Road Tripping: Cal

By Joe Beale on June 20, 2013 at 9:30a

Ohio State this season will have five road games, and the places where they will play are as diverse as the teams they will take on. This is the first in a series profiling these destinations and describing some of the more interesting features and attractions for the benefit of potential visitors. For those who have the time and the means, this season might be just as memorable for the travel and tourism as for the events on the field.

The observation deck is 200 feet off the ground and provides a great view of the Bay area.Sather Tower, a.k.a. "The Campanile", anchors the campus.

The first road trip on the schedule is a visit to Cal-Berkeley (or as some would say, "Berzerkeley") for a night late afternoon game against the Golden Bears in week three. Last season Cal came to Columbus and battled right to the end, eventually falling to the Buckeyes 35-28. The game this year will be different, if for no other reason that there is a new coaching staff and a new offense with which to contend.

If you are traveling to Berkeley for the game, then you're in for a treat without even doing anything else because you're going to see an entertaining contest. However, if you get there a little early, or stay a few days afterward, then you will have an opportunity to take advantage of some of the unique sites and experiences that the city and the surrounding area have to offer.


Getting a ticket for the game is so 21st century! If you want to engage in one of Cal's most venerable traditions, you'll skip the ticket-buying process and watch the game for free from a nearby hillside. Seriously. It's known as "Tightwad Hill" and fans have been hiking up the hill to watch the game from outside the stadium for 80 years.

The hill was formed from the excess dirt left over after Strawberry Canyon was partially excavated in order to build Memorial Stadium back in 1923. The very next year, fans started gathering there for games and they have done so ever since, making this a tradition that is even older than Script Ohio. 

The hill features a sign identifying it, a bench that is nailed to the base of a tree just below the main "seating" area (this area is known as "Tightwad Hill Country Club"), trash cans and recycle bins (it is Berkeley, after all), a shovel that you can use to create a "seat" for yourself or maybe some grooves in the hill for your lawn chair, and a lot of crazed yahoos who will make the game a memorable experience. Oh yeah, it also offers a great view of the field and some spectacular views of the bay area

In 2006, a plan to refurbish the stadium included building some stands inside the stadium that would have blocked the view from Tightwad Hill. A petition drive was launched and the petition with over 1000 signatures was delivered to the university regents asking them to save the hill. The students prevailed, and the renovation left the view from the hill intact. Power to the people and all that jazz. This is Berkeley.

Besides the obvious advantage of not paying for a ticket, viewing the game from the hill allows you to bring your favorite adult beverage or your favorite smoke to enjoy during the game. But the hill has its down sides. For one, hiking up the hill is not for the faint of heart. For another, you can't wear a scarlet OSU t-shirt or you will endure chants of "TAKE OFF THAT RED SHIRT!!!" until you oblige. Also, there's the Cal Victory Cannon that they shoot off every time the home team scores and/or wins a game. From the stadium, it's a distant roar. From Tightwad Hill, it's about 20 feet away. Bring your noise protection.


If you're planning on staying for a few days, you can check out some of the places that make the town unique. One of those places is Telegraph Avenue. During the late 60s, the Telegraph area was the epicenter for riots and confrontations with local authorities, especially around "People's Park". Today, the street is lined with vendors and artisans selling handmade jewelry, clothing, and crafts, many of which are stereotypical icons of hippiedom. You will also find street performers and shops selling everything from Tibetan ritual artifacts to hats. A bit of a warning: it's not the most sanitary place and you only want to come here during the day.

Then there is the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, where you can get your fill of fine art exhibitions and occasional performances. You can also check out artsy films like tonight's feature: The Man Who Fell to Earth starring David Bowie. If you're in the mood to buy some of that stuff, you might want to check out the Berkeley Potters Guild or the ACCI Gallery. Also, the Lawrence Hall of Science has lots of really cool exhibits. If you get hungry, you can survey the Gourmet Ghetto on Shattuck Avenue for quality dining of all varieties. 


Assuming you survive your day adventures with funds intact, the city and surrounding area have plenty of things to do at night, whether it involves music or just a drink or two. For starters, there is the Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center. The Ashkenaz has been around since 1973 and it caters to the older set, with a focus on world music, jazz, blues, reggae and the like. From the street it looks like an old wooden shack with an enormous peace sign mounted at the top just under the roof. Joan Baez would be comfy there.

"What time does Jefferson Airplane come on stage?"Hippie Patch salesman on Telegraph Avenue.

