Arts & Culture 

Where Artistic Inclinations Flourish

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Shoreline Amphitheatre (One Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View, 650-967-3000, ShorelineAmp.com) is the largest outdoor venue in the Bay Area — it sits on more than sixty acres and holds 22,000.

The Sleep Train Pavilion (2000 Kirker Pass Rd., Concord, 925-676-8742) is a midsize outdoor amphitheater nestled in the hills of Concord's outskirts.

Zellerbach Hall (UC Berkeley, 510-642-9988) hosts the Cal Performances series of truly world-class performances — from Russian ballet to Mark Morris, Australian punk circus to Peking acrobats, Ladysmith Black Mambazo to Cecilia Bartoli,.

Recreational Facilities

Albany Bowl (540 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-526-8818) is the place for casual fun or league bowling for those more serious; don't miss the bowl's weekly Monday night Roc-N-Bowl, where you can enjoy cheap games and pumping rock 'n' roll from 10 p.m. till 2 a.m.

Berkeley Ironworks (800 Potter St., Berkeley, 510-981-9900) features a 45-foot-high climbing wall, and numerous pathways and challenge levels to the peak.

Berkeley Skate Park (5th and Harrison sts., Berkeley, 510-526-5415) offers 18,000 square feet of cement for private lessons, skateboard camp, or a birthday party.

The Broken Rack (6005 Shellmound St., Emeryville, 510-652-9808) has nineteen tables to fill the needs of billiards aficionados.

Camp Winnarainbow (Laytonville off of Highway 101, 510-525-4304), founded by Wavy Gravy, has tightropes, hula hoops, and juggling sticks for campers who play games, craft, and learn new skills.

Diablo Rock Gym (1220 Diamond Way, Suite 140, Concord, 925-602-1000) is a climbing gym.

Great Western Power Co. (520 20th St., Oakland, 510-452-2022) is a climbing gym.

iFly (31310 Alvarado-Niles Rd., Union City, 510-489-IFLY) is the home of a vertical wind tunnel, which replicates the experience of an outdoor airplane jump.

The Lake Merritt Rowing Club (568 Bellevue Ave., Oakland) has been the headquarters for East Bay aquatic fans for forty years. You can take part in a crew or cruise the lake on your own for a morning workout.

Oakland All Craft (499 Embarcadero, Oakland, 510-444-7115) sells canoes and kayaks for a fresh new way to experience the bay — plus lessons.

Oakland Ice Center (519 18th St., Oakland, 510-268-9000) features public skating throughout all seasons, lessons for aspiring figure skaters, or a hockey game or two for those willing to wield a stick.

Oaks Card Club (4097 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville, 510-653-4456), open 24-7, has Texas Hold-em and 21st-century blackjack, plus large-screen TVs keeping you posted on ball games around the world.

Trapeze Arts (1822 9th St., Oakland, 510-419-0700) teaches and trains novices and experts alike, and hosts individuals, birthday parties, and bridal showers.

Theater Companies

Aurora Theatre Company (2081 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-843-4822) offers a heady selection of smart contemporary plays, including many West Coast premieres, mixed in with a few classics, all in an intimate theater-in-the-round almost right next to Berkeley Rep.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-647-2949) has kept up such a high standard of excellence on its two stages in recent years that it stands head and shoulders above larger regional rivals.

California Shakespeare Theatre (100 Wilder Dr., Orinda, 510-548-9666) boasts a lovely outdoor amphitheater in the Orinda hills, where every summer Cal Shakes does a couple of Shakespeare plays, as well as irresistible offerings by Shaw, Wilde, and Dickens.

Central Works (2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley, 510-558-1381) makes every one of its plays a collaborative creation of the artists involved, whether they're dramatic adaptations of literary classics or examinations of pressing political issues, all staged in a cozy theater-in-the-round in the elegant Berkeley City Club.

Contra Costa Civic Theatre (951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, 510-524-9132) puts on comedies and musicals, mysteries and dramas from Sondheim to the Marx Brothers to Agatha Christie with unusually solid production values.

Impact Theatre (1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley, 510-464-4468) shows might be polished or rough, but they're always fun and fast-paced, conveniently located in a pizza-parlor basement right next to the Cal campus.

Shotgun Players (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-6500) have become a South Berkeley fixture with their own solar-powered theater where they offer an eclectic mix of new plays and challenging work from Caryl Churchill, Mamet, Brecht, Garcia Lorca, or whoever they haven't tried yet.

Woman's Will (510-420-0813, WomansWill.org), the East Bay's all-female Shakespeare company, does one show for free in the parks over the summer — usually Shakespeare, turning the Elizabethan custom of all-male casts on its head — and often an autumn indoor show as well.

Visual Arts

Art Murmur (various Oakland galleries, OaklandArtMurmur.com), Oakland's First Friday downtown art stroll and Gen X/Y tribal gathering, is like Critical Mass without bikes, Woodstock without mud.

Bedford Gallery (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, 925-295-1417) does a fine job balancing public accessibility with aesthetic excellence, assembling shows of quality.

Chandra Cerrito Contemporary (480 23rd St., Oakland, 415-577-7537) generally shows two or three midcareer California artists who make conceptual work with strong visual form.

Eclectix Gallery (10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-364-7261) goes for weird humor: pop surrealism, kitsch, gothic, and other lowbrow absurdism.

Expressions Gallery (2035 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-4930) fosters creativity with its classes, demonstrations, concerts, poetry readings, and monthly meetings of the Collectors and Critics Circle.

The Float Center (1091 Calcot Pl. #116, Oakland, 510-535-1702) combines a flotation tank/alpha-wave retreat with an art gallery.

Giorgi Gallery (2911 Claremont Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-1228) features an appealing mix of painting (including fresco), photography, sculpture, and music.

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