Best of Berkeley: Lifestyle and Entertainment

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Best Architectural Design: East Asian Library

The best way to describe UC Berkeley's East Asian Library is hushed. Seemingly rough-hewn from stone and blushing wood, it's all straight lines and windows and light, a little sanctuary from the gape-inducing stone and broad-shouldered banisters of other campus buildings.

One of the newer buildings on campus, the East Asian Library carves out a distinctive place for itself among the classical and beaux-art style buildings that speckle the campus and the more clinically modern structures like Soda, Sutardja Dai or even Stanley Hall.

Although most Berkeley buildings are distinctive in their style and feel, the East Asian Library creates a learning space for students like no other. Its face is studded with a stunning gold-colored metal screen that resembles cracked ice.

The study tables are of calming, rosy wood and white paper lanterns hang ghost-like from its ceilings. Big windows (with ledges students can lie on) flood its reading rooms and collections with natural light, providing a beautiful sanctuary to study in - and admire.

-Noor Al-Samarrai

Best Bar: Bear's Lair Pub

Let's be real. Bear's Lair Pub doesn't offer the best beer selection, nor is it a particularly classy joint. But if you ever need an excuse to day drink, this is it. Though lacking a full bar (despite this category being "Best Bar"), Bear's Lair makes up for it with its punny slogan - "Go Beers" - and the collection of confiscated fake IDs hanging above the bar.

Apparently, Bear's Lair also has daily happy hours ($2.50 pints!). But it's better known for its crowded Friday afternoons, and the pub's weekly Beat the Clock is the way to start off your weekend shenanigans.

It's always an ordeal to get past the no-nonsense bouncers, through the always-crowded patio of newly-turned 21-year-olds and slip by the occasional older creeper. But once you actually make it to the bar, grab yourself a pitcher and a plastic cup and feel the solidarity around you of students whose only goal is to get fucked up. Might as well join in, since you'll probably run into everyone you ever met at Cal who you never needed to see again. The best part? You're in bed by 9 p.m. Oh, and the food isn't bad, either.

-Jessie Tseng

Best Hiking Route: Berkeley Fire Trail

From Tilden Regional Park to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, the East Bay has some of the most impressive hiking trails in all of the Bay Area. Fortunately, there's an option within walking distance that can bring out the inner hiker within every Berkeley resident.

Nestled away between Memorial Stadium and the Botanical Garden, the Berkeley Fire Trail offers hikers a chance to experience the great outdoors while still being close enough to civilization to grab a coffee on the way there. Hikers can also enjoy a tour of UC Berkeley's east side as they prepare for the seven-mile trek. While it attracts long-time enthusiasts with its beauty and convenience, the trail also acts as a perfect introduction for beginners with its slight inclines.

But the real draw is the scenery as the trail rises 300 feet in the first half-mile. Besides the amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a host of surrounding islands and Berkeley's very own Sather Tower, walking down the path right before sunset presents a sight that's hard to match. Of course, be sure to avoid the trail after dark.

-Jawad Qadir

Best Historical Place of Interest: Sather Tower

Yeah, its a 307-foot tall phallus stabbing into the sky, but it is an important phallus.

When architect John Galen Howard was hired to orchestrate the physical expansion of Berkeley in the early 20th century - a massive effort that brought us the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Wheeler Hall, Memorial Stadium and the Hearst Greek Theater - he made the Campanile the focal point of the campus' architectural master plan.

Built in honor of the fallen Campanile di San Marco in Venice, Italy, the 13-floor granite structure is the most prominent part of Howard's bold plan for constructing the "Athens of the West" in the foothills of Berkeley.

Since the massive tower went up in 1914, it has been visited by millions. Until metal bars were installed in 1981 it was also a popular suicide spot. In 1996, when Californians voted to ended affirmative action, 23 protesters occupied the tower as hundreds gathered outside.

In the century since Howard's original vision was completed, the rest of the Berkeley's expansion has been ad hoc, leaving Sather Tower as the premier symbol of the grandeur Berkeley's founders were hoping to reach.

