance. 7 p.m.
🎤 The Starry Plough Pub holds a weekly Open Mic Night. 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday events in Berkeley
🎶 The UC Berkeley Music Department’s Noon Concerts feature student musicians and occasional guest artists. Concerts are open to all. Every Wednesday, 12:15 p.m., Hertz Hall. FREE
🎬 The Berkeley Public Library’s Claremont Branch hosts weekly movie nights. 5 p.m. FREE
🍺 Triple Rock Brewery’s weekly “Geeks Who Drink Pub Quizzes” feature eight themed rounds played in teams of up to six people. Winners get a gift card. 8 p.m.
🍕 Bobby G’s Pizzeria hosts a “hump day trivia” every week featuring a different guest brewery each time and a raffle between rounds. First prize wins a $30 gift certificate, and those voted to have the best team name get a free pitcher of beer. Every other Wednesday, 7 p.m.
📖 Pegasus Books Downtown hosts Lyrics & Dirges, a monthly reading series hosted by Sharon Coleman and Mk Chavez. Last Wednesday, 7 p.m. FREE
Thursday events in Berkeley
📚 UC Berkeley’s noontime poetry readings are held in the old-timey Morrison Library (inside Doe Library) and open to the public. First Thursdays, 12:10 p.m. FREE
🖼️ The volunteer-run Berkeley Historical Society & Museum’s History Center is located in the Veterans Memorial Building. Thursday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. FREE
🎬 The Berkeley Public Library’s weekly “Super Cinema” film showings resumed in September after a nearly three-year hiatus. Thursdays, 2:30 p.m., Central Branch. FREE
🧺 The North Berkeley Farmers Market occurs every Thursday. 3-7 p.m., Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street.
🎨 The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (or BAMPFA) offers free admission to its gallery once a month. First Thursdays. FREE
🍶 Learn about the sake production process and taste five types of sake at Takara Sake’s West Berkeley museum and tasting room. Takara says its museum is the “only one of its kind within the USA.” Read our story. Ages 21+. Thursday-Friday, 1-5 p.m., and Sundays, 12-6 p.m. RSVP required. $20
Friday events in Berkeley
🍷 The Gilman District Wine Block’s First Friday Block Party features wine, various pop-up chefs, and live music. First Friday, 3-8 p.m., Donkey & Goat Winery, Hammerling Wines and Broc Cellars. FREE
🏓 The Berkeley Table Tennis Club holds weekly round robin-style tournaments every Friday. 6:15-10 p.m. James Kenney Recreation Center. $8
🚲 The East Bay Bike Party, founded in 2010 to promote community positivity and safe cycling, holds monthly group bicycle rides that are open to all ages. Bring blinkies, water, and snacks. Locations (and themes!) vary, but routes often go through Berkeley. Second Friday, 7:30 p.m. FREE
🍶 Learn about the sake production process and taste five types of sake at Takara Sake’s West Berkeley museum and tasting room. Thursday-Friday, 1-5 p.m., and Sundays, 12-6 p.m. RSVP required. $20
🖼️ The Berkeley Historical Society & Museum’s History Center, located in the Veterans Memorial Building, is also open Fridays. Thursday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. FREE
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