If you're into younger stuff, there is the world-famous 924 Gilman Street club, which caters to the under-21 crowd. The Gilman features mostly punk, hardcore punk, with some doses of grindcore, ska punk, and industrial. The club frowns on any band that makes it big, and will declare a band persona non grata if they sign to a major label. As a result, former members like Green Day are no longer allowed to perform there.

For more traditional fare, jump over to the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, a place that features folk and world music primarily, with an emphasis on regional, ethnic, and cultural fare. For example, if you arrived tomorrow night, you could enjoy a concert from Dogpatch Junction and the Sycamore String Band. You might even see the ghost of Jerry Garcia while you are there.

Of course, no trip to the bay area would be complete without a look at the Golden Gate Bridge, the most photographed bridge in the world and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the ASCE. While you are in San Fran, you might also want to visit the Coit Tower or the Transamerica Pyramid. Even in Berkeley itself, the Sather Tower offers a magnificent view of the bay and the ocean.

After a few days, you might find yourself wanting to stay longer. Or maybe it will make you nostalgic for the good old Midwest, where you can just go have some sausage at Schmidt's or grab some nachos and ice cream at a Clippers Game. After surveying the surreal world of Berkeley, ordinary might seem refreshing by comparison. 


Comments Show All Comments

carence's picture

Say it ain't so, Joe!
I like it, I like it a lot!

CC's picture

Going to the game with my wife and a buddy from Sausalito.  I'll be wearing a shirt that says "Hey Cal, don't try to smoke it, it's just a buckeye leaf" with a big picture of a helmet sticker.
There's no way I'm sitting on a hill with a bunch of pot-smoking cal hippies.
I don't believe the game is at night.  It's at 7:00pm EST so 4:00pm in CA.
The cannon will be silent on 9/14:
Bucks 53-0

Denny's picture

There's no way I'm sitting on a hill with a bunch of pot-smoking cal hippies.

You can stand if you like, man, but after a while you'll probably want to sit down.


Gobucks2204's picture

Gives new meaning to the words "Road tripping."

"Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends"

Joe Beale's picture

I don't believe the game is at night.  It's at 7:00pm EST so 4:00pm in CA.

Thanks, it's corrected now. Night game from our perspective here but just late afternoon there.

CC's picture

No problem.  BTW - Great article.

timhbomb's picture

good article.  I live about 10 miles from the stadium and now have season tix to Cal...well for this year!  That afforded me a parking pass from my Buckeye tailgate pre-game.
You covered a lot but more was left out.
Pregame food, try KC's BBQ.  Some of the best BBQ I have ever had.  The Cheesesteak shop on University is also quality and filling.  Zachary's pizza is also a quality Pizza shop with both deep and thin crust pies.  But if you want to try the infamous Pliny the Elder, Bobby G's Pizzeria has it on tap...and it is delicious.
You can take BART to the game but be advised that the walk from the station to the stadium is straight up hill.  Also, the famed Greek Theater is directly next door to the stadium.
GO Bucks!

oregonianbuckeye's picture

A few more suggestions for things to do in the Bay Area. 
1) Bike over to Sausalito (which is North of SF, across the Golden Gate bridge). Sausalito is a nice little town with some great places to eat right on the water (mostly seafood places). You can take the ferry over there as well, but I recommend biking or walking over and taking the ferry back. It's probably about a 7-10 mile trek from Pier 39 over the Golden Gate Bridge.
2) Go to Chinatown. There are some amazing restaurants. Best Chinatown in America.
3) For coffee, I recommend Blue Bottle. They have amazing 'siphon' technique that is really unique and makes a great cup of Joe. SF has amazing coffee. 
4) Go to ATT Park and watch a Giants game. A great park right on the water. Prices are a bit spendy for tickets, beer and food in the stadium, but it is worth it.
5) If you like Mexican food, go to the 'mission district' in the city. A lot of cool architecture and some of the best Mexican food I've ever had in the states. Highly recommend, but you may want to go during the day. I have friends that live there, and they say it can get a little sketchy in some areas at night.
6) If you are in to high end food, some of the best restaurants in the US are in SF. The two I recommend are French Laundry and Flour and Water. Expect to be blown away. These places are super expensive, but worth it in my mind.
7) The other thing I recommend is walking around Berkeley's campus. It is really nice, and feels like you are in the woods. Kind of neat.
8) Take a day trip up to Napa and Sonoma. You can get a tour for about $100/person for an 8 hour tour that takes you to wineries in both counties. I'm not a huge wine guy, but found the scenery beautiful, the wine incredible, and the information worthwhile. Really great experience.
Sorry for the long post. As you can tell, I have an appreciation for the West Coast!

