Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is a treasure for art and exploration in downtown Berkeley just west of campus. The building is hard to miss with its unique architectural shape and stainless steel-clad design. Inside, your family will be treated to unique designs and a kid-friendly art lab to spur creativity.
From the start, my kids were interested in our museum visit. The entrance is spacious and light floods in to showcase a gigantic mural. The mural is the backdrop to a wooden stadium-style area, in which kids can climb down the stairs or seats from the ground level to the lower level. We spent a fair amount of time here climbing up and down, sitting and laying on the seatings/stairs, and pretending each level was a balance beam. It seems to be the “thing to do” when anyone visits the museum—kids and adults alike. We visited after school let out on a Friday afternoon and energy levels were high. Happily, the museum staff didn’t mind my kids’ activity in this area.
The artworks on display in the museum are mostly modern, and while many of them won’t be appreciated by children as much as their parents, there were still quite a few that my kids enjoyed seeing. There are projectors, screens, colorful pieces, and some that invite gentle interaction.
It’s always a good idea to remind kids of museum manners (quiet voices, no touching artwork, etc.), but BAMPFA does a good job of providing visual cues to help kids know how to engage with the art or where to stand when viewing. Be mindful that some pieces or exhibits feature mature content. The museum provides ample signage to alert visitors.
The highlight for my kids was definitely the hands-on Art Lab. Here people of all ages are invited to make their own masterpieces with the multitude of supplies available. The projects in the Art Lab vary and some project templates are provided. During our visit, we created a mini booklet, created an envelope, and drew a picture of someone special in our lives. Markers, paper, scissors, crayons, stamps, collaging materials, and other supplies were set up on the table. A dozen or so seats are available so you may need to wait your turn to create, but the projects are also take-home friendly.
Down the hall from the Art Lab is the Reading Room. There are books for adults and children to read and discuss while visiting the museum. It’s a quiet space that’s great for a reset or to calm down before exploring the galleries. My kids liked the colorful furniture and strong book selection. The room includes a large table that is the site of monthly roundtable reading events, which are recommended for kids 8 years or older. If you register, your child will receive a free book and be able to join the book discussion. It’s just one of a handful of family-friendly events that the museum puts on.
Don’t miss climbing to the upper levels in the deep red staircases, which my kids got a kick out of. They are a fun reminder to find joy in the simple things! Unfortunately, the cafe moved out of the museum in 2022; bring a snack and enjoy it on the campus lawn across the street.
Plan your visit to BAMPFA
BAMPFA is open Wednesday to Sunday 11 am – 7 pm
The Art Lab is held
Friday, 2 – 7 pm
Saturday, 11 am – 7 pm
Sunday, 11 am – 7 pm
FREE to all children under 13 AND 1 accompanying adult!
- Free BAMPFA members; UC Berkeley students, faculty & staff; 18 & under + one adult per child 13 and under
- $12 Non-UC Berkeley students; disabled; 65+
- $14 General admission
- Free First Thursdays: Galleries free for all on the first Thursday of each month
- Please note that there are additional fees for the theater.
2155 Center Street in Berkeley, one block from downtown Berkeley BART
For more information visit the BAMPFA website.