Take A Tour in Berkeley

Tours are great ways to get introduced to a new area in a short time. Even when you already know an area, an in-depth tour of an attraction can be interesting and enlightening.

Consider these stimulating tours of top Berkeley places. For details, please visit the appropriate website.

1. UC Berkeley Campus Tour

Led by student guides, this 90-minute walking tour gives an overview of the campus and highlights history and architecture. All tours cover housing and dining, academic structure, applying to Berkeley, undergraduate colleges and graduate schools, and safety and health. Some additional specialized tours are also available, including an admissions tour and residence hall tours.

  • When: Daily at 10 a.m.
  • Cost: Free
  • Reservations: Required.
  • Good to know: You can visit the student union for lunch, and many more dining spots are available nearby.

2. University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley

Located in lush Strawberry Canyon, this 34-acre garden is home to more than 13,000 different types of plants organized by continent of origin. Noteworthy sights include a rhododendron dell, a redwood grove, and the world’s largest collection of California native plants.

  • When: Thursday–Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
  • Cost: Free with garden admission
  • Reservations: Not required
  • Good to know: No dogs. The Lawrence Hall of Science is just a little farther up the road.

3. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

This tour visits the Molecular Foundry, Advanced Light Source, and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). Scientists lap it up. For the rest of us, information is presented in a form we can understand, and, also, the ride up and back on the Lab Shuttle Bus is fun.

  • When: Third Friday of the month, January–November; 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • Cost: Free
  • Reservations: Required
  • Good to know: Must be age 16+; age 16 and 17 must be accompanied by an adult. No pets. Meeting place is downtown Berkeley. Wear comfortable, flat, closed-toed shoes and slacks; high-heeled shoes are not permitted. Downtown Berkeley has plenty of places to enjoy lunch after.
berkeley lab

4. Regional Parks Botanic Garden

Established in 1940, this 10-acre garden located in rambling Tilden Regional Park collects, grows, displays, and preserves native California plants. Tours usually last about an hour and are appropriate for both adults and children.

  • When: Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and some holidays.
  • Cost: Free. Admission to the garden is also free.
  • Reservations: Not needed.
  • Good to know: No dogs. Tilden Park’s Little Farm and the Merry-Go-Round are nearby.
Tilden Botanic Garden View in Berkeley, CA

5. Berkeley City Club

Designed by architect Julia Morgan--who graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1894 with a B.S. honors degree in civil engineering, and who famously designed Hearst Castle--the magnificent landmark Berkeley City Club features Moorish and Italian Gothic elements and is decorated with oriental rugs and vintage furniture. It is a visual delight. A guest room can be seen by request if one is available. Tours last 45 minutes.

  • When: On the fourth Sunday of the month, January-October. Between 1 and 3:30 p.m.
  • Cost: Fee.
  • Reservations: Not needed.
  • Good to know: On-site Julia’s Restaurant and Morgan’s Bar are open to the public, but never on Sunday. Telegraph Avenue is just two blocks away.

6. Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tours

A variety of tours focused on specific areas or neighborhoods are scheduled each month.

  • When: Monthly schedule. 10 a.m. to noon.
  • Cost: Fee; non-refundable.
  • Reservations: Required.
Ghost Towns

7. Edible Excursions

North Berkeley Food Tour and Downtown Berkeley Brunch Tour

Edible Excursions' walking tours focus on cuisine. One covers the justly famous foodie mecca known in North Shattuck, which is home to Alice Waters’ world-renowned Chez Panisse restaurant. Tours visit the historic Cheese Board Collective to sample pizza and gourmet cheese, the original Peet’s Coffee, and more. The second tour stops in at several downtown restaurants during Sunday brunch to sample specialties and enjoy behind-the-scenes access to local chefs.

  • When: North Shattuck: Thursdays 11 a.m.-2:15 p.m.; Saturdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Downtown Brunch: Sundays 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Cost: Fee.
  • Reservations: Required.
  • Good to know: You’ll get plenty to eat during these samplings. Plan your before and after meals accordingly.

8. Telegraph Avenue Walking Tour (App)

Historical points of interest are highlighted, and many historical images are included for each location on this app. Many people who were here back in the day tell stories, and several thematic tours are also an option.

  • Cost: Free download at the Apple Store: “Telegraph Berkeley Tour.”
  • Good to know: You don’t need headphones.
An artist creates a work of art on Telegraph Ave in downtown Berkeley, California

These are just some of the many tours you can take to see all of the beauty in Berkeley. Meanwhile, check out our travel itineraries for even more inspiration.

Award-winning travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers is the author of 18 books, the editor of five books, and the mother of two children--with whom she has been through the road wars and in the travel trenches first-hand. Ms. Meyers is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and resides in Berkeley, California. Her website is https://berkeleyandbeyond2.com/ and she blogs at Weekend Adventures Update.

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