Get to Know: Berkeley California

Population: 115,400

Location: Nestled between the Pacific foothills and the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley borders neighboring Oakland to the south and is a short 15- to 30-minute drive east of downtown San Francisco and 1.5-hour drive north of San Jose. 

Transportation: Getting around Berkeley is a breeze thanks to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), AMTRAK, and bus services that run daily. Grab a BART train at the Oakland International Airport (14 miles away) or San Francisco International Airport (24 miles away) and ride it directly to downtown Berkeley. You can also take advantage of nearby San Francisco-based companies Uber and Lyft’s easy ride-share options.

Vibe: Perhaps best known as the birthplace of the 1960s Free Speech Movement, Berkeley now embodies “an international cosmopolitan scene with a community vibe,” according to Visit Berkeley Sales Manager Nikole Halaka. The city is home to hundreds of arts organizations, galleries and artists, and boasts the oldest campus in the University of California system (the top-rated UC Berkeley). The focus on fresh, local, and sustainable cuisine explains Visit Berkeley’s slogan: “Come for the Culture, Stay for the Food.” 

Must-Sees & Dos: Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views from the top of Sather Tower on UC Berkeley’s campus. Commonly referred to as the “Campanile,” the 103-year-old tower, modeled after St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, Italy, is the most prominent landmark in the East Bay. Next, see what the culinary buzz is all about on a walking tour of the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley. Edible Excursions offers twice-weekly tours complete with history and delicious bites in the neighborhood’s long-established culinary icons and emerging enterprises. Finally, catch an exhibit or show at one of the many performing and visual arts venues that Berkeley is known for—the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, or Aurora Theatre Company, to name a few. An added bonus: these venues all offer rentable event space.

Hotels & Venues: With more than 1,300 hotel, motel and B&B rooms in Berkeley, there’s no shortage of places to meet, celebrate and rest. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Berkeley Marina, right on the Bay, features 15,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor space, including a 5,088-square-foot ballroom. The boutique Hotel Durant offers 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and the historic Hotel Shattuck Plaza can accommodate groups of up to 300. Other unique venues include Golden Gate Fields, Lawrence Hall of Science, and Kala Art Institute & Gallery

Restaurants: Berkeley’s local, sustainable and organic food ethos was championed by chef Alice Waters in 1971 with the opening of her now-famous restaurant, Chez Panisse. Reservations are recommended for fine dining in the downstairs dining room, or walk in and enjoy more casual fare options in the upstairs café. For those with global palates, Riva Cucina boasts dishes from chef Massimiliano Boldrini, who is from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and the new Comal restaurant downtown serves earthy, modern dishes from Oaxaca and Mexico’s neighboring coastal regions. The Berkeley Social Club features contemporary Korean-American cuisine and a spacious back patio for group gatherings.

How the CVB Helps: “Visit Berkeley can help source lodging facilities and meeting space venues and take that off your plate,” says Halaka. “We can get proposals and best bids, and we can give you recommendations for transportation, dining, and things to do. We can also provide visitor guides to meeting planners to have on hand for meetings and events.” 

California is one of the most abundant agricultural regions in the world, but a startling number of residents aren’t always sure where their next meal will come from. According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks, one in eight Californians struggles with hunger. The situation is especially startling for children; one in five is food insecure.

Hunger is not a supply problem, it’s a logistics challenge. And the meetings and events industry is full of logistics-minded people who are in a position to chip away at it.


There’s gold—and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed meeting center—in them thar hills.


A new gem in the central coast.