Even if the academic year has just started, you’re going to need a bucket list of things to do when it’s time to unwind from the stress that comes from finals or a frustrating professor. Luckily, UC Riverside and Riverside County at large have a great array of things to do when you turn study mode off and recuperation mode on.

If you’re done with the day and looking for a quick dinner off-campus, you might want to stop by the University Village, colloquially known as the UV. The UV is a plaza that hosts restaurants and small stores that you can find by passing under the freeway, either by driving or walking down University Avenue, though it would be especially convenient if your last class was held inside the UV’s Regency Theatre.

During my own visits, I especially loved Boba Cafe, which offers a large menu of boba drinks as well as a wide selection of foods, so wide that the walls are decorated with pictures of them, from deep-fried chicken to steel-cut beef noodles, from combination fried rice to egg noodle soup. And speaking of soup, pho noodles enthusiasts will love the Pho Vinam restaurant hiding in an alcove of the UV, offering that classic comfort food taste of rice noodles bathed in hot chicken broth.

But if you’re not in a hungry mood, and you’re instead looking for some fresh air, those with a few hours on hand ought to visit the Botanic Gardens, great for a brisk hike and sightseeing. The Gardens are 40 acres of florals and foliage, a “living plant museum” of over 3,500 plants species from around the globe, according to the website. All of campus is welcome to visit in their free time and the garden is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; bring water, a friend and snacks if possible!


The entrance path is near Lot 10 and the Chemical Sciences building, straight down Botanic Gardens Drive; the street ends with a gatehouse and opens up to a clearing of canopying deciduous trees, offering up a rather secluded sensation that follows you throughout the acreage. A full map of what lies ahead can be found on their website.

Going straight down the paved path will bring you to the many themed garden collections, including herbs of “aromatic, culinary, dye and medicinal” usage, the “Butterfly Garden” of flowers vital to pollinators such as butterflies, and gardens focused on one variety of flowers, such as irises and lilacs. Going east from the entrance might be more ideal for longer, more strenuous hiking as the road is unpaved and scatters throughout a large collection of forestry, complete with trail markers in case you get lost.

If exploring the Gardens made you hungry again, but the UV isn’t your proverbial cup of culinary tea for the day, you’ll be able to find an even wider cup of proverbials at the Riverside Food Lab given you have a car or are willing to take a bus down University Avenue. Having first opened up in September of 2018, the Lab is a collection of unique and experimental eateries, perfect for the foodie inside of you.

Jasmine Yamanaka/Highlander

Perhaps one of the biggest attractions of the food court is Monty’s Good Burger, a burger joint of entirely vegan choices, where their specialty is completely plant-based burgers and burger patties. The Highlander and other students were “shocked by how much the burger tasted like a real beef patty.” If you’re looking for a great Instagram foodie shot, stop by “Sweet Combforts” and pick up a waffle on a stick, but be mindful that some menu choices are tasty only for the camera.

Have you finally reached the weekend, and you’re looking for a night out on the town? Then look no further than Downtown Riverside, the go-to nightlife spot in the Inland Empire county that’s straight down University Avenue. You’ll need either a car or a bus, and if you’ve got the former, keep some money on hand for parking.

The novelty of making your way downtown, walking at pace with your friends as faces past without being homebound never wears out as time goes on. One of the most common kinds of stores to browse are mom-and-pop-esque shops, such as the Downtowne Bookstore of vintage literature and Tiggy-Winkle’s, a trinket store full of all sorts of miscellaneous baubles and bits. When the holiday season comes around, the LED-driven Festival of Lights is a must-see occasion as every road is sparkled with ornaments and decorations.


Gastropubs, restaurants and cafes dot every corner of the urban environment, but the Back to the Grind coffee shop is an atmospheric delight. There’s the coffee they serve, which is already delicious, and then there’s the venue they boast. Standing two stories high, there’s plenty of breathing room to spare. The first floor tables are the canvases of many decorative designs while bookshelves and paintings line the walls, and the second story viewing platform is perfect for nightly performances by local bands. If you’re into a more poetic vibe, there’s a downstairs stage area where the daydreamers and stoners can snap their fingers to vivid vernacular.

Whether you’re a freshman ready for quarterly cram weeks or a senior well-versed in cutting it close, you’ve got more than an academic life ahead of you: you’ve got the roads of recreation, relaxation, repose and all sorts of R&R that is Riverside. Throughout the year, be sure to do your body and your mind a favor and know when to give them a break: we’ve already given you a few answers to where.