Staycation Time! Our Must-Read Guide To The Best Of Berkeley

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on April 27.]
We love giving props to our fave burgeoning across-the-bridge boroughs, but we know that there are indeed some classic East Bay enclaves that deserve much-needed virtual applause, too. And, since we’re all for a local respite every now and again, we packed our overnighter and roved the city of Berkeley to call out a handful of its most prized retail haunts, hotels, and restos. Trust that it all adds up to one stellar staycation.
Berk has come a long way since the OG hippie-dippy days, and is now swelling with national treasures (we’re looking at you, Chez Panisse). From eco-minded boutiques to incredibly diverse markets brimming with color-soaked produce, you can find a real wealth of wonderful out there. So, if you’re itching for an overnight voyage, let Berkeley be your must-hit destination. Simply follow this fuss-free guide — we’ll take you everywhere from the streets of the Gourmet Ghetto to the hilly backdrop of the classic Claremont hotel (a fave of the Obamas and Brangelina). Now, get ready, grab your bags, and embark on a jam-packed journey over the Bay Bridge. This one’s a goodie.
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Stay: The Claremont Hotel Club And Spa
Set against a lush, hilly backdrop, this classic East Bay hotel has been in the biz since 1906. And it's kind of hard to miss the haven, since it sticks out with its stark white Great Gatsby-esque exterior against the bright green scenery. If you’re looking for old-school elegance, rich with history, this is the place to stay. The sprawling spot has so many luxe offerings, you could easily get lost patrolling the place on your own (we know, 'cause we did). It boasts ample tennis courts, an Olympic-size lap pool, a top-notch spa, and two delicious restos. Oh, and we hear stars like Angelina and Brad love it here. You could really spend the whole weekend hanging out at this hotel — that’s how much there is to see.
The Claremont Hotel Club And Spa, 41 Tunnel Road (at Alvarado Road); 800-551-7266.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Courtesy of Angela Tafoya; Courtesy of Angela Tafoya; Courtesy of The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa; Courtesy of Angela Tafoya.
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Eat: Gregoire
If you’re on the go and looking for some sweet take out that hits the spot, we suggest Gregoire in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. This upscale to-go resto is famous for its fried-chicken sammies and potato puffs (yum), and has an ever-changing, seasonal menu. So, you can head back again and again without repeating a dish. A lovely spot to venture to when you’re craving rich, yet healthy bites on the fly. And the small quirks are what make the place extra special. Our fave touch: forks that look like silver, but are actually plastic? Good for a giggle.
Gregoire, 2109 Cedar Street (at Shattuck Street); 510-883-1893.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Courtesy of Angela Tafoya; Courtesy of Gregoire; Courtesy of Angela Tafoya; Courtesy of Angela Tafoya.
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Pamper: Super by Dr. Perricone
If you’re perusing the Fourth Street shopping stretch, we highly recommend stopping into Super for a quickie, on-the-go facial. The color-soaked skincare shop hosts a bevy of superfood-laden products that are crisp and refreshing, but the in-store services are really the icing on the cake. The cheeky facials (names include the Big O and the Quickie) are quenching and great for a mid-shop pick me up. One quick tip: go for the Crinkle TKO — it blasts off dead skin cells with ultrasonic sound waves (28,000 vibrations per second). Cool, no?
Super by Dr. Perricone, 1833 4th St (between Virginia Street and Hearst Avenue); 510-809-4366.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Courtesy of Super; Courtesy of Angela Tafoya; Courtesy of Super.
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Eat: Chez Panisse
It would be a crime to visit Berkeley and not stop into the iconic culinary temple of Chez Panisse. Really though, the celebrated restaurant is one of the best in not just the Bay Area, but also the nation. We could rave for days. The food tastes like it was freshly picked minutes before landing on your plate — and that’s because it was. A trailblazer in California cuisine, Alice Waters’ famed restaurant has been crafting farm-to-table dishes (using ingredients that come from local ranchers and farmers) since the ‘70s and continues to make mouths water on the reg.
Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue (between Cedar and Vine Streets); 510-548-5525.

Photos: Courtesy of Chez Panisse
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Shop: Erica Tanov
It’s no secret we’re big fans of Berkeley designer Erica Tanov. And the designer's dreamy Fourth Street space is chockfull of goodies from jewelry fave Vanessa Mooney to local footwear star Martha Davis, and of course Erica’s own opulent in-house line. The detailed fabric, pretty prints, and streamlined shapes are a notch above the norm. Her shop is on our must-hit list whenever we frequent the area. We almost never walk out empty-handed, and why should we? Her items are too gorgeous not to take home. We recommend strolling around the store for an instant spark of sartorial inspiration.
Erica Tanov, 1827 4th Street (between Hearst Avenue and Virginia Street); 510-849-3331.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Courtesy of Erica Tanov; Courtesy of Erica Tanov; Courtesy of Erica Tanov.
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Eat: The Cheese Board Collective
Another Berkeley food staple, this Gourmet Ghetto gem is definitely worth a visit. We’re not going to lie: the cheese selection is incredibly overwhelming, but that’s what makes it so appealing — you have so many options, you’ll never tire of them. The friendly staff is super helpful, and so well versed that they will help you make a decision in a snap. Pair your cheese with the savory breads and scones and try one of the pizzas (served up next door). They are beyond tasty. Just be prepared to wait in a justifiably long line.
The Cheese Board Collective, 1504 Shattuck Ave (between Cedar and Vine Streets); 510-549-3183.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Courtesy of Angela Tafoya; Courtesy of Cheese Board Collective; Courtesy of Cheese Board Collective; Courtesy of Cheese Board Collective.
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Shop: Convert Shoes
Whenever we’re on the hunt for soles, we scurry to freshly opened Convert Shoes to peep its impressive selection. The sister store of Covert (located across the street), this Fourth Street footwear shop carries a crave-worthy amount of sustainable steppers that are pretty darn cute, too. Pop in to see the latest eco-friendly footwear finds from Jeffrey Campbell to Toms. They’ve got it all here, but we’ll warn you — you won’t leave with a full wallet. Whoops!
Convert Shoes, 1844 Fourth Street (between Virginia Street and Hearst Avenue), Berkeley; 510-984-0142.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Courtesy of Angela Tafoya; Courtesy of Convert Shoes; Courtesy of Angela Tafoya.
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Shop: Berkeley Bowl
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say this market is one of the best in the Bay. Farmers Markets have nothing on this place. The produce section is like wandering into a psychedelic coloring book of sorts, that’s how many exotic fruits and veggies it has. Need ten different kinds of radishes? You got it. The cheese and deli section are a food lover’s Disneyland. And don’t get us started on the wine and beer selection. It’s not just any grocery store, people. You must frequent this produce palace if you’re in Berkeley. Not in the mood to shop? Peep the café next door and have the friendly staff whip something savory up for you. Amazing.
Berkeley Bowl West, 920 Heinz Avenue (between 8th and 9th Streets) 510-898-9555.

Photos: Courtesy of Angela Tafoya
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Do: Cesar Chavez Park
After all that bouncing around you're going to want a moment to chill. And Cesar Chavez Park has some of the most stunning views of the Bay you'll ever see — definitely soothing after eating and shopping all day. The small park is tucked in the Berkeley Marina and is a grassy oasis that has plenty of offerings. Pitch a picnic and hang out all day, or stop in for a sweet view of the sunset. There are loads of trails, hills, and places to hole up. So, you can get your exercise or lounge on if you want. Either way, you won't be disappointed you popped by.
Cesar Chavez Park, 11 Spinnaker Way, (between Breakwater Drive and Marina Boulevard).

Photos: Courtesy of Angela Tafoya
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