Look at that sunset. We get a lot of those in the Bay Area, and they always make you catch your breath a little—no matter how long you’ve lived here.
That view is from the Berkeley Hills, right above campus. In the foreground is the campus and the city of Berkeley. To the left is the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, and San Francisco. To the right is the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands.
Berkeley boasts cosmopolitan cuisine, a vibrant mix of cultures, and dazzling art, music, and film. For those who crave more civilization, Berkeley’s western suburb—San Francisco—glitters across the Bay. And those who crave less civilization can choose from a limitless array of options. Berkeley Law lies mere moments from peaceful hiking and spectacular mountain biking, and a scant couple of hours from surfing beaches and snowboard runs. No other law school comes with giant redwoods on campus and the Golden Gate Bridge a glance away.
A walk down Telegraph Avenue can transport the adventuresome diner around the world in the space of a few blocks. Vietnam, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Jamaica, China, France, Italy, Ethiopia, Greece, Burma, Mexico, and Lebanon all have culinary embassies here in Berkeley—many within lunch distance. And within a 10-mile driving radius—encompassing San Francisco—diners can select from a planet’s worth of choices, whether their tastes run to the hot, the haute, or the hybrid.
The list of local film festivals offers something for everyone. Irish film freaks will be happy to know that there’s an entire festival just for them. Same with Arab film. And Jewish. Plus Asian American, African-American, Italian, French, and Taiwanese. There’s also the Women of Color Film Festival, the Silent Film Festival, and Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. The grande dame of them all is the San Francisco International Film Festival, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007 with showings of 120 films to more than 80,000 people.
Music is a through-line of the Bay Area cultural scene. Berkeley itself boasts dozens of music venues, from small jazz and bluegrass spaces, to DJs spinning dance music. Over in Oakland is the Fox Theater and Yoshi’s, where music lovers can take in a set of Incognito or Tower of Power over a plate of sushi. In San Francisco, the possibilities run from the sublime—Beethoven’s Ninth at Davies Symphony Hall, say—to the rambunctious: Indigo Girls and Patti Smith at the Fillmore or Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at Biscuits & Blues. For big-name rock acts, there are major venues dotting the region, of course.
When it comes to sports, we have major-league venues on both sides of the Bay, including O.co Coliseum, home of the Oakland A’s, and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The World Champion Golden State Warriors basketball team holds court in Oakland. And if you’re into pro hockey, the San Jose Sharks are just 45 miles down the road. But our athletics scene is far richer than that. When World Cup soccer time rolls around, fans tap into the madness by watching the games with frenzied expatriates of almost any nationality in their favorite hangouts: Italian cafés, Algerian coffee shops, or Brazilian bars. And for a very local form of madness, thousands of people sign up to walk or run in the annual Bay to Breakers race across San Francisco—a serious race for the few, and a jubilant, costumed stroll for the many.
Just east of campus is Tilden Regional Park, with a golf course, swimming spots, and more than 30 miles of hiking, biking, and horse trails. On the far side of the Berkeley Hills is Wildcat Canyon, with 22 miles of hiking trails. And fewer than 200 miles farther to the east lie three national forests, the soaring granite splendors of Yosemite National Park, and Lake Tahoe, home to nearly two dozen winter ski resorts. And that’s to the east. A look to the north, west, or south will yield comparable opportunities for hikers, boaters, campers, surfers, rafters, picnickers, bird watchers, and wine lovers.
The diversity that characterizes Berkeley Law and U.C. Berkeley makes for a lively local scene. The blocks bordering the law school are practically international fairs in themselves, offering a microcosm of global cuisine, clothing, and music. And throughout the Bay Area, cultural diversity and pride play out in the streets via countless festivals a year: Cinco de Mayo. Carnaval. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride. Aloha. Urdu. Filipino. Bulgarian. Dragon Boat. Mandolin. Moon. Between Berkeley and San Francisco, some group of like-minded people is dancing in the streets almost every week.
It is easy to get around Berkeley via foot, bicycle, or public transportation. U.C. Berkeley runs a campus shuttle service, with routes that connect with city bus stops and the downtown Berkeley subway (BART) station.