Staying at Berkeley Marina for 3 nights - where to go, what to do?
November 9, 2015 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm traveling for work to Berkeley/Berkeley Marina (staying at the Doubletree) this week and will have 3 late afternoons/nights to myself this coming Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I'm leaving Sunday morning. On Thursday I arrive at the SFO airport before 1 pm so I've got the whole day after that. Friday I will be in UC Berkeley until 5pm so I'd like to check that area out while I'm up there. Saturday I'll be staying at the marina and free after 5pm.

I like to walk (and I pack very light), am fine with public transit, and don't want to spend tons of cash given the crappy exchange rate (I'm coming from Toronto). Is it worthwhile to take transit to San Francisco one of the nights or should I do that the day I arrive?

I like live music, sweets, and prefer nature to man-made "sights" (except maybe art galleries). I read a previous question and will look into the Asian Art Museum in San Fran.

Tips on what to wear are appreciated too, it looks warm during the day but cooler at night, does the wind around the ocean add a substantial cooling factor? Would a leather jacket be appropriate as a layer?
posted by lafemma to Travel & Transportation around Berkeley, CA (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's thunderstorming in Berkeley at this moment but it's supposed to be sunny this weekend. A leather jacket is probably fine but a lighter jacket would be even better, with some sort of sweater (or hoodie if you want to go full Bay Area) and a light T-shirt underneath. The rule of thumb for the Bay is always many layers, because temperatures change drastically between the East Bay and the city, or morning and afternoon, or sun and shade.

On Friday while you are up in the university, definitely check out the fire trails behind campus if you are a nature lover. Unfortunately the campus art gallery is closed at the moment but definitely check out Doe Library, which always has some kind of exhibit going on in the lobby (and, as a matter of interest, there is an art history symposium there on Friday). If you're a person who is very into arts and culture you might enjoy the Musical Offering Café, which is a combination café/classical music CD shop (!!) where all the humanities grad students and faculty get lunch. (They make excellent baked goods too, the brownie is phenomenal.)

It's a great time of year to be visiting the Bay, I'm sure you'll have a wonderful trip!
posted by Owl of Athena at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2015

Oh, and if you don't have access to a car then keep in mind that it will take you quite a while to get into the city from your hotel. The 51B bus goes to downtown Berkeley from the Marina and you can catch the BART from there, so it's quite convenient, but the whole trip to Civic Center (where the Asian art museum is) could easily be an hour and a half. So, if I were you I would plan for it to be a day trip rather than an evening outing. Taxis are insanely expensive but if you do get stranded, ridesharing services are cheaper (still not cheap though) and plentiful (I'd recommend Lyft over Uber).
posted by Owl of Athena at 8:41 AM on November 9, 2015

Unfortunately the Doubletree/Marina area are pretty out of the way with not a ton around there, and taking the bus anywhere will be a time committment that in your shoes (limited time) I would not want to pay. I would plan on taking an Uber or Lyft to downtown Berkeley to check out the campus area and also catch BART into San Francisco. It shouldn't be overly expensive (definitely cheaper than a cab).

For sweets:
Ici in Elmwood (incredible ice cream, a 15ish minute walk from the southside of campus, former Chez Panisse pastry chef runs it)

For views, this is touristy for sure, but if you can make it out to the Golden Gate bridge, it is incredible to walk across. Another great view is the viewing tower at the De Young museum (art museum). It's several stories tall and if it's not too foggy you can get an amazing view of the city. Plus, it's smack in the middle of Golden Gate park so you have lots of fun stuff to wander around and look at, both free (buffalo, beautiful gardens, meadow-y areas where you can hang out if the weather is good) and paid (Japanese Tea Gardens, Conservatory of Flowers, Botanical Gardens).

