Set between Pacific foothills and sparkling San Francisco Bay, Berkeley is a spirited city that will surprise meeting planners who still consider it only as the counter-culture center of the '60s. Free speech and flower power are forever in the city’s DNA, but Berkeley has evolved into a culinary and cultural destination that is perfect for association meetings and groups.
Berkeley is also home to the University of California, Berkeley, which lends a college-town vibe to the entire city. The Berkeley bonus: Not only is the city just minutes from San Francisco, but meetings, conferences, and events gain focus and status from Berkeley's university-town climate of thought leadership. After all, this is the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.
For meeting planners, Berkeley offers a great variety of categories and price options to choose from, ranging from boutique inns to waterfront hotels. All are located within easy driving distance and public transportation connections to Oakland International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
Top Berkeley hotels with meeting, conference, and event space include the DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina, Hotel Shattuck Plaza, the Graduate Berkeley, and the Berkeley City Club.
DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina
DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina offers more than 30,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting and event space. It encompasses two executive meeting centers, 16 meeting rooms, and two ballrooms, including the striking Bayview Ballroom, which overlooks the Berkeley Marina. The hotel’s new courtyard and patio offers 11,000 square feet of event space, complete with stunning city views and clean, modern landscaping. Options for hosting small events or buyouts at the new Berkeley Boathouse restaurant are also available.
Hotel Shattuck Plaza
A historic property celebrating its 110th anniversary in 2020, the Hotel Shattuck Plaza offers 7,500 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space, audiovisual support, and gourmet catering. In addition its newly renovated rooms, Mediterranean-inspired dining menu, and environmentally mindful features throughout, the 199-room hotel also holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and anchors downtown Berkeley.
Graduate Berkeley/Berkeley City Club
Graduate Berkeley and Berkeley City Club are boutique properties located blocks apart in the city’s historic Telegraph District. Graduate Berkeley’s California Room is the ideal venue to host small and medium meetings and events (such as board meetings and retreats) for 55 to 70 people.
Inspirational, awe-inspiring, and spectacular — these are just a few of the words that best describe the Berkeley City Club, which was designed by Julia Morgan. Meeting rooms are surrounded by stunning historical architecture and décor and furnished with modern AV equipment.
If you’re the “extra credit” type (we hear most meeting and event planners are), Berkeley offers a full course catalog of tours for meeting attendees. Call them extracurricular opportunities. From gardens to growlers, Berkeley has interesting options.
The 34-acre University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is one of the most diverse landscapes in the world, with over 10,000 types of plants, including many rare and endangered species. Organized geographically, the garden features nine regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a major collection of California native plants.
Another natural, tour-worthy spot in Berkeley is Tilden Regional Park’s Botanic Garden. Situated in beautiful Wildcat Canyon high in the Berkeley hills, it is devoted to the native plants of California, including Sequoia sempervirens — aka the majestic Coast Redwood. California embraces nearly 160,000 square miles, but here, you can tour it all in an afternoon, from redwood forest to cactus gardens.
All the oxygen you’ll take in when walking Berkeley’s heralded gardens is bound to build up a powerful thirst. Fortunately, Berkeley’s craft drink scene keeps groups well-hydrated, with urban wineries and breweries all across town.
Culinary tours are a great “elective” here as well. Berkeley’s Chez Panisse restaurant kicked off California cuisine in the 1970s, and the foodie scene has been raging ever since. Culinary walking tours are led twice weekly by an “epicurean concierge” from Edible Excursions.
Meet in Berkeley
Visit Berkeley is ready to deliver assistance and support to meeting planners, including site selection, tour recommendations, transportation options, convention services, and more. For more information, call toll-free 800-847-4823. For a quick overview, the Berkeley Meeting & Event Guide has the essential info, including the top 10 reasons to meet in Berkeley. Find it at MeetInBerkeley.com.