Press Releases

Back to Berkeley: A Few Places To Enjoy Nature, Even When the Weather is Bad By JOE EATON Special to the Planet

Tuesday August 23, 2005

The Bay Area, with its wealth of regional, state, and national parks and wildlife refuges, is a great place to discover the natural world. This is true even in late fall and winter, when the hills begin to green up, mushrooms emerge, newts migrate to their mating ponds, and manzanitas start to bloom. But hiking in the rain can be a drag, and even on dry days it can get seriously mucky out there. Fortunately, there are options for getting in touch with nature during the wet season. 


University of California Botanical Garden 

The greenhouses near the entrance are home to succulents, orchids, carnivores and more, including the grotesque Welwitschia of the Namib Desert and giant Rafflesias from the East Indies. Centennial Drive. 643-2755. Free to UC faculty and students. 


University of California Museum of Paleontology 

The fossil collection isn’t on public view, but you can see the Bay Area’s only Tyrannosaurus rex and a soaring pterosaur. Other exhibits include remains of giant marine reptiles from a time when the Central Valley was a shallow sea. 1101 Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley. 642-1821. 


Tilden Nature Area Visitor Center 

In a walk-through exhibit, you can follow the Wildcat Creek watershed from Volmer Peak to the bay and meet some of its wild inhabitants; see wildflowers through a bee’s eyes, learn about the architectural skills of the woodrat and the sex life of the newt. Off Wildcat Canyon Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard. 636-1684. 


Oakland Museum of California 

One of the best starting points for newcomers to California, the museum’s natural history gallery is set up like a transect across the state, from coast to mountains and desert. 

Displays feature our major ecosystems and the web of interaction between land, climate, plants, and animals. The history gallery also shows how California’s Indians related to the natural world. A special exhibit of California wildflower portraits runs through December 4. 1000 Oak St., Oakland. 238-2200. 


Lindsay Wildlife Museum 

A good place to meet a raptor. The Lindsay Museum’s staff and volunteers care for injured or orphaned wildlife; some nonreleasable hawks and owls become permanent residents, along with bobcats, foxes, lizards, and snakes. 1931 First Ave., Walnut Creek. (925) 935-1978. 


Coyote Hills Regional Park Visitor Center 

Interpretive displays explore the vanishing world of San Francisco Bay’s tidal marshes, along with the lifeways of the Ohlone people who harvested their resources and traveled the bay in tule-reed boats. 8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont. 636-1684. 


California Academy of Sciences 

In temporary quarters downtown pending completion of its new home in Golden Gate Park, the Academy has many of its exhibits in storage. But you can still visit the inhabitants of the Steinhart Aquarium: fish, reptiles, and amphibians both local and exotic, and an entertaining colony of penguins. Beginning Nov. 17, a special exhibit will spotlight California’s biodiversity, with the state’s last grizzly bear on display. 875 Howard St., San Francisco. (415) 321-8000. 


Conservatory of Flowers 

There’s a rain forest in the heart of Golden Gate Park, with monster philodendrons, bizarre insect-eating plants, spectacular orchids, water lilies the size of roulette wheels. Keep an eye out for the geckos and anole lizards that handle pest control. Through Oct. 16 the “Nature’s Pharmacy” exhibit showcases traditional and modern sources of herbal remedies, including some from Native California. (415) 666-7001; free admission first Tuesday of the month. 


Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education 

Meet the yellow-billed magpie, a bird found only in California, and other native species in their walk-through aviary; watch the exuberant antics of river otters. 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo. (650) 342-7755. 


Point Reyes National Seashore Bear Valley Visitor Center 

An introduction to the mosaic of habitats of the Point Reyes Peninsula and its offshore waters—forest, marsh, mudflat, sea cliffs, open ocean, sea floor—as well as local human history. Bear Valley Road near Olema. (415) 464-5100. 


Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History 

A small but choice collection, including the skeletons of ancient sea mammals from the California coast, exhibits on seabirds and tidepool creatures. 1305 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. (831) 420-6115.