Before we highlight a few places around Berkeley that you might want to try out, we want to make you aware of several discounts that Lab affiliation brings about. Go here for a pdf listing these discounts. But that’s not the end, my friend, because on ticketsatwork.com you are offered discounts on movies, theaters, amusements parks, ski lift tickets, hotels, you name it. Just set up an account by using the company code “LBL”. Happy saving.
Jupiter, Comal and Triple rock are popular bars in downtown Berkeley, which all all serve good food. Sliver has great pizzas, and Barney‘s very good burgers. In West Berkeley, there’s Albatross (the oldest pub in Berkeley), Missouri lounge (hipster’s paradise) and Torpedo Taproom to name a few. A bit South, Actual Café is a must.
But Berkeley has many more amenities than just the great food and beverages. You can watch the Bears playing football at the memorial stadium, visit a Bears’ basketball game. Go to Oakland to see the Athletics at O.Co or the Raiders when it’s football season. The San Francisco basketball team—the Golden State Warriors—usually also play in Oakland.
There’s a bunch of nice movie theaters (California theater, Shattuck Landmark with old school seats etc.) and traditional theaters (Berkeley Rep and Aurora next door, half-priced). A good venue for folk, blues and country music is Freight&Salvage; West Berkeley has the fantastic Ashkenaz (better go there after 4:20 pm). For bigger concerts, look at the Greek Theatre.
Neighbourhoods to explore are Solano, Telegraph, College/Elmwood, 4th street/Marina, and the hills (better walk there) like Indian Rock.
There’s a bunch of very neat places in Oakland like Grand Lake theater, Stork Club, Yoshi’s or Café Van Kleef. But that’s a bit further. The Fox theater is the best venue for music concerts in the whole Bay Area.
There’s a bunch of very good bars and restaurants in North Beach (Vesuvio, Comstock, Sodini’s, House of Nanking). Another place to have fun is Haight-Ashbury, especially Magnolia brewery where they serve the great beers and good burgers.
The Mission near Valencia or Castro is also a lively district; when sunny, Dolores park nearby is very pleasant (you can see parrot flying around sometimes). For concerts, the awesome venues are The Fillmore and The Independant—check out their upcoming concert, generally low priced.
For nightlife, Mezzanine, 1015 Folsom and DNA Lounge are popular places. Monarch and Public Works are also fun, while Vessel is boom-boom and a little more upscale. Culture happens, too, at the ACT, which is a cool theater. Or, visit the DeYoung Museum (check out their Friday nights) and Legion of Honour (these two are hard to reach without a car though). There’s a nice hike called “Land’s End” on the West side of the city. Twin Peaks is great, too.
If you can, try to attend a baseball game of the Giants at the AT&T Park. Plan in advance because it can be darn expensive!
Note that there will be Bay to Breakers in mid-May, which is a giant party happening in the whole city. Everybody gets dressed in silly costume and drink ’til dawn. In October the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival takes place in Golden State Park,
You can have great oysters in Tomales Bay (1.5h north), visit wineries and sip some wine in Sonoma (or Napa, 1 h north), enjoy a good hike at Mt Diablo (1 h east), have a picnic in Half Moon Bay (1 h southwest). Marin county is a great area that you can explore further, even with bike (San Rafael/Tiburon/Mill Valley).
If you like nature, Pt. Reyes is gorgeous. Wander through huge trees in Muir woods (1 h north). Furthermore, Yosemite National Park is not too far away (3.5 h to 4 h east), and neither is the blue Lake Tahoe (4 h north-east).