Monday, April 6, 2015

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

When you have lived somewhere long enough, it's almost inevitable that you start taking for granted the beautiful scenery that surrounds your everyday life (I wonder if Parisians even notice the Eiffel Tower?). While I am certainly not immune to this, there is one view that always manages to take my breath away. Whether I'm driving on Highway 24, or along the scenic ridge-line of Grizzly Peak, the views of the Bay Area from the Berkeley hills are spectacular. On a clear warm day, the view of the Bay, sprinkled with sail boats and sparkling in the sun, is hard to beat. Pair the beautiful views with a serene garden setting, and you will find yourself in the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Gardens.

The gardens are nestled in the hills above the U.C. Berkeley campus, and display over 13,000 plants from around the world. There are wide paths that meander throughout the landscape, which is arranged into distinct areas, each representing different regions of the world. As you enter the garden, you are greeted by one of the newest additions, the Julia Morgan Hall. Built in 1911 by famed architect, Julia Morgan, this Berkeley landmark was moved from the U.C. Berkeley campus to the Botanical Gardens in January of 2014. After almost a year of renovations, the venue was recently opened for exhibits and special events. I am a sucker for craftsman architecture, so it was a real treat for me to see this home restored in such a beautiful setting (I even got to peak inside since an art exhibit was just finishing up!).

The process of sectioning the home into 4 pieces and moving it up the hill is fascinating to me (read a little about it here).
On to the main attaction...the plants! We took an easy loop around the gardens, walking along the main path, and then taking side excursions along the narrower paths that lead through the different regions that are represented.

The plants from Southern Africa were some of my favorite.


The kids enjoyed exploring the well as taking lots of break to enjoy their snacks along the way.

Path to the Rose Garden
And the views from the Rose Garden. Perfect place for a picnic.
Our oldest requested that I take a picture of her new pants. She enjoyed taking pictures with my iPhone of the different plants in the garden (along with close ups of her feet, the dirt and other unidentifiable objects...let's just say there were a LOT of pictures on my phone when we were done)
Smelling the flowers

While I am not a fan of the desert climate (75 degrees is about as hot as I enjoy), the desert plants are some of my favorite.

Across the street from the main entrance, there is a gate that leads to the Redwood Grove. This area was really peaceful (with the exception of the noises from our kids) and a great place to have a picnic. There were several picnic benches throughout the grove, but we chose to eat in the amphitheatre.

We brought lunch for the kids and picked up some delicious treats at the Pasta Shop for ourselves.
After exploring the gardens, you can head up the road to the Lawrence Hall of Science, where you get some pretty amazing panoramic views of the Bay.

If you are looking for more to do in the area, check out my Top 5 Things to do in Tilden Park, which is minutes from the U.C. Botanical Gardens.

What are your favorite places for views of the Bay Area?

The details:  Admission to the U.C. Botanical Gardens is $10 for adults with discounted rates for children. However, there are plenty of opportunities to get in for FREE! We got free admission using the Discover and Go program through our local library (Check to see if your library participates...most DO!). There are also free admission days once a month (see here for details). Most of the paths in the garden are stroller friendly. Parking is available across the street from the Botanical Gardens and is $1/hr.

The facts: Admission: Free using our Discover and Go passes. Lunch at the Pasta Shop: $12. Parking: $2

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