Listed below are just some of the things we have done or have planned to do for 2012 at free or reduced admission prices:
|Aquarium at Academy of Science|
- Academy of Science - free admission with a library pass.
- Oakland Zoo - free admission with library pass, $7 for parking extra.
- Asian Art Museum - free admission with library pass. We saw the special exhibit on Maharajas: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts and it was truly spectacular.
- Civil War Days at Fort Point - free event.
- Village Theater in Danville, "Laura", reduced admission through Goldstar.
- UC Berkeley Gardens - free admission the first Thursday of each month.
- Muir Woods - free entrance during National Parks Week.
- Earth Day Festival at John Muir Historic House - no charge for admission.
- Borges Ranch - visit the farm animals and hike the hills at this free East Bay Park.
- Archery in a Redwood forest at Roberts Regional Park. You need your own bows and arrows for this activity. The range is free but donations are appreciated since the park is maintained courtesy of the Redwood Bowmen Association.
- Lesher Theater play "A Call to Arms" - Reduced admission through Goldstar
- U.S.S. Hornet Tour - free with library pass.
The total cost for the above attractions came to $30 for the four play tickets (2 plays X 2 tickets x $7.50 each). Everything else was free except for transportation and parking. Before we decided to become super thrifty entertainment consumers, we used to pay more than $30 for a restaurant meal for two on a Friday night alone. Now we have figured out how to spend less than $30 a month and still do a lot of fun and interesting activities. There are so many fun things to do in the Bay Area at no cost that we spend very little money on entertainment these days.
Here are some helpful links:
Event Lists - These Lists Contain Both Free and Fee Events, So Be Sure to Check the Prices Before You Go
SFGate - San Francisco and beyond.
Mercury News - South Bay.
Bay Area Insider - Oakland and beyond
The Concord Patch - Concord and surrounding communities event list.
BART Accessible Destinations
Free Park Event Lists
Golden Gate Parks Conservancy - This is the nonprofit partner organization for the Gold Gate Parks. Beside offering many volunteer opportunities, there are numerous free walks, hikes, bikes and tours offered at no charge. For the month I posted this link, free event offerings included a Muir Wood Evening Walk, crabbing at Fort Point, and a beginning birding walk and talk in the Marin Headlands. - added 4/2/12.
East Bay Regional Park District - This park district has some truly beautiful parks with great hiking. Our personal favorite parks include Tilden, Sunol and Wildcat Canyon. As an added plus for dog owners, unlike the State Parks, dogs are welcome at most parks and on most trails. EBRPD has numerous classes, activities and ranger led hikes each month, some free and some with a cost. Check out their web site to find the free events for the upcoming months. - Added 4/4/12.
California State Park Events - Check this list for all of the state parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. - Added 4/4/12.
Golden Gate National Parks - Take a guided tour of tour of a 19th century sailing ship for $5 or take an evening stroll through Muir Woods for free. If you want a day trip, you can look for gray whales and elephant seals at Point Reyes. - Added 4/4/12.
National Parks - Check out this list of free admission days. National Parks in the Bay Area include: - Added 9/25/12
- Muir Woods National Monument
- Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
- Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
- Point Reyes National Seashore
- Pony Express National Historic Trail
- John Muir National Historic Site
- Fort Point National Historic Site
- Presidio of San Francisco
Always Free Attractions
Sometimes you actually do get more than what you pay for. Check out these Bay Area attractions that are always free.
Farmers Market with Free Concerts - Concord, Thursday evenings (starts 5/31/12)
Golden Gate Park - San Francisco. Most of the major attractions inside the park, like the Japanese Gardens and Academy of Science, cost extra unless you go on the designated "free" days. You can still do things like check out the buffalo and have a picnic at Stowe Lake for free.
John Muir Historic House - Martinez
Randall Museum - San Francisco
Ames Research Center
Blake Garden - UC Berkeley - Added 4/6/12.
|Blake Garden Grotto and Reflecting Pool|
Cantor Arts Center - Stanford University
Japanese Gardens - Hayward
Fort Funston - San Francisco. Take your camera and watch the hang gliders take off and land.
Sulphur Creek Nature Center - Hayward
Emma Prusch Farm Park - San Jose
Star Gazing - various planetariums.
Free Sail Boat Rides - Compliments of the Cal Sailing Club
Botanic Garden at Tilden Park
Little Farm at Tilden Park
Marine Mammal Center - Marin
The Botanic Garden at Tilden Park - Wildcat Canyon Road and South Park Drive in Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley, CA. Added 4/7/12.
Bay Model Visitor Center - 2100 Bridgeway Sausalito, CA 94965. Added 4/7/12.
Parks - The Bay Nature site has a list of 24 pages of parks in the Bay Area in alphabetical order. Most are free or low cost.
Nike Missile Site
Triton Museum of Art, 1505 Warburton Ave., Santa Clara, CA 95050. Added 4/7/12.
The Bay Area Free Book Exchange - There is no catch. The Bay Area Free Book Exchange at 10520 San Pablo Avenue El Cerrito, California 94530 gives away books for free. You can donate your old books if you like but it is not a requirement. There is a 100 book limit per person per day.
Inexpensive Event List - Under $5 Per Person Admission
Ardenwood Farms - Fremont. Adults $3, more for special event days.
McConaghy House in Hayward
City Sponsored Events
Concord Farmers' Markets with free music Tuesdays and Thursdays. - Added 4/4/12.
Concord Downtown - list of free upcoming fairs and concerts. Added 4/4/12.
Library Events and Passes
Contra Costa Library - Get free passes for local attractions with the libraries Discover and Go pass. Added 4/4/12
Contra Costa Library Events - Search for free events at various libraries throughout Contra Costa County.
Alameda County Library - also has Discover and Go passes. Added 4/4/12
Goldstar - This is a web site that has discounted tickets for Bay Area events and attractions. They have some tickets that are called free, but in reality everything we have looked at has at least a nominal service charge. Still, we have gone to several East Bay plays for $15 for two, with tickets that would have normally cost $40 or more. If you have more time than money, it is worth checking out the free event list once or twice a day for new additions. Recent offerings include Cirque du Soleil tickets for Totem in San Jose for $33 each, which is deeply discounted off the normal price. The free / comp tickets are usually comedy shows and very small budget theater groups. If you reserve play tickets, check the venues. Some of the smaller venues are not much larger or more impressive than my guest bedroom. Plus there are no refunds, so be careful of what you book. Added 4/4/12.
Costco - offer discounted theater tickets. We buy these in advance and in bulk. They are cheaper at our local store than they are online.
Designated free days change from time to time. The list below is beleived to be current based on web site information. As always, to avoid disappointment, call ahead to confirm the venue's current free day policy.
Free First Sunday -
Asian Art Museum - Added 4/4/12.
Free First Tuesday -
Flower Conservatory at Golden Gate Park - Added 4/4/12.
de Young Fine Arts Museum - Added 4/12/12.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. Added - 4/7/12.
Free First Wednesday -
Exploratorium - Added 4/4/12.
Free First Thursday -
|UC Botanical Garden|
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive - free first Thursdays. Added 4/5/12.
UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley - Added 4/5/12.
Free Third Saturday -
Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum734 Marin Street, Vallejo, CA 94590 Added 4/6/12.
Free Days Vary Month to Month -
Academy of Science at Golden Gate Park - They have both free to everyone days and free days for San Francisco residents only. Check their site as the days vary month to month. Added 4/4/12.
History San Jose - Added 4/5/12.
Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek - Check their calendars for free admission dates and plant sales. - added 4/4/12.
Meetups - Meetups are special interest groups formed online. Some are made by people trying to drum up business and have fees, though most are free or low cost. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of meetup groups in the Greater Bay Area. One thing I've noticed is that they tend to draw a younger, more budget conscious crowd. Many fizzle out after a meeting or two. Look for groups that have a long history of past meetings if you want something with continuity. Added 4/4/12
Park and Museum Passes
Association of Science-Technology Centers Passport Program - With this passport program, you pay one annual fee and then get into member museums for free or discounted prices. Passport costs may be tax deductible. We bought our pass at The Tech Museum for $80 and received four ASTC cards and four IMAX movie passes in return. This is a great program if you travel as you can use the cards to get in free at museums around the country for one low annual price. In the Bay Area, local attractions in the program offer 1/2 price admission discounts. You can find a list of Bay Area venues in the program at The Tech's ASTC page. - Added 4/4/12
Association of Children's Museums - This is another passport program. You pay one annual fee at the museum of your choice and gain entry to other museums for free or at discounted admission prices. - Added 4/4/12
North American Reciprocal Museum List - In the Bay Area, most of the museums in this program are art museums, including the de Young and The Legion of Honor. This is a great pass to buy if you travel around California as there are numerous museums listed for Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento. If you buy your membership through the Sacramento Railroad Museum, your membership includes free admission to the museum for a year as well as free train rides. - Added 4/4/12
State Parks Foundation - For new members, the California State Parks foundation offers a special introductory rate of 7 day use park passes for $25, plus 5% off camping reservations. This pass is good at over 200 parks. After one year, the annual fee goes to $40. - Added 4/4/12.
Clubs and Organizations
Sierra Club - if you join the Sierra Club, you can go on a wide variety of hikes and other activities throughout the Bay Area each month, often at no cost to members.
Greenbelt Alliance - Check out their outings calendar for events (mainly hikes) throughout the Bay Area. Some are free and some are low cost.