-Javier Panzar

Best Local Band: Mad Noise

What do you get when you compile a group of musically-inclined individuals named Mogli, Khalil, Pharaoh and Chris? An identity crisis with some rhythm. That is, until they encountered a wino-prophet from North Beach one fateful night, who said to the lads, "Nah, nah ... Y'all make some mad noise. You mad noise." Thus was Mad Noise born, a '30s and '40s blues and contemporary pop quartet seasoned with a dash of R&B. They promise to make Radiohead danceable (not just in the coked-out, Thom Yorke way), charm moms into dropping big bucks (Nicole Kidman would agree - she bought a CD last Saturday) and add sizzle to every stripper gathering, yacht club soiree and farmer's market.

The all-acoustic ensemble unites bucket drums, guitar, harmonica and upright bass on their appropriately titled EP Noise Complaint, which they will soon follow with a compilation album of live recordings from the streets. They play every Saturday at the Embarcadero Farmer's Market, and will also make an appearance at the next Oakland Art Murmur on May 6th, so lace up those dancing shoes and come make some mad noises of your own.

-Belinda Gu

Best Place to Watch the Stars: Big C

The Big C on Charter Hill is a central component to Berkeley's lively tradition and school spirit. As a representation of Cal, it has been mottled and maimed by time, and serves as a testimony to Berkeley's unique history. It is a spot that must be visited by any true Golden Bear, and also by any serious stargazer. On game days, it's crowded with Cal fans intent on cheering on their team, and by night, it's haunted by Berkeley students intent on watching the stars and reveling in one of the city's most breathtaking views.

A bit of a trek to reach, the nighttime view at the Big C is worth it because it offers solitude and a place to ponder the beauty of the universe. Sitting on the Big C, you will feel part of the constellations themselves, which lurk so closely that you can trace them with your finger. To reach the Big C, first go to the parking lot behind the Greek Theatre. From there, find the dirt path at the farthest right corner of the parking lot, and follow this for about ten minutes to find your destination.

-Summer Dunsmore

Best Place for Creative Writing: Memorial Glade

Feeling out of touch with your muse after authoring that uninspired college essay? Quick, grab your Moleskine. Now head over to Memorial Glade to compose your very own fiction, love song or perhaps a piece of roommate-induced invective poetry.

While it's not the most secluded spot on campus, any commotion on the lawn in front of Doe Library will be nothing compared to the hustle-and-bustle of Sproul Plaza. A wayward frisbee now and then should be the extent of unwanted interruptions. The modest amount of traffic around the Glade also allows for decent people-watching opportunities, perfect for fleshing out those minor characters in your short story. I know what you're thinking: That creative writing minor is looking more feasible by the minute.

Try visiting at that golden hour when the sunlight gives the grass a heavenly glow. The peaceful radiance recalls the Elysian Fields of antiquity, except instead of dead Greek heroes wandering around in a reverie, there's a frenetic bunch of students playing Quidditch.

-Jeffrey Butterfield

Expert Pick

Best Place to Watch the Stars: Tilden Park

A very convenient place from which to stargaze on campus is Memorial Glade, which has a pretty clear horizon in many directions and is away from the brightest campus lights. If you don't mind hiking, the Big C is better because it has slightly darker skies, and you also get a great view of the Bay Area.

Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills has even darker skies, especially on a moonless night. For big groups - such as when many of my Astronomy C10 students go watch a meteor shower - my favorite location there is Vollmer Peak, because of its large flat area with clear horizons and the absence of nearby bright lights. If you're lucky, the city lights will be blocked by fog.

Be aware of the park curfew (10 p.m. to 5 a.m., or call them up to get an exception). Park in the Steam Train overflow lot; then walk up the paved road (blocked by a gate) to the summit, which takes about 20 to 25 minutes. Bring a flashlight and snacks. Consider carrying a tarp and sleeping bag to lie down on while you gaze up at the stars. Enjoy!

-Professor Alex Filippenko

Best Place to People-Watch: Sproul Plaza

On a beautiful day in Berkeley, you'll see Sproul Plaza artfully splashed with the eclectics of the afternoon. There's Yoshua, handing out his doomsday propaganda. There's the countless brigade of students handing out their own faceless fliers. Sproul Plaza is a place to meet, a place to greet; a place made famous by Mario Savio, by Barack Obama's televised inauguration speech, and by the plethora of protests, marches and demonstrations that pass through. It defines Berkeley and its history, and serves as the beating heart to a teeming, growing city.

