Not only does the Lawrence Hall of Science have one of the most spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area but every exhibit is meant to be manhandled by children, casually monitored and guided in their experiments by high school students earning extra credit in biology, mathematics or chemistry.
The hall is actually a part of the University of California Berkeley. It was named in honor of the “Atom Smasher,” Ernest Lawrence, also the inventor of the cyclotron and the founder of the Lawrence Berkeley Labs. Over the years I’ve met and worked with many physicists who got their start at the “Lab.” I couldn’t understand them 99% of the time but they were never boring.
The back door leads to a chance to get wet and dirty as you learn about water management. Downstairs are classrooms where kids learn about lizards and volcanos and all that cool stuff in a more formal setting.
For bigger kids, Berkeley offers a different sort of entertainment:
The Ashkenaz, which has been around since 1973, is run by a non-profit organization whose goal is to showcase music and dance from around the world. The idea is not to listen or watch but to participate and they’re very serious. If you come, you dance.Berkeley is known for its eccentric population and if you wander around up near the campus you’ll see just about anything. When I worked there, the most famous eccentric was the Naked Guy, a 6’5” former athlete who insisted on attending class in nothing but shoes. Clothes, he claimed were oppressive and for a time, no one said a word. It was, after all, Berkeley.
Then there was the Hate Man, a former journalist and Peace Corps worker who espoused the doctrine of hate and “oppositionality.” To start a conversation with him, you had to say “Fuck you.”
When he died, it made the national news and the denizens of People’s Park, a homeless encampment smack dab in the middle of Berkeley, made a memorial for him, which he would have hated.