Fun doesn't cost much: Great ideas for free & low cost family fun!

 photo from El Cerrito Splash Park

photo from El Cerrito Splash Park

Summer time is just about here. Pearly has some ideas for family fun that won't break the bank.  

Of course, there’ll be days you want to bring your child to watch a theatre performance, or go on a cruise ship vacation. But who doesn’t? Even after the kids are here, there are ways to have a fantastic weekend outing that costs little to no money at all!

Here are some:

Here are some places with free or low-cost admission:

  • Lake Merritt - best for botanical gardens, bird and people watching

  • Tilden Park - best for hikes, walks, picnics, animal-feeding, and nature-play

  • Berkeley Marina - best for kite flying, picnicking, nature-play, bike riding

  • Redwood Regional Park - best for hiking, nature-play, bike riding

  • Point Isabel - best for walks, dogs welcome, picnicking

  • Berkeley Adventure Playground - best for slightly older kids. They’ll need to “find” screws and nails on-site to exchange for saws and other tools to “build up the playground. Children 4 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

  • Bay Model - best for science-lovers, check out the working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay area.

  • Habitot Children’s Museum - $12 children & adults

  • Rain or Shine - $16 first child, $8 sibling, $4 for adults

  • The Rec Room - $10 for first child, $8 sibling, infants under 6 months free

  • Kids Gym Berkeley - $15 for first child, $12 sibling, 5-visit pass for $60

  • Fairyland (Oakland) - $10 per child or adult

  • Jumpity Bumpity (Hayward) - $10 per child (Mon to Fri daypass), $11 (1 hr) - $16 (2 hrs) on weekends

  • Mel’s Play Place (Castro Valley) - $9 per child

  • High Scores Arcade (Alameda) - $5 per hour minimum donation

  • El Cerrito Splash Park - $3 per person

If weather permits, get outdoors!

If the weather is “nice” can be pretty relative. Well, if it’s sunny, go on a walk with the kids, and engage the environment with them. Check out what lives under stones, lives in creeks, and sail some fallen leaves down a stream.

To keep your children on their toes, challenge them to collect 10 different types of leaves, or 20, or 30! You can use them to make art imprints later, or simply have them paste them in a book so you check find out unique properties of these leaves and plants later on. There’s always an opportunity to learn about the veins in leaves, chlorophyll, shapes, colors and textures.

If your child is a bug-lover, bring a magnifying glass, or pick one up for cheap from a toy store.

If you have an old digital camera lying around, plug it in, charge it up, and let your kid snap away while on the walk! If our 2-year-old can take pictures, so can yours! Just try to get them a neck strap so the camera stays safe even if it slips out of their little grips.

Check out your local vivarium, pet store, or rescue shelter.

If your kid is an animal lover, they’ll love the vivarium or pet store. We often bring out kid there to satiate her animal-lovin’ without having to get a pet. So far, she’s gotten to hold some lizards, touch a couple of snakes, and even watch one mess with a mouse for lunch. She’s seen snakes molt, and learned about their skins, watched turtles push other turtles off branches for the best sunbathing spot, and seen fighting fish laze around.

Plan for free days at museums, or get a library card.

Most museums have free days, or nights, but if those don’t work for you and your family, check out tie Discover & Go program, a nationally recognized museum pass program. As long as you have a library card, whether it’s from Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, or Monterey, you actually have free or discounted access to hundreds of places all around the bay area. Check this site to learn more, but it’s time to start learning more about cartoon art, space and science, Japanese-American history, attend a family concert or simply take a dip in a swimming pool!

Plan a get-together!

Get involved with your neighbors and reach out to other parents! Find a Facebook group in your neighborhood for parents, or create one. Get on your Nextdoor.com neighborhood, say hello, introduce your family, and invite them to a potluck picnic at a nearby park, or plan a street party!

Got a vehicle? Check out the Jelly Belly Factory Tour!

The California Visitor Center is located at 1 Jelly Belly Lane in Fairfield. They offer regular free tours, and the best (or worst) thing is all visitors get a little bag of jelly belly’s for free.

Nia House

Nia House Learning Center, 2234 9th St, Berkeley, CA, 94710, United States

A Montessori Toddler & Preschool Program serving Berkeley since 1974