Sproul is considered the best place to people-watch in Berkeley because it seamlessly combines the community with the campus. For this reason, Sproul is one of my favorite places; it's the quintessential intersection between Telegraph Avenue and Sather Gate, the place that attracts activity daily. It is a place to revel in Berkeley's characters, and essentially, in Berkeley's spirit. The city is known as "Berzerkeley" for its characters, its creeps, its combined insanity and its integral place alongside San Francisco in a progressive-thinking world. Come sit at Sproul. You never know who - or what - you'll find.

-Summer Dunsmore

Best Place to Watch a Movie: Shattuck Cinemas

Berkeley is blessed with a surfeit of movie theaters, and more often than not your selection might depend on what's playing where. But if you just feel like catching a flick, Shattuck Cinemas has the nicest accommodations of anywhere around. It's run by Landmark Theatres, which means the movies there are, roughly speaking, arthouse fare, but there is usually enough of an assortment showing on the 10 screens to suit varied tastes.

Recently, though, the theater has implemented changes to distinguish itself further. Two of the auditoriums substitute the typical rows of fold-down seats for a mess of couches, chairs and loveseats. And the theater now has the Lot 68 Lounge, which serves beer, wine and cocktails, with a selection of (somewhat pricey) food items. Some evening film screenings are restricted to 21+, so moviegoers can top off a tasty beverage during the show.

Among the other accessible options, Shattuck Cinemas is the classiest pick for a night at the movies in Berkeley. With the added bonus of Landmark's student discount, it's clear why Shattuck was voted Berkeley's best.

-Sam Stander

Best Place to Take a Date: Berkeley Marina

The serenity of the Berkeley Marina is what draws me there again and again. Easily accessible by the 51B bus, it's a creative, fun and memorable idea for a date. Moreover, the Marina is a great spot because it is a setting that inspires conversation, laughter or maybe even that first kiss. On a golden afternoon, you and your date can enjoy the sun and the waves melding together and lapping wistfully at the shore. Sea birds trace the sky with their wings overhead, and the clouds traverse lazily and whimsically with the wind.

The Marina provides the ideal view of Berkeley, perched gloriously on its eastern hill, and of San Francisco and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Anchored between these two cities, it's the perfect middle ground, an isolated oasis for you and your date to talk, picnic and catch the sunset. I actually suggested the Marina to a date just a few weeks ago. We spent our time perched on the rocks, gazing at the limitless horizon and sharing a peaceful moment together within our otherwise cacophonic lives. The Marina promises this perfect escape for you and your lover to get away from Berkeley's city life.

-Summer Dunsmore

Best Place to View the Sunset: Sather Tower

Your ears are still ringing, as if the final tone of the carillion concert refuses to quit the air. From the heights of Sather Tower, campus is reduced to a curious miniature of its everyday self. But despite the strangeness of seeing in this new resolution, the Bay remains familiar: On the horizon, Mount Tamalpais forms a hulking shadow over the slender silhouette of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Building rooftops below become scattered pieces of silver as the bloated sun sinks lower until it gleams and is gone. Detached tufts of light and color linger in the twilight sky, and somewhere in these diffuse moments the city self-illuminates. As the last green fades from the hills, darkness seeps in, filling Strawberry Canyon with the stillness of night.

That's what watching the sunset from the Campanile would be like, the best of Berkeley. Unfortunately, Sather Tower closes at 3:45 p.m. on weekdays to the general public. So unless you play carillion or have the keys to the structure, your Sather Tower rapturous sunset experiences are sadly, severely constrained to poetics.

-Arielle Little

Best Free Event in Berkeley: Caltopia

Tags: SATHER TOWER, BIG C, TILDEN REGIONAL PARK, SPROUL PLAZA, BEAR'S LAIR, MEMORIAL GLADE, C.V. STARR EAST ASIAN LIBRARY, SHATTUCK CINEMAS, BERKELEY FIRE TRAIL, MAD NOISE, BERKELEY MARINA, CALTOPIA






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