Around UC Berkeley, if you like Mexican food I highly recommend Comal, which does sort of fusiony California cuisine-Oaxacan small plates and crazy-good cocktails. Plus just has the perfect Berkeley vibe in my opinion (see if you can snag a seat outside if the weather is good). You also might enjoy the sushi at Kirala (two locations in Berkeley).
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:27 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Map room of the Doe Library is exquisite. Also, head up North Gate (Cardiac Hill, nicknamed) and check out the Pacific School of Religion exquisite library. I would also look at the UCB website calendar for events.
posted by effluvia at 9:32 AM on November 9, 2015

Bernard Maybeck in BerkeleyMaybeck has some really nice works in Berkeley listed here you also might enjoy seeing.
posted by effluvia at 10:15 AM on November 9, 2015

Yes, it can be quite foggy and cold, both at the Berkeley Marina and in SF.

One thing you may wish to do on the Thursday afternoon/evening you arrive would be to go to the Embarcadero (on the Bay) and walk along the Bay. It's not quite nature but it is scenic and appropriate in the late afternoon into the evening. If you have a lot of time, you can see a lot of the shoreline. You can also eat dinner at various places at the Ferry Building (Slanted Door would be a good option especially if they serve food at the bar - I can't remember). Personally, I would walk the Embarcadero or anywhere else (through Chinatown to North Beach is another attractive option; in the Mission along Valencia/Dolores Park area is another) before committing to the Asian Art Museum (which is perfectly nice).

The area around the Berkeley Marina is pretty isolated and dead, unfortunately. I concur with others that you might need to use ride share services unless the hotel has a shuttle.
posted by vunder at 10:23 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

For events, like live music etc., try I generally check Goldstar first when I'm looking for something to do, otherwise I will pay full price for something I might otherwise pay half price for.
posted by janey47 at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2015

One restaurant that we go out of our way to get to is Cafe Colucci in Oakland, just on the border of Beekeley on Telegraph at Alcatraz. It is Ethiopian cuisine and amazing, if you like spices and rich flavors.

I second the idea to catch a cab/Lyft to the BART station and check out the city. It is an easy ride. Get off at Powell for access to Union Sq, Chinatown, cable cars etc.
posted by phreckles at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2015

It's thunderstorming in Berkeley at this moment but it's supposed to be sunny this weekend. A leather jacket is probably fine but a lighter jacket would be even better, with some sort of sweater (or hoodie if you want to go full Bay Area) and a light T-shirt underneath. The rule of thumb for the Bay is always many layers, because temperatures change drastically between the East Bay and the city, or morning and afternoon, or sun and shade.

I'm freezing in my building on the UCB campus as we speak; if you tend to get cold easily I'd bring a pretty warm layer (okay, it's not going to snow or anything but still). It's dark super early and the temperature drops a lot in the evenings, and it will likely be windy at the marina. Better to have a warm layer with you just in case.
posted by JenMarie at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2015

I stayed at that hotel! But we had a car, and the drive into the marina area is pretty desolate. So I wouldn't suggest trying to walk anywhere really.
posted by smackfu at 1:05 PM on November 9, 2015

Definitely walk around the Cal campus and downtown area! If you want to check out a great view, try taking the trip up to the top of the Campanile (though you should probably check the hours on that). Even if you don't go up in the tower, the view from base is lovely as well, it was my favorite spot on campus. There are also bell concerts daily, I believe at 1 PM.
posted by yasaman at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cheeseboard scones for breakfast. Cheeseboard cheese and bread for lunch. Cheeseboard pizza for dinner.

Also walk around that neighborhood (Gourmet Ghetto). The very first Peet's is on Walnut and Vine, there's good gelato, take out sushi, and Chinese noodles at the Epicurious Garden on Shattuck, Live Oak is a nice park nearby, you can get a great deli meal at Saul's, there's a bookstore. It's about as Berkeley (for a kind of Berkeley) as you can get.

And nthing take a taxi/uber/lyft from the Marina. It's the only practical way to get to the rest of Berkeley.
posted by zippy at 3:04 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

It is actually perfectly possible to walk into Berkeley from the Marina - I do it all the time. It's about a 20-25 minute walk on a paved pedestrian/bike path from the hotel to the bus turnaround at the bottom of University Ave. I used to keep my boat right near the hotel and I walked this all the time if the bus was not on it's way.

The path goes along the road to the marina, turns at the Seabreeze snack bar, and crosses the freeway on a huge pedestrian suspension bridge. It puts you out on 2nd and Addison, which is a short block away from the Sierra Nevada taproom on 4th street. If you turn walk north on 4th a few blocks there is a small but lively shopping district with bookstores, an Apple store, restaurants (Tacubaya is great), coffee (Artis is great), etc.

If the bus is a half hour out and/or the frontage road is bumper-to-bumper traffic (which it often is) it's a fine way to get into town and onto University Ave. to catch a more frequent bus (or be in better range for an uber or what-have-you)

Look at Google maps of the area and it'll be clear.
posted by gyusan at 4:51 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Brr, the winds on the Marina can be frigid. I'm not a wimp when it comes to cold, but I'd wear a scarf on the marina...

This is a somewhat random list, but here are a few cheap, pleasant, low-key things you can do within walking distance (up to 3 km) of the marina:

* Get amazing food (and sweets) at Vik's Chaat
* Visit the sake museum and tasting room at Takara
* Catch some world music at Ashkenaz
* See the Adventure Playground (OK, this is for kids, but it's really pretty awesome)
* Walk through Aquatic Park and see the local waterfowl

(For more music listings, a good source is the East Bay Express.)

As for seeing nature in Berkeley... you're staying at the exact wrong end of town for that (west Berkeley is pretty industrial/post-industrial), but just head up to anywhere in the hills -- Tilden Park, Strawberry Canyon, wherever. There's an almost continuous expanse of green space along the East Bay ridges. The UC Berkeley campus is a good staging ground. If you go anywhere near Claremont Canyon, I recommend getting your sweets fix at Fournee.
posted by aws17576 at 7:00 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Asian Art Museum is only open until 5, but if you're okay with that it's effectively on the way from SFO to the East Bay. I second vunder's suggestion of taking a walk through a nice part of the City (if you like walking).

Berkeley can get fairly cold since it basically sits right across from the Golden Gate; I don't know how meteorologically sound that is but it's how I've come to think of it. I used to get by with a fleece but you may want to add a layer.
posted by Standard Orange at 11:25 PM on November 9, 2015

That hotel has a shuttle that runs every half hour and will take you to and from BART and other places in downtown Berkeley. Since you're going to be there for three nights, I would definitely think about spending one of them in SF--you can take the shuttle to the North Berkeley BART station, take BART into the city (I'd suggest either to 24th Street Mission, Embarcadero, or Powell Street/Union Square depending on what you're up for--all three will be fun to find someplace to eat and just walk around; Mission will possibly have music somewhere that you would enjoy). You might also enjoy going to uptown Oakland--get off BART at 19th Street and there are tons of eating/drinking/entertainment options there.

BART trains run fairly predictably on schedules, but in the evening and weekends trains are less frequent (e.g. sometimes every 20 minutes), so check the schedule before you go so that you don't have to wait too long for a train, and I bet the hotel times their shuttles at least loosely with the train schedule, or you can taxi/uber/lyft yourself). (I would not enjoy that walk from BART back to the Marina after dark, but YMMV.)

Also as gyusan mentioned, in Berkeley Fourth Street is just the other side of the highway from where the Marina is, and you can walk over there or get the shuttle to drop you off. There's mostly restaurants and shopping there.

Finally, the East Bay Shoreline Park runs along the west side of the highway where the marina is. Even just getting to the pedestrian bridge that gyusan mentions above, from the Doubletree you can cut diagonally through this restored nature area and it's sort of like being in the wilderness, except not really of course. You can take that trail along the Bay up to the Albany Bulb, which is fun to walk around and has a bunch of art things that people have made/constructed over the years. Oh and a bunch of feral cats live at Cesar Chavez Park (adjacent to the Doubletree) and people usually fly kites there on weekends.
posted by gubenuj at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

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