No Dough, No Wheels? Berkeley Has Solutions!

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Take the stereotype of the starving student. Add the sky-high cost of living in Berkeley and there isn't much money left on the weekends to indulge in activities like spending a day in San Francisco or even drinking at local bars. Fortunately, there are ample opportunities to have fun on the cheap all around Berkeley. The following is a run-down of free, interesting options that are within walking or Class Pass distance.

Art galleries in Berkeley present visually stunning afternoons, offering a taste of what you could buy if and when you strike it rich. At ACCI on 1652 Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley, the storefront hides a nice-sized gallery which houses a constantly changing array of paintings and mixed-media. The Berkeley Art Center on 1275 Walnut Street offers exhibits that change about every four to six weeks, with recent exhibits including "Watershed 2001" and "The Whole World's Watching: Photojournalists work from the 1960s and 1970s focusing on political protest and social change."

For a more active view of the creative process, the Artworks Foundry and Gallery offers tours every Wednesday. Visitors should call a week in advance to schedule the tour, which leads you through the history and method of the lost wax process used for iron casting.

Berkeley museums also offer an array of artistic and historical choices, ranging from the current "Migrations: Photographs by Sebastião Salgado" showing at the UC Berkeley Art Museum from January 16-March 24, 2002, to the consistent array of dinosaurs and other related creatures at the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology. Located across from campus at 2626 Bancroft Way, the UC Berkeley Art Museum is free for UC Berkeley students, staff and children under age 12. The museum is free to the public on Thursdays.

At the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology in 1101 Valley Life Sciences Building, visitors can take a look at a tyrannosaurus rex and pteranodon ingens. The amount of fossils on display is not mind-boggling, but the enormity and imagined ferocity of the T. Rex is certainly worth a visit.

Another on-campus museum offering interesting historical insights is the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, housed in 103 Kroeber Hall. The Hearst Museum combines ethnic art with relics from the past, provoking thought in a surprisingly cozy atmosphere.

Though it is not technically a museum, The Bone Room on Solano Avenue is a must-see for any bug or bone buff. Human and animal bones are crammed into the shop along with a variety of shells and preserved insects, and if the type of collection doesn't impress you the purchase possibilities will. The Bone Room sells all sorts of human and animal skeleton parts, both real bone and cheaper fossil casts made from polyurethanes and polyresins. You can buy a fully-articulated human skeleton ($2000-$2500), a human foot (about $125), or just a rib bone ($8). Visitors are also welcome to just spend time checking out the displays in the store.

After an afternoon at The Bone Room or a Berkeley museum, free evening entertainment can be had in two of Berkeley's musical hotspots, Ashkenaz and La Peña Cultural Center and Café. Ashkenaz, located at 1317 San Pablo Avenue, is closed until the end of January, but it will reopen Friday, February 1 with a 9 p.m. free concert featuring Tom Rigney & Flambeau plus Tropical Vibrations. Also at 9 p.m., La Peña (3105 Shattuck Avenue) gives patrons something to dance about with free live Latin American music every Friday night. On Wednesday, February 6, La Peña will host a free Café Poetry Under 21 and Open Mic night, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Berkeley parks are a haven for cheap and broke students. With over 50 city parks, there is at least one near virtually every house, dorm and apartment in the city. Two of the most interesting-the Berkeley Rose Garden and Indian Rock Park-are hidden in North Berkeley.

Completed in 1937 under the Works Projects Administration, the Rose Garden houses over 3000 bushes and 250 varieties of roses. The rose garden is, admittedly, a little quiet in the winter and early spring, but when the weather warms it blooms into a lush, buzzing park. The Rose Garden is located at Euclid Avenue and Bayview Place, next to Cordonices Park.

With no need for sunlight to stimulate vegetation, Indian Rock Park is a must for avid rock climbers and students seeking an unobstructed view of the San Francisco Bay. At the intersection of Indian Rock Road and Shattuck Avenue, the park was dedicated for public use in 1917 and has long been a haven for climbers. For those interested in the view of the Bay, bring a sweater and come by the park at sunset.

If you're still just hankering for a free drink, visit Berkeley's own Takara Sake USA Inc. at 708 Addison Street. As the largest sake manufacturer in the US, Takara Sake has its own museum and offers free sake tasting. Takara, meaning "treasure from the rice paddy," lives up to its name by providing visitors with a traditionally decorated tasting room and insights into sake production.


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