Broke and bored in Berkeley

Rachel Feder/File

Being a poor college student can be a struggle in the Bay Area. After Friday classes are done, your heart tells you to go and explore — have fun! Then, you look into your wallet. The hollow hole where money should reside tells you that this will be another weekend slamming back a bottle in your dorm, watching reruns of Gilmore Girls. But this isn’t the only way for your poor self to spend a Saturday. Not only are there free things to do in Berkeley, but all over the Bay Area as well. Here are a few ideas of ways you can spend your weekend without wrecking your monthly budget.


Often overlooked because of its close proximity to campus, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive makes for a great outing alone or with friends. With exhibits highlighting Sojourner Truth, Buddhist art and Andy Warhol’s portraits, there’s something for everyone. This museum is free to UC Berkeley students and also includes admission to exclusive performances. Plus, the café on the second floor offers an array of beverages from espresso to wine, allowing you to feel like a true art connoisseur.

2. Yoga to the People

If looking for a new activity to try, Yoga to the People is a great place to visit. This facility emphasizes that to practice yoga, you don’t need fancy clothes or expensive mats. Found on the corner of Shattuck and University avenues, individuals will practice “yoga with awareness.” While there’s a $10 recommended donation, the studio understands if you aren’t in a position to do so.

3. Chinatown

With roots going back to the 1850s, Oakland’s Chinatown is rich with culture and history. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, this community has a variety of goods to offer. The markets here sell a variety of traditional crystals to improve your happiness, as well as other Chinese cultural imports. Along with this, Chinatown hosts festivals annually, including the Street Fest and Lunar New Year’s Bazaar. This gives you the opportunity to join in on celebrations and forget about the stressors of classes for a day.

4. Walking Tours in San Francisco

Even if you’ve been to San Francisco multiple times and have crossed off all the tourist stops, there are some tours available that still can reveal a hidden history of the city. Volunteer tour guides go off the beaten path and reveal secret places that only locals hit. After this tour, not only will you have gained some new insight, but you’ll be able to impress your friends with all the quirky facts you picked up along the way. Some examples of the specialized tours available include Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco, ghost walk at the palace and downtown deco.

5. Amoeba Music

It’s always a joy to roam the rows of CDs and vinyl in Amoeba Music. With locations in both San Francisco and Berkeley, it’s always a good idea to check their website for free performances being offered. Past artists who have made appearances include Alt-J, Vampire Weekend and The Lonely Island. Plus, it’s a great place to start up a conversation with people who have a similar taste in music (“You like emo folk pop? Me too!”). Whether you hear the next big thing or make a great bargain buy, Amoeba is sure to supply a day of fun.

Now that you have some new ideas for having fun without breaking the bank, grab some friends and go explore!

Contact Kirsty Fowler at [email protected].