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Among the buzzing student life, thriving culinary scene, and populous walking paths of Berkeley, there lies a sense of mystery, of secrets waiting to be uncovered. Some of these secret spots are stumbled upon accidentally, while others are heard through the grapevine from Berkeley locals. To make it easier on you, we've compiled a few of the top hidden gems in Berkeley, on campus and beyond.
Strawberry Creek tumbles down from the Berkeley Hills right through the Cal campus. With a winter storm behind it, the creek rushes; in the summer, there's barely a trickle. It's a dynamic stripe of nature.
Hidden inside the much larger Doe Library, the Morrison Library opened in 1928 as an ambient reading room for students. Tibetan area rugs, vintage lamps and furniture create an ambient setting that conjures another era. Time travelers welcome.
Located at the start of Curran Trail in Tilden Park, this miniature post office set up inside a tree is fit for a fairy. Those who stumble upon this charming display will find a tiny desk, chair, bulletin board, and most importantly, a mailbox, where children and hikers alike will leave handwritten notes. If you're particularly lucky, you might find a copy of "The Small Times", the Fairy Post Office's whimsical little newspaper.
Try to find Founders Rock at the corner of Hearst Ave and Gayley Road. Oak and eucalyptus trees shelter a jumble of lichen-encrusted stones that is the very heart of Berkeley. In 1860, more than a century before Mario Savio would initiate the Free Speech Movement on UC Berkeley’s campus, the trustees of the College of California in Oakland met here to commemorate the land they had purchased for a new university.
Take a drive by Mathews Street, west of San Pablo Park, for a glimpse at an architectural oddity - the Fish House. This house was designed to resemble the tardigrade, a marine organism that can survive extreme conditions. Similarly, the Fish House is supposed to be resistant to earthquake, fire, and flood. At the very least, the quirky home is fun to look at due to its unique fish-like structure.
Located on Telegraph Avenue, Moe’s Books is a fantastic independent bookstore with an amazing backstory.
If you've never had an authentic Native American dining experience in the back of a university book store, consider trying out Cafe Ohlone. Here you'll get to try the cuisine of the Ohlone tribe, which used to inhabit what is now the East Bay area of California. Pro tip: look up the restaurant schedule before you go, since the hours vary.
From marbles to Monopoly to Frisbees and Minecraft, Games of Berkeley knows how to play. Say hello to the giant wizard sculpture, a.k.a. Gareth O'Beardsley, standing guard over the arts and crafts section.
Discover even more hidden gems in Visit Berkeley's guide to exploring Cal's campus, encompassing icons and indie corners alike. The “Cal Secret Spots” guide, created in collaboration with content company Bravo Your City!, is available online and through iBooks and Amazon Kindle. Berkeley travelers can pick one up (while supplies last) at the Visitor Information Center, 2030 Addison Street in downtown Berkeley, along with a variety of other printed guides and brochures with great activity suggestions.