Some of the museums and attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay are among the most popular for both visitors and locals, and for good reasons — especially for families, from Habitot to Children’s Fairyland to the Oakland Zoo and USS Hornet Museum.
But don’t overlook the science centers — Chabot Space and Science Center is my all time favorite, followed by Lawrence Hall of Science. Art and nature museums find a place in the East Bay as well, especially in artsy Berkeley. Here are a few to put on your East Bay Bucket List. FYI: Wherever possible, you’ll see my referral links to available discounts.
11 San Francisco East Bay Museums (with Free Days & Deals)
1. Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive: The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s comprehensive collection—more than 19,000 works of art and 17,500 films and videos. The visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley, BAMPFA presents more than twenty art exhibitions, 450 film programs, and dozens of performances, lectures, symposia, and tours.
ADDRESS — Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), 2155 Center St, Berkeley CA (between Shattuck and Oxford in downtown Berkeley).
FREE — Admission is free on the first Thursdays of every month. Galleries free for UC Berkeley students, faculty, staff and anyone 18 and younger.
DISCOUNT — Galleries: Non-UC Berkeley students, disabled, and seniors 65+ get $2 off at the door. Theater: UC Berkeley students $5 off; UC Berkeley faculty & staff, Non-UC Berkeley students, disabled, 65+, 18 & under $4 off.
2. Chabot Space and Science Center: A science museum set amid 13 trail-laced acres of East Bay parkland, with views of San Francisco Bay and the Oakland foothills. CSSC has hands-on science exhibits and space games.
ADDRESS — Chabot Space and Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619.
FREE — Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders get in free on the first full weekend of every month via the “Museums On Us” program.
DISCOUNT — Seniors (65+), Students (13-18 or college ID) $3 off. Youth (ages 3 -12) $4 off. Military, ASTC, Seniors, Students, Golden State Advantage Cardholders also get discounted admission (amount not specified).
3. Children’s Fairyland: An historic 10-acre outdoor park where children’s literature is brought to life through fairytale exhibits. You’ll find talking storybook setups, from Humpty Dumpty’s Wall to Pinocchio’s castle, that children activate by turning a magic key.
ADDRESS — Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave (at Lake Merritt), Oakland, CA 94610.
FREE — Babies 1 and younger go free. Throughout the year, Children’s Fairyland provides free passes to community members who would otherwise not be able to afford to visit via their Outreach Program.
4. Habitot Children’s Museum: The East Bay’s Discovery Museum for young children, featuring hands-on exhibits and drop-in art activities tailored for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and families. Located in Berkeley, CA.
ADDRESS — Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065, Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704.
FREE — Active Duty Military Families — Free admission for up to six people from Memorial Day to Labor Day. (See below for military discounts on other days.)
DISCOUNT — Here are some of the ongoing Habitot discounts.
- First Time Visitors — Is this your first visit? You can get $1 off each adult admission with paid child admission if you fill out this form first and bring it with you.
- Automobile Association of America (AAA/CSAA) –Present your current AAA membership card and photo ID to receive $1 off admission per person.
- Senior/disabled — Get $1 off at the door.
- Military discount is $5 for up to six people year-round.
- Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) — Show your membership card with the ACM logo sticker for half price admission for up to six people.
- KQED membership card gets you $1 off admission.
- With your local library card you may be able to check out a discounted family pass.
5. Lawrence Hall of Science: An entertaining family center featuring hands-on exhibits, events, classes, and summer camps, workshops, labs and planetary shows. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and major holidays.
ADDRESS — Lawrence Hall of Science, One Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720 (located at the University of California, Berkeley).
FREE — Admission is free for children age 2 and under, UC Berkeley students and staff.
DISCOUNT — Children 3–18, Seniors 62+ get $2 off.
6. Lindsay Wildlife Museum: A wildlife rehabilitation and educational center that focuses on native California wildlife and natural history. The museum exhibits live, non-releasable native wildlife and treats more than 6,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year.
ADDRESS — Lindsay Wildlife Museum, 1931 First Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94597. Free parking is available at Larkey Park on the east side of the exhibit hall, the Friends Church lot across the street (except Sunday mornings), or on Buena Vista Ave.
FREE — A Blue Star Museum, which means active-duty military personnel and their immediate families get free admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day. No admission cost for those who bring in animals to the wildlife hospital.
DISCOUNT — Seniors 65+ $1 off; Children 2–17 years $2 off.
7. Oakland Museum of California: Art, history and natural sciences exhibits showcasing all things California.
ADDRESS — Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak Street at 10th St., Oakland, CA 94607.
FREE — Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. A Blue Star Museum, which means active-duty military personnel and their immediate families get free admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day. North American Reciprocal Museum Association members get two free passes. Children (8 & under) always free admission.
DISCOUNT — Fridays 5pm-9pm admission is discounted $8.45 off. Daily Seniors (65+) & Students $5 off; Youth (9–17) $9 off.
8. Oakland Zoo: A 525-acre zoo with more than 300 native and exotic animals that live in naturalistic habitats at the Zoo. Located in Knowland Park in Oakland, CA.
ADDRESS — Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, CA 94605.
FREE — Children younger than two and seniors 76 and older get free admission.
DISCOUNT — The Zoo offers a few deals directly.
- Children (ages 2-14) and Seniors (65-75) $4 off.
- Military $3 off; military children/seniors $6.75 off.
- Group discount is adults $4.50 off, kids $2.50 off, for 12 or more people if you make reservations.
- Disabled discount $2.50 off.
9. The Ruth Bancroft Garden: Internationally recognized as one of the finest private gardens in North America, presenting garden design and a water-conserving landscape, The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a nonprofit public dry garden that was planted by Mrs. Ruth Bancroft in 1972. Closed Mondays.
ADDRESS — The Ruth Bancroft Garden, 1552 Bancroft Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.
FREE — Children under 12 get in free. Garden Conservancy Members free; AHS reciprocal admissions program members free.
DISCOUNT — Seniors (65+) and students (with valid ID) get $2 off.
10. University of California Botanical Garden: Features one of the most diverse plant collections in the United States, with 34 acres containing over 13,000 species and more than 21,000 plants from all over the world arranged by region. Closed 1st Tuesday of each month.
ADDRESS — University of California Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720 (in Strawberry Canyon above the UC Berkeley campus overlooking the San Francisco Bay).
FREE — First Wednesday of each month free. Children younger than 5 free. UCBG Members, current UCB & LBNL staff, UCB faculty & UCB students free.
DISCOUNT — Save 20% to 55% with the Go San Francisco combo attraction pass. Seniors (65+) $2 off. Juniors (13 – 17) $5 off. Children (5 – 12) $8 off. Non-UCB Students $2 off.
11. USS Hornet Museum: An historic aircraft carrier and national treasure docked in Alameda, just across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco. The USS Hornet took part in both World War II and the Apollo 11 manned space mission when humans first set foot on the moon.
ADDRESS — USS Hornet Museum, 707 W Hornet Ave Pier 3, Alameda, California 94501.
FREE — Children four and younger get in free.
DISCOUNT — Students and seniors (65+) $5 off. Youth (5-17) $10 off at the door. Also, you can save 20% to 55% with the Go San Francisco combo attraction pass.