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Best East Bay Museums With Free Admission

The Bay Area features many great museums, but museum tickets can get expensive, especially when you want to bring the whole family. Check out these East Bay museums for educational fun on a budget. Some are always free, while some are free on certain days of the week or for certain groups.
Mexican Ceramic Sculpture: The Aguilar Family
The exhibit 'Mexican Ceramic Sculpture: The Aguilar Family' is on view through July 1, 2012. (credit:

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
103 Kroeber Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
(510) 642-3682

Hours: Mon and Tues - Closed; Wed to Sat- 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sund noon-4 p.m.
General Admission is Free

This Hearst Museum of Anthropology, located on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is always free to visitors. This unique artistic establishment carries the vision of being a place where "visitors gain a deeper understanding of diverse responses through time and across cultures to humanity's fundamental questions, challenges and opportunities." Its rotating exhibits feature artifacts from native cultures around the world. A current exhibit is "Mexican Ceramic Sculpture: the Aguilar Family" and will be available for viewing through July 1. The exhibit displays the art of Oaxaca as created by the Aguilar family from this southern region of Mexico.

Chabot Space Center

Chabot Space and Science Center
10000 Skyline Blvd
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 336-7300

Hours: Mon and Tues - Closed; Wed and Thurs 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri and Sat - 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Bank of America Cardholders receive free admission during the first full weekend of every month
Regular Admission: Adult $15.95; Youth (3-12) $11.95

The Chabot Center is one of the Bay Area's jewels. The Center features an observatory with star-gazing available on weekends, as well as a variety of astrological and space-related exhibits and activities for all ages. The Chabot Center is free on the first weekend of each month to all Bank of America cardholders. For more on the Bank of America program and other Bay Area museums that participate, visit

Related: Bay Area's 10 Must-See Museums For Kids

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
(credit: Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive/Facebook)

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Woo Hon Fai Hall
2626 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 642-0808

Hours: Mon and Tue - Closed; Wed to Sun - 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission is free to exhibitions and programs on the first Thursday of each month (June 7, July 5, August 2, September 6, October 4, November 1, December 6)
Regular Admission: Adults $10

This art museum on the University of California, Berkeley campus is twinned with the Pacific Film Archive. Together, they provide access to many Bay Area and nationally-known artists and filmmakers. San Francisco-based artist Barry McGee will be in residence beginning June, in order to stage a retrospective exhibition of his work opening in August. The museum is free to all on the first Thursday of each month.

Museum on Main

Museum on Main
603 Main St
Pleasanton, CA 94566
(925) 462-2766

This locally-focused museum provides a history of Pleasanton and the Dublin-Pleasanton-San Ramon Valley. Residents of the outer East Bay will appreciate its exhibits and special events. Some planned for this year include a historic homes walk and a ghost walk for Halloween. A tour of downtown Pleasanton, available via cell phone, has also been created by the museum. Admission is always free however donations are more than welcomed.

Takara Sake Museum

Takara Sake Museum
708 Addison St
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 540-8250

For a change of pace, the Takara Sake Museum in Berkeley is a great choice - and a flavorful one too. This museum, attached to the Takara Sake factory, includes artifacts explaining the history of sake and the process of sake production. The collection of artifacts at this museum is the only educational place in the U.S. that outlines the origin of this beloved Japanese drink. Takara, founded in Kyoto, Japan, has been making sake since 1925. Admission to the museum is free and sake tasting is available for $5.

Related: Best Impressionist Art In San Francisco

Laura Tarwater-Scharp is a freelance writer, editor and historian. Originally from the Midwest, she has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade. Her work can be found at

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