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Berkeley gets super free and easy the first week of every month. How so?
Here are some of the best deals you may not have heard about:
Berkeley blooms with fantastic garden destinations, all free the first week of the month (and most free all the time). The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is a magical mystery tour of the world’s flora, a notably diverse collection that covers 34 acres of Strawberry Canyon above the Cal campus. Admission is free the first Wednesday of every month. For 2018: Sept. 5; Oct. 3; Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. The Berkeley Rose Garden shows off with 1,500 rose bushes across nearly four acres. Admission is always free to this municipal park. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden, tucked into a sunny dell of Tilden Regional Park, is dedicated to the native plants of California. It’s akin to a garden tour of California’s 160,000 square miles of botanic biodiversity. In addition to always-free admission, the garden gives free docent-guided tours on weekends.
The Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) anchors the Downtown Arts District with architectural grandeur. BAMPFA is open Wed-Sun, and admission to all galleries is free the first Thursday of every month (and gallery admission is always free for guests 18 and under with accompanying adult). Free Thursdays for the balance of 2018 include Sept. 6, Oct. 4, Nov. 8, and Dec. 6. The collection showcases a wide range of works, from ancient Chinese and Buddhist art to modern masters including Richard Misrach and Hans Hoffman.Free Tastes
Berkeley’s local libations scene is vibrant. Craft comes in many forms, from artisan coffee and tea, to local beer and wine. Donkey & Goat Winery is one of a collection of artisan wine producers in West Berkeley, a group that includes Broc Cellars, Urbano Cellars, and the Mead Cellar. Donkey & Goat's popular Free First Friday celebrations are toast-worthy affairs with free admission to a revelry of live music, food and, of course, award-winning wine (charge for food and wine). Free First Fridays coming up are Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 9 and Dec. 7.
Berkeley’s bayfront trail traces a 1.25 mile, fully accessible loop around Cesar Chavez Park and comes with million dollar views of the San Francisco skyline. The Golden Gate Bridge is right across the water, and the steady westerly wind makes the Berkeley bayfront a most reliable venue for flying a kite.
Indian Rock Park is a great vista point for the San Francisco Bay and city skyline beyond. It also serves as a fantastic surface for rock scrambling and climbing. Dick Leonard, the “father of modern rock climbing,” and David Brower, Sierra Club icon, learned rock climbing and developed their mountaineering chops at Indian Rock. Less-advanced climbers can enjoy the rock, too. Spend a couple of bucks (okay, we said free, but come on) on a local Acme baguette and Cheeseboard, you’ve got a cheap Golden Gate sunset date. Rock and roll, right?
Free speech and flower power are forever in Berkeley’s DNA. UC Berkeley serves as the hub of the city and unofficial “Central Park.” It’s a great place for wandering through a stand of redwoods, crossing bubbling creeks, and admiring classic architecture at every turn. For an insider’s perspective, take the free campus tour, offered daily (online reservations). The leafy campus also connects the adjacent districts of Downtown Berkeley, Telegraph Avenue and the Gourmet Ghetto, making it kind of an awesome short-cut, too.