Practical Tips for the Berkeley Festival

Randy Matamoros, member of the SFEMS Board of Directors and Berkeley Festival Advisory Committee, has prepared a couple of useful guides to help Festival-goers plan their experience for maximum enjoyment. The first is a downloadable planning grid, featuring the dates, times, and venues of all BFX events. The second, below, is an introductory set of suggestions of how to get around in Berkeley, where to grab a bite, etc.

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St Mark’s Episcopal Church

The Berkeley Festival and Exhibition is nearly upon us—8 full days of Main Stage and Fringe concerts, along with the Exhibition and many special events. The weather should be glorious (sunny and 70’s forecast for the entire week) and the music, divine. The Berkeley Festival is a great place to come for dinner and a concert, or spend a day or two wandering from one concert to the next, interspersed with strolls on the lovely UC Berkeley campus. We hope that you’re looking forward to attending the Festival as much as we are!

Of course, a bit of planning and local knowledge can enhance any visit. So here are some practical suggestions to help you make the most of the Festival.

Getting to the Festival

The Downtown Berkeley BART station is a 15-minute walk from the heart of the Festival. The prettiest route is straight up Center Street to the corner of Oxford and through the campus, coming out on Dana Street. If you are unsure of this route initially, you can also walk south from the BART station on Shattuck to Bancroft or Durant, then east to the main Festival venues. Taxis and ridesharing (Uber, Lyft) are also available from Downtown Berkeley BART. Several AC Transit lines also server the South Campus area.

First Congregational Church

If public transit is not convenient, there are several parking options in the vicinity.

Public parking garages include the Telegraph-Channing garage (a block from the venues) and the Oxford and Allston Way garages downtown (near the BART station).

Nearby UC Berkeley lots may be available, depending on time of day: the Ellsworth Structure (enter on Channing above Ellsworth), the lot at the corner of Bancroft & Fulton, or the lot underneath Zellerbach Hall (enter on Bancroft).

Trinity, First Congregational and First Presbyterian churches all have nearby lots that might also be available, depending on time of day.

Getting Around at the Festival

All of the official Festival venues and many of the Fringe venues are within 3 or 4 blocks of one another, centered around First Congregational Church. Walking is generally the most practical way to get from one concert to the next. A few Fringe concerts take place at outlying venues, a short drive away.

If you have some time to wait between concerts, there are pleasant courtyards at First Congregational and First Presbyterian churches – and Upper & Lower Sproul Plazas on the UC campus are just steps away. Or consider stopping in at a local café, such as The Musical Offering or 1951 Coffee Company.

Food and Drink

The Musical Offering

There are many options for keeping yourself fed and hydrated (and caffeinated) while at the Berkeley Festival.

The Musical Offering is the “spiritual home” of the Berkeley Festival, having been co-founded by Joseph Spencer (who also co-founded the Festival). The Musical Offering (510-849-0211, will be open daily during the Festival with breakfast, lunch and café options, plus limited dinner seating most nights. Located on Bancroft across from Zellerbach Hall, the Musical Offering also includes an excellent classical music CD store.

Other nearby café options include 1951 Coffee Company, located in the First Presbyterian Building on Channing between Dana and Telegraph; Café Blue Door, across the street from St. Mark’s; and Café Strada at College & Bancroft. 1951 might be considered a little more upscale and Blue Door a little more student-oriented, while Strada has a nice outdoor patio.

For more substantial dinner or lunch fare, there are many low-budget restaurants along Telegraph Ave. For something close-by but a little nicer, some personal favorites I’d consider would include Henry’s at Bowditch & Durant; Free House at College & Bancroft; Gather at Allston & Oxford; or La Note on Shattuck between Durant and Channing. All are within about 3 blocks of most Festival venues. And of course if you’re willing to venture a little further, Berkeley is packed with excellent restaurants: Trattoria Corso, Rivoli, Wood Tavern, Chez Panisse . . . the list goes on!

Come and Enjoy!

Hopefully, these suggestions will help make your visit to the Festival more enjoyable. Come, enjoy the relaxed Festival atmosphere, and hear some truly great music!

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