Poison nuts's picture

I lived in SF for a couple of years & love it out there...I try to visit once a year. These are all great recommendations. One thing I would add is to bike across the Golden Gate at night if you get the chance, it's one of the coolest things you'll ever do.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Cincinnati Mac's picture

Great list of recommendations. Many things already on my list: GG bridge, French Laundry, Chinatown, Mission district Mexican food.
One small issue is the Giants. I had the same thought and was hoping to catch a game @ AT&T. Problem is they start a road trip on Thursday the 12th and don't return for 12 days.  Now I am flying in on Wednesday the 11th and they have a home game. But it's a day game that starts an hour or so after I am scheduled to land. Still debating if I want to try to hustle from SFO to the ballpark.

addman1405's picture

You said the G-word.....Go A's

Tanner's picture

If you're at the age where you don't feel hanging around a college campus and you don't feel like going into San Francisco, go down to 4th Street in Berkeley. This is an especially good idea if you're traveling with a wife or girlfriend. It's a couple minute drive from campus and there's a lot of little shops and restaurants.
FYI, getting into SF from Berkeley on Bart is extremely easy. I'd suggest taking the Downtown Berkeley stop and get off at the Embarcadero stop (10 minute ride.) You have a cool walk along the Bay when you get off, there's a place called the Ferry Building that has vendors from all over California selling amazing food, and you're a 5 minute walk from the Piers (the main touristy area.) There's also plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance. I'd suggest getting some oysters at Hog Island, a burger at Red's Java House and a few drinks at the Comstock saloon.

Poison nuts's picture

Red's!!!! He'll yes - go to Red's!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

hetuck's picture

The America's Cup will be contested in SF bay that weekend. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

Denny's picture

I was out in SF about a month ago, and I will recommend with every fiber of my being getting burritos in the Mission, followed by delicious Bi-Rite Creamery.
Also take a trip across the Golden Gate to Muir Woods.


Cali Buck's picture

As a current resident in Oakland with America's cup and the Buckeye game going on if you are planning to come out for the game get your hotel reservations NOW!
Parking near Memorial Stadium is a nightmare, plus the roads are small and jam up.  If you have the option stay in the city, sorry San Francisco, and BART over to the game do it.  It will be packed but it is easy.
My suggestion for game day is to go down to the Ferry building in SF in the morning.  They have an amazing farmer's market every Saturday morning, with a fair amount of great restaurants preparing breakfast at their booths.  Blue Bottle Coffee has a booth, it is expensive but worth it.  For food their 4505 Meats makes an amazing maple bacon breakfast sandwich and right next to their booth a Mexican places serves stupidly good chilaquiles, my favorite.  The setting could not be better, it is directly on the water.  Inside the Ferry building is a collection of amazing independent food vendors, butchers, cheese vendors, fish vendors.  From there it is a mile walk up the embarcaderro, on the water, to where the America's cup stage and that madness is going on, if you want to check out that scene.  The Bart station is about a block from the Ferry building so it is a great launching point to Memorial Stadium.
I've been to most places in the Bay Area over the years and if you are out here for longer and are looking for ideas for day trips in the area I have a ton of great suggestions.  Or if you've got something planned and need to bounce an idea off me let me know, i'll try to steer you away from tourist traps. 
I'm so freaking pumped to have the Bucks in my backyard!

hetuck's picture

I'm staying in Emeryville. How do you recommend getting to the game? 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

Tanner's picture

If I were you I'd park at the Rockridge Bart station (5-10 minute drive from Emeryville & parking at Bart is free.) There's a good market across the street from that Bart station where you can get coffee , pastry, sandwiches, etc. Then take Bart to the Downtown Berkeley stop (5-10 minute ride) and then walk to the stadium (or take a cab---it's probably a 15-20 minute walk)
You could also just drive and park at the North Berkeley stop. That's about 2 miles from the stadium and it's pretty residential so there's no food and a cab might be tough. Parking can be tough by the Downtown Berkeley Bart station, that's why I didn't suggest just driving to that stop fyi fwiw

KBonay's picture

Not to be the buzz kill.  But I can't stand Berkeley.  Do yourself a favor, if you are tripping from Ohio, make reservations in SF.  You can take the BART into Berkeley.  The nightlife there is terrible.  Hotels are run down.  And the people there are pretty lame. 
That being said, SF offers SO MUCH MORE.  Don't miss out on a great trip just because you want to be close to the game.  CAL is no Ohio State.  No reason to be on the campus other than for the actual game.
I hope that doesn't offend anyone.  I have been on that campus and in that town enough to know it's not your 'typical' college town....

ArTbkward's picture

This is a great article.  I have hotels and a flight booked for this game and I've never been to California so I'm super excited.  The hill is interesting, my group of 7 haven't been able to find single game tickets yet (Cal is only selling season ticket packages and OSU doesn't have any) so it's nice to know that there is an option if worse came to worst.  Stubhub does have some available but that's a last resort.
We're staying for a week and planning on hitting up Napa, Yosemite, San Fran and, obviously, Berkeley.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

gravey's picture

I'm traveling up from LA>  These are nice suggestions.  Maybe 11W can reprise this article, plus the fantastic recommendations a week or so before the game itself.  Berkeley is a fun place.  I'm excited about the whole weekend.

danavh4's picture

Couple questions for anyone who knows.  Tickets at this point are pretty pricey.  I'm heading out from AZ to take my 8 y/o son for his first Buckeye game!  Super excited but I'm just curious...when should I pull the trigger on tix and where is the best place to get them?

Michigan Fan: "We lose a long snapper and the whole team goes to shit!"

timhbomb's picture

As a season ticket holder I get all the alerts.  The single game tix don't go on-sale until sometime in July.  They will be offered to season ticket holders first and then the general public.  If you strike out on the general public on-sale you might want to then look at the secondary market.
another option is that they are currently offering the Ohio State game packaged with the Oregon State and Portland state, I think the lowest you can get in at is $130 for the (3) games.  You might be able to recoup some of that money by selling the other 2 games.

Tanner's picture

Assuming you are going to buy tickets from the secondary market, I think it's better to buy them closer to gameday. I bought tickets to the Wisconsin game last year 3-4 months in advance on stubhub and the same tickets were a lot cheaper a week before the game. (It was also extremely easy to scalp pretty cheap tickets outside the stadium fwiw.) There's really no such thing as a sellout today so you don't have to worry about not being able to get tickets. And Cal football isn't that big of a deal out here anyway, so there's really no such thing as a sellout in this situation.

Cincinnati Mac's picture

I'm all set. Bought my tickets in April. Just bought my flight, hotel and reserved a rental car on Sunday. Going to fly in on Wednesday very early. Go checkout SF on Wednesday and get settled. Golden Gate Park & Lunch in Chinatown I am thinking. Going to Yosemite Thursday and then spending another day checking out SF again on Friday. Trying to talk my buddy who's tagging along into getting reservations @ The French Laundry on Friday night. That's one pricey meal, but i am certain it will be memorable.  Then it's all about the game on Saturday in Berkley. Even got a flight home late that night so I can be back home on Sunday to watch NFL. Although the NFL did me a solid and put  Cincy -vs- Pittsburgh on Monday night in case of traveling issues.

Brutus's picture

Nice to see so many bay area Buckeyes, but you out-of-towners are ruining things for me.  I have a good friend who works for the PAC-12 and gets great tickets to any event she wants.  We started talking about this game over a year ago and planned to take both our families.  A few weeks ago she asked how many tickets I wanted, free of charge mind you.  I said 8 on a whim and she didn't bat an eye.  Last week she tells me that she's never experienced anything like this, but there are no promotional tickets available.  Apparently, there are too many Buckeye fans traveling for the game and she can't get tickets.  So thanks to all of you, I'm going to actually have to pay my way to the game.  Oh the horror. 
Seriously, it sounds like we will be very well represented at the game.  I can't wait to see the stadium in a sea of scarlet.  Will be a great moment for my kids to experience their first Ohio State game.
Lots of great suggestions on things to do and places to eat above. I'd like to add Tacqueria Cancun in SF for the best tacos you could possibly imagine.  If you're up in Napa and want some great, authentic Mexican, try La Luna Market and Tacqueria.
One more thing, September is traditionally the best month in terms of weather in the bay area.  It will likely be sunny and hot, even in SF.  Enjoy.

danosu97's picture

Anyone know of any good bars in the Berkeley area where Buckeyes might be gathering pre-game on Friday and/or Saturday?

addman1405's picture

Hope to see lots of fellow buckeyes there this year. Went to a bar in Bererkley for the game last year. We out numbered the Bears fans. IT was shocking to them to see how many there were of us.
Also, welcome to the Bay Area, where the points dont matter and you can pretty much substitute whatever reality you want for the current one.