Exploring the Berkeley Arena

For Students Seeking Off-Campus Summer Fun, Plenty Of Diverse Destinations Are Just a Free Bus Ride Away

Photo: STAYING COOL. Tilden Park's Lake Anza is a favorite getaway among students and 
families alike.
Aditya Rohilla/Photo
STAYING COOL. Tilden Park's Lake Anza is a favorite getaway among students and families alike.

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After receiving this assignment, I figured the only way to write accurately about the best Berkeley hangouts beyond the immediate vicinity of campus, outside of which many of us admittedly don't venture nearly enough, was to go on an all-day tour of this strange place I'm lucky enough to call home.

My girlfriend and I begin our excursion at our favorite Berkeley spot, the Marina. A lush park resting alongside the greatest body of water in the world, the Marina is well worth bearing traffic all the way down University to get to. For one, the view is awesome. Located directly across from San Francisco, the Marina's low elevation allows for a different glimpse of the Bay Area than similarly spectacular views seen from the towering Berkeley hills a few miles east. Walking out to the end of the pier, you feel-no, you really are-in the middle of the bay. With the summer sun high overhead, views of the water and distant landmarks melt away any anxiety brought about by a summer class or job. For those craving a more active day, the UC Aquatic Center rents out all the water gear you could possibly need, including kayaks, sailboats and windsurfing equipment.

Our next stop is Lake Anza, watery jewel of Berkeley's Tilden Regional Park. Most of us needing a dip settle for the frustratingly crowded Strawberry Canyon pool. But if you're looking for a more natural albeit murkier watering hole, Lake Anza is your place. Straddled by the sandiest beach Berkeley has to offer, as well as sprawling lawns and beautiful scenery, Lake Anza is the perfect getaway for the sweating Berkeley resident just dying for a few hours away from concrete and car exhaust.

Needing some time out of the sun, we head next to UC Berkeley's own Lawrence Hall of Science. Without an entrance guarded by a life-sized plastic whale, which serves as an unconventional jungle gym for energetic visitors, Lawrence would be easily missed amid the nondescript research buildings that overlook the campus. Yet the inside is anything but ordinary. The Hall houses some fascinating exhibits, most of which take a little imagination to enjoy. The hands-on displays give visitors, at least those who enjoy giant Lincoln logs and miniature speed boats, the rare chance to feel completely at ease acting like a kindergartener. With the right state of mind, it can be an entertaining and air-conditioned diversion that fits easily into any summer itinerary.

Our subsequent and penultimate activity involves a common summer activity: shopping. We head to University Avenue's second-hand clothing stores. Forget the expensive "vintage" shops on Telegraph; you can get the coolest and certainly most economical summer styles at places like Out of the Closet and the Goodwill Store. Where else can you find the floral print short-shorts, floppy, pink sun bonnet, or aquamarine Hawaiian shirt dotted with toucans that you've always wanted (even if you didn't necessarily know it) all for under 10 bucks? Regardless of what you come away with, it's a great way to spend an afternoon.

We end our day with an all-time Berkeley favorite, regardless of the season. The Wednesday night poetry slam at the Starry Plough, a rustic Irish pub located on Shattuck, is always a fascinating and moving experience. The Bay Area's finest poets gather each week to fight an exciting yet unconventional battle in which the audience is the ultimate victor. Any given Wednesday, these poets can make you cry, laugh and experience everything in between.

As you may have guessed, we didn't actually get to all these places in one day; the good thing is, you don't have to. They're all within a free AC Transit ride from campus, and each one will leave you feeling glad you braved the summer heat to experience a new destination.

Take advantage of your class pass with Nick at [email protected]

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