Best Places to Visit in the East Bay

A unique mix of East Bay attractions provides opportunities that range from hopping on a miniature steam train for a ride through the redwood grove to peering through a giant telescope to zoom in on distant starry constellations. Go to the museum that explores the story of how California got that way and learn more about animal and natural habitat conservation at the Oakland Zoo.

Feature Photo: Chabot Space & Science Center

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Photo: Courtesy of Visit Oakland

Chabot Space & Science Center

10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland

Dedicated to the universe, planet earth and home to three observatory refracting telescopes dating from the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. Up on the Chabot Observation Deck, Sky Station, Sky Mirror, Sky Mosaic are three of the 12 interactive exhibitions. See the Big Dipper constellation clearly. There is also a 250-seat planetarium. From November 2021 in partnership with the NASA Ames Research Center, the center offers a completely new visitor learning experience that showcases the thrill of the people and the process behind space exploration.

Photo: Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California

Oakland Museum of California

1000 Oak Street, Oakland

“The museum of us,” tells the story of California and its people through 1.9 million objects in a collection that embraces art, history, and the natural sciences. There’s a focus on interactive and there’s something for everybody. Weekly programming such as Friday Nights and Family Sundays, features performances, workshops, and activities targeted to children and families. A full calendar of changing exhibitions and events indoors and outdoors mean that no two visits are the same. And conveniently, the museum is just one block from the BART station at Lake Merritt.

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Photo: Courtesy of Visit Oakland

Oakland Zoo

9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland

A century ago, the zoo was founded by a naturalist in partnership with an early conservation society. Managed by the Conservation Society of California, that dedication is apparent to today’s visitors. In addition to the Petting Yard and the ChIldren’s Zoo for younger visitors, the zoo has seven regional areas providing naturalistic habitat for over 850 animals: Adventure Landing, African Savanna, African Veldt, Flamingo Plaza, Tropical Rainforest, Wild Australia, and California Trail. The mammals include chimpanzees, sun bears, elephants, lions, giraffes and more. There are also amphibians, reptiles, birds, and invertebrates.

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Photo: Courtesy of Visit Berkeley

Tilden Regional Park

2481 Grizzly Peak Blvd, Orinda

“Enchanting” is the description frequently applied to this park in the Berkeley Hills. At the sight (and sound of the “toot, toot”) of a 15-gauge miniature steam engine trundling through, children heartily agree. There’s an antique carousel, an Environmental Education Center and Little Farm, too. Bring a kid and some lettuce to feed the animals. Take a train ride and a spin on the merry-go-round. Enjoy the views. Containing a botanical garden sanctuary for many of California’s rare plants, this is also a place for visitors to hike and wander, connecting to the much larger, 2,000-acre regional park system. Plus, admission is free!

Photo: Courtesy of Visit Berkeley

University of California Botanical Gardens at Berkeley

200 Centennial Dr, Berkeley

Away from the urban sprawl, yet just above the city, these 34 acres established in 1890 are home to thousands of plant species and varieties collected from all over the Golden State and beyond. The botanical garden’s purpose is to create beautiful landscapes for our appreciation by displaying diverse plant life while providing a natural habitat for animal life as well. One of the nation’s largest and most diverse collections, this garden has more than 10,000 types of plants featuring  nine geographical regions from Australasia to South Africa. There’s even a redwood grove in this living museum. Admission charges apply, online reservations required.

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