Get to know the best museums in San Francisco, California and see the right tips to visit each one of them. In this post you will find a detailed summary of the main museums in the city and tips on attractions or cool tours to combine with each of them. Ready to be enchanted by San Francisco’s museums?
There are people who twist their noses just by hearing the word museum. It looks like a seven-headed animal, something that bites. I, personally, love and recommend the program. It’s nice to be inspired, to fill your mind with new ideas, to learn something new and even to run away from the rain (yes friend, it rains very little in San Francisco, but when it rains, it comes out from below)!
San Francisco has an incredible variety of museums: it has art museum, technology museum, science museum… Museums that will make your San Francisco tour more interesting and will make your stay in the city unique. Here is a summary of San Francisco’s main museums. Click on the item below to go straight to the point or, if you prefer, read the whole post!
BEST MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO:
Legion of Honour
Asian Art Museum
Science, nature and technology museums
Cal Academy of Science
Museums for children
Children’s Creativity Museum
Randall Museum of Science
Museums for those who want to learn something:
Walt Disney Museum
Cable Car Museum
Wells Fargo Museum
San Francisco Maritime Museum
The Beat Museum
Contemporary Jewish Museum
Museum of Africa Diaspora
California Historical Society
Museums that are not really museums:
Ice cream museum
San Francisco Dungeons
Ripley’s Believe it or Not
Free museum days in San Francisco
Until the reopening of MOMA SF, I said that the museums in the city had no size and no collection comparable to the museums in New York or Chicago. Today, with the largest museum of modern art in the financial center of San Francisco, history is a little different. MOMA SF arrived and came to put the city at the top of the world art scene.
And since it is not only MOMA that lives the city, Legion of Honor (European art), De Young (North American art and ethnic art from other corners of the world) and the Asian Art Museum come to thicken the broth and show that there is a lot of good art around here. Let’s talk about each one of them?
LEGION OF HONOR MUSEUM
Those who have studied European art or have visited some museums in Europe will identify many works and artists of the Legion of Honour. There are 4000 years of art history illustrated by artists like Rodin (look at the thinker there in the photo), Picasso, and Monet. Not to mention the beautiful and imposing building and the wonderful views of San Francisco Bay.
Tip: the Legion of Honor is one of the SF City Pass Museum options
Legion of Honor (official website)
Address: 100 34th Ave
Opening hours: Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Minors under 17: free
Free day: 1st Tuesday of every month
DO YOU WANT A SUGGESTION FOR AN OUTDOOR PROGRAM + MUSEUM + GASTRONOMIC EXPERIENCE?
Start with a brunch at The Cliff House, from there take the Land’s End trail (wonderful and spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge) to the Legion of Honor. Visit the museum and, if there’s any left, close the day at Baker Beach. One of San Francisco’s most beautiful beaches. To return, take a bus or a Lyft/Uber.
MUSEUM OF YOUNG
De Young is one of the museums of Golden Gate Park, a beautiful and hyper modern building that gathers the art collection formed for the 1984 world exhibition. The museum’s stronghold is the American art collection of all periods, but my favorite corners are the modern art gallery and the ethnic art collection with antique pieces from tribes from all corners of the world. In addition, De Young has an interesting photographic exhibition and pieces of oriental and western fashion.
It is worth keeping an eye on the temporary exhibitions schedule (tickets aside). There are always good things going on here!
THE YOUTH MUSEUM TOWER
Whoever goes to Golden Gate Park can’t help but climb the tower of the De Young Museum. The entrance is free and the views of San Francisco are beautiful.
Tip: De Young Museum is one of the SF City Pass Museum options
De Young Museum (official website)
Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
Opening hours: open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Minors under 17: free
Free day: 1st Tuesday of every month
ASIAN ART MUSEUM
I’ve heard about the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, but I haven’t had the chance to visit yet. It is near the Civic Center, in a beautiful building, and has