Here is a sampling of recreational opportunities available in the Bay Area and beyond.
RestaurantsBerkeley Dining Guide
If you want to explore local restaurants, this fairly comprehensive guide will help you find anything from Mel's Diner to Chez Panisse.
Sports & Recreation
MSRI Bicycling Guide
This guide includes suggested routes to MSRI and links to local bicycle resources.
City of Berkeley Bicycling Guide
Information on biking from the City of Berkeley.
Yosemite Valley, Tuolomne Meadows, Joshua Tree, Lovers Leap, Donner Pass, the Pinnacles, Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks, the high Sierra... California has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to climbing!
Bay Area Hiker provides details and photos of the many opportunities to hike around the Bay.
FunCheap Bay Area
This guide contains free or low-cost events and activities for all ages throughout the Bay Area.
East Bay Express
An online guide and newsletter with Oakland, Berkeley, and East Bay news, events, and more.
Arts & Culture
Lawrence Hall of Science
Just below MSRI is UC Berkeley's science museum, featuring exhibits and events for children and families.
Berkeley Art Museum / Asia Pacific Film Archive
UC Berkeley's campus hosts a brand new museum close to the Downtown Berkeley BART station. Each year BAMPFA presents more than twenty art exhibitions, 450 film programs, and dozens of performances, as well as lectures, symposia, and tours.
Oakland Museum of California
If you want to learn about California history and ecology, the Museum is without peer. The web site's "Virtual Museum" has a unique guide to Bay Area creeks and urban watersheds. The art wing isn't too shabby either, though it's often overshadowed by the more prestigious San Francisco museums. The building and grounds are lovely, and they are a good place to begin a walk around Lake Merritt.
San Francisco Museums
Across the Bay, San Francisco boasts dozens of world-class museums, from the newly renovated SF Museum of Modern Art to perennial visitor favorites including the De Young Museum, the Palace of Fine Arts, the California Academy of Sciences, Walt Disney Family Museum, and many more.
The Exploratorium is considered one of the world's best hands-on science museums for all ages, located on a pier along San Francisco's Embarcadero. Exhibits explore mathematics, physics, sound, music, art, perception, society, and more.
From the UC Berkeley Theater Department, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and Berkeley Playhouse to the Hearst Greek Theater (just down the hill from MSRI), visitors can enjoy a wide variety of performances and concerts. For popular music, the Bay Area has dozens of venues from large to small featuring local, national, and international performers.
Local & Regional Parks
Just over the ridge, 5 minutes' walk from MSRI, is the 2,000-acre Tilden Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed New York City's Central Park, and many more). In addition to miles of trails that connect to adjacent parks, Tilden provides exceptional opportunities for family fun, with a merry-go-round, swimming lake, the "Little Farm" featuring small animals children can feed and pet, pony rides, a steam train, and picnic areas that can be reserved.
The Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina is a unique outdoor facility, rated one of the top playgrounds in the nation, where staff encourage children to play and build creatively. Come climb on the many unusual kid-designed and built forts, boats, and towers. Ride the zipline or try your hand at using tools or painting. The playground is designed for children ages 7+, and clothes that can get dirty and sturdy shoes are a must! All families must sign a walk-in waiver due to the hands-on nature of the activities and landscape - learn more at the website.
The "lake" is actually a saltwater estuary which was dammed and dredged in the last century to create a park in the center of Oakland, which takes just under an hour to walk around. Areas for picnics, birdwatching, and boating abound, and the park is home to Children's Fairyland, a delightfully funky theme park featuring whimsical storybook sets, gentle rides, friendly animals, and live entertainment for young children.
East Bay Regional Parks
The East Bay Regional Park District has grown to include dozens of properties in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, encompassing ridgelines, lakes, shoreline, connector trails and historic sites. Tilden Park, at our doorstep, is the closest. You'll find hiking, biking, swimming, boating, nature programs, music, and much more.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
GGNRA is the "largest urban national park in the world." It includes a vast amount of spectacular territory along the coasts of Marin County and the San Francisco peninsula, and incorporates within its boundaries Fort Point National Historic Site, Muir Woods National Monument, Alcatraz Island and the Presidio of San Francisco.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Located in Marin County, Point Reyes is a favorite destination to enjoy drives and hikes through pastoral lands to beaches, to the historic lighthouse, and to wildlife viewing areas, such as the tule elk range on Tomales Point or the Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock. Birdwatching is exceptional throughout the seashore, especially during fall and spring migrations. The Point Reyes headlands and park beaches are excellent places to view the annual gray whale migration, which is best from January through April. Many visitors enjoy picnicking at beaches or at some beautiful vista along the park’s trails. About 240 kilometers (150 miles) of trail beckon hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders to explore the backcountry.
Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
"Imagine a 400-mile ridgeline trail connecting the Bay Area's precious greenbelt of parks and open space..."
California National Parks
From day trips to weekend destinations, America's national park system features world-class opportunities for recreation, historical exploration, photography, and more. If you're planning to visit more than one national park, you may find a National Park Pass can save you on admission fees, which vary from park to park.
Yosemite National Park
"No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Some lean back in majestic repose; others, absolutely sheer or nearly so for thousands of feet, advance beyond their companions in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, seemingly aware, yet heedless, of everything going on about them. Awful in stern, immovable majesty, how softly these rocks are adorned, and how fine and reassuring the company they keep: their feet among beautiful groves and meadows, their brows in the sky, a thousand flowers leaning confidingly against their feet, bathed in floods of water, floods of light, while the snow and waterfalls, the winds and avalanches and clouds shine and sing and wreathe about them as the years go by, and myriads of small winged creatures birds, bees, butterflies -- give glad animation and help to make all the air into music. Down through the middle of the Valley flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peacefully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks; things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms, as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her." -- The Yosemite, by John Muir (1912). Don't leave California without "sauntering" up yourself!