Here is a sampling of recreational opportunities available in the Bay Area and beyond.
Just over the ridge, 5 minutes walk from MSRI, is 2000 acre Tilden Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (also the designer of Central Park in NYC, and many more). The park contains a lake for swimming, a golf course, steam trains and a carousel for kids, and lots of nice trails.
This guide includes routes to MSRI (with map), links to local bicycle resources, and reviews of local bike sellers.
If you like to eat, this fairly comprehensive guide will help you find anything from Mel's Diner to Chez Panisse.
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 Merrit.
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, and it is one of the nicest urban settings anywhere. The park is home to Childrens' Fairyland, a delightfully funky theme park which inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland.
East Bay Regional Parks
In 1934, in the middle of the great depression, voters had the foresight to approve funding to create the East Bay Regional Park District. Today, the 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.
Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
"Imagine a 400-mile ridgeline trail connecting the Bay Area's precious greenbelt of parks and open space..."
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.
Great Outdoor Recreation Pages (GORP)
Lots of information on California destinations and outdoor activities.
Rockclimbing - Yosemite Valley, Tuolomne Meadows, Joshua Tree, Lovers Leap, Donner Pass, the Pinnacles, Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks, the high Sierra...California has something for everyone.
UCB Parent's Recommendations
Places to Go and Things To Do with or without kids (Berkeley Parents Network).
City Search 7
This guide to mainly commercial attractions, events, and community issues includes Berkeley area listings. Produced by ABC affiliate TV station KGO (channel 7).