UC Berkeley Campus Visits: Share Your Tips & Recommendations

Where does one park for a campus visit? Is there a guest lot somewhere, or do you just have to luck out with street parking? If one is localish, is it easier just to take BART to campus? Thx!

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Parking just about anywhere in Berkeley is notoriously bad. In my opinion, BART is definitely a better option. There are also a number of bus lines that go to campus, but BART tends to be a bit more efficient.

Edited to add that there are a few parking garages not far from campus. But still think BART is easier.

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Daughter and I will be visiting in a few weeks…anyone have great coffee shop or gluten free food recommendations?

I’m not sure about gluten free, but a nice pasty/coffee shop near campus is Paris Baguette on Shattuck. There’s also a coffee shop on campus (Free Speech Cafe) if you want to see some student life, but it can get quite crowded. Aside from those, Peets, Starbucks, and the usual suspects are all within walking distance.

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Hi @bookishmomma. There’s a great little local haunt called Starbucks…

Kidding. There are several. On the South side Caffe Strada is probably the most well known. Great outdoor seating space. Cafe Milano is smaller, more of an indoorsy situation. Both are on Bancroft and are teeming with students. On a sunny day, Strada is great spot to sit for an hour or so. It’s directly across from campus, so there is a lot of vibrant activity in the area.

The whole artisan coffee scene in the US started in Berkeley with Peet’s Coffee in the mid 60’s. Apparently Peet taught the Starbucks guy everything he knew.

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Thanks so much! I figured that would be the case.

Thank you @scrambro and @worriedmomucb ! I will take her to check out the ones that have lots of students. That’s perfect. Also we love Peet’s, we live in SoCal, but I had no idea it started in Berkeley! Sounds like we must visit there. :slight_smile:

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When we are in the area for something on campus, we usually stay at the Bancroft Hotel. It is right across the street from campus, next to Strada. It is a former sorority house so the rooms are very small. There is a parking lot adjacent to the hotel.

We stayed at the Shattuck Hotel once. It is nice. Rooms are a little larger than the Bancroft but they are still small. The hotel does not offer parking. There is a public parking structure near the hotel. It is a trek uphill to campus.

We stayed at the Faculty Club on campus once. I wouldn’t recommend that.

The campus itself is hilly, with the east side being at generally higher elevation than the west side. The same is true for the neighborhoods south and north of the campus. Most dorms are to the south, but some are to the east. Most fraternities and sororities are to the south, and most co-op houses are to the north (but some are in various other places).

My husband thinks the Graduate hotel is nice (I haven’t stayed in it myself), and it’s in a great location.

As for gluten free, it depends on how strict you need it to be. Most everywhere you go will have some nominally gluten free options. All the people we know who eat gluten free will just eat anywhere. But if you need the whole kitchen to be strictly gluten free or are looking for a great gluten free bakery, the classic one is Mariposa (not walking distance, it is down Telegraph a bit further away, close to Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood).

In terms of hotels, if you’re looking to save some $, you can consider looking outside of Berkeley. Everywhere in the area is probably on the high side, but you might find better deals in Albany or El Cerrito. The Bay Area actually has pretty good public transportation and it is fairly quick and easy to get to campus on either bus or BART from just about any neighboring city. Of course, it’s nice to stay close to campus, but it tends to be $$$.

That new Residence Inn right near campus looks super convenient if you’re bringing the whole family to tour. It’s in the $220 range right now, but during football season, i’ve seen it in the $500s per night.

It does look very nice - I just went to the webite and plugged in some random dates in March and the cheapest rate per night I got was $276/night. I plugged in the same dates for the Marriott in Richmond (Residence Inn is a Marriott) and it was full $100 cheaper per night. Not that Richmond would be the ideal base for a trip to UCB, but just shows how the prices can drop as you branch out from the center.

  • When did you visit?

Last week—dd is a sophomore there, plus I’m an alum from the late 80s and we live nearby in SF.

  • Where did you stay? Would you recommend it?

We obviously don’t stay overnight, but if I did I’d do a staycation at the Claremont or maybe an Airbnb in north berk, the hills or north oak.

  • Where did you eat? Did you try any local specialties?

My daughter, who is a san francisco food snob and a damn good cook, says: “ idk off the top of my head cheap: top dog and yogurt park. medium: mezzo, toss. expensive: la Mediterranee.” I would add cheeseboard pizza, ippuku, Chez panisse, comal, iyasare.

  • How did you get there? What’s the best transportation mean to get to-from the campus?

I alternate driving and BART, depending on time of day, how long I’m staying and how much I’m shlepping. I like the center st garage or just park street (and pay meter remotely with app or maybe park near rockridge station beyond low-hour areas and hop on college ave bus to get a feel for southside). Northside usually feels easy to park to me during the week.

  • What was the campus vibe?

Lively, energetic and busy. Sometimes evenings are quieter. When we toured smaller liberal arts colleges, I sometimes wondered if school was in session, they seemed so empty compared to cal! Personally, I think the campus itself — the physical plant, the geography and the vibe — is one of cal’s best features.

  • What did you think of the dorms?

Utter ■■■■ except for a handful of new ones for regents’ scholars, athletes and the extremely lucky. But having survived them myself, and witnessed my daughter survive them — she lived in a triple that was a converted double in an unrenovated building during Covid with no common rooms due to overcrowding and incompatible roommates who never left the room or slept — I have come to value the bonding and storytelling mileage they provide. In all seriousness…housing is an issue at most UCs and berk is no exception. Being near campus is convenient. Dd made a handful of friends there, but made more in other ways, which was different from my path. She didn’t need the transitional phase and so could have gone straight to apartment living, but many students appreciate dorm life. The food is famously bad, the quarters grim, the security meh. But it’s part of the gestalt. Ymmv

  • What are some must-see things in or around campus?

Every library (esp doe and moffitt not also Asian art and some of the other small ones). The glade. Sather gate. The Greek. Memorial stadium. Greek row. Caffe strada. Walk along telegraph. Bampfa. Botanical garden. Tilden park. Shattuck and town center. College ave. Attend a sports event?

Dd says: “fav libraries social research (but we keep it secret), music library, environmental design library”

  • How were the school facilities?

Fine? When I was a student, I always felt inspired by the grandeur. Even the weird and poorly executed details (dwinelle, anyone?) usually make for interesting trivia. I think it’s a very appealing campus with lots of
Inspiring moments and a sense of real history and accomplishment, even in the grimmer corners.

  • Did you like it more or less than you thought you would? Why?

I’m pleased with the thoughtful, intentional efforts to build community, a sense of belonging and a more supportive academic culture since my time there. It’s always been a big, chaotic place where some thrive and some don’t, but the culture has shifted a bit so that at least pride in brutality is regarded as somewhat misplaced :joy::joy::joy: not every program is ultimately successful at that mission, but I appreciate them nonetheless. (Golden bear orientation, freshman seminars, decals and support for transfers come to mind). I think they should be clearer and more intentional about competitive vs leisure clubs, and also try to better fund clubs that are too big and ungainly to provide real services. We went to parents’ weekend the last two years and also the big game, and I was moved by the pride families felt in their students. Culturally, some colleges at cal are more mindlessly cutthroat than I’d like, though as many other programs are not (also? So much for the idea that you can’t have contact with profs or small classes at cal—my dd intentionally chose a major and classes that have had either lectures or discussions that were intimate and fostered relationships. So there is that.)

  • Did anything surprise you?

Nope—but then I’ve had a friends-with-benefits type relationship with Berkeley for more than 30 years.


I hear you on the discount. But I’d advise being in town if possible, to get a feel of Berkeley day and night (plus walk back to the hotel to rest midday etc, as opposed to cutting your day short because someone in your group gets tired) Then there’s the free breakfast factor as Residence Inn which is probably good for a family of, say, 4. At courtyard in Richmond, you wouldn’t get that. It kind of starts to even out financially, and the benefits of being right next to campus for a day or two is huge.
This is dependent on getting a good rate at the Residence Inn. Like I mentioned before, it can skyrocket

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Sure, close to campus is ideal, but just wanted to let people who are on a tighter budget know that if cost is a determining factor for them, there may be more affordable options just outside of Berkeley and that it will likely be quite easy to get to campus via public transportation, if that’s what fits their wallet best. But sure, close to campus would be the way to go, if you can swing the cost.

I would like to add that when I visit my freshman dd I usually park in the garage on the corner of Durant and Telegraph adjacent to Unit 3 dorm, literally one block south of the campus. Just go north on Telegraph when you exit the garage and you will walk right pass the Sather Gate and Sproul Plaza in no time. The 1st hour is FREE! Then $1 for the 2nd hour, then $2 for the 3rd hour. Stay pass 4 hours though you will pay the daily max of $16, so if you hang around longer than that you may want to move your car (and re-park perhaps). For more info on the garage see Parking Garages and Lots | City of Berkeley, the one I’m referring to is called Telegraph Channing Parking Garage.

This garage is smack-dab in the middle of student activities where all the dorms and eateries are located, a perfect place to experience the college vibe at night. To be young again!


Thanks for the great info!

My daughter and I stayed this week at the new Residence Inn. Rooms were large and very clean. They have a rooftop bar and restaurant that had beautiful views and surprisingly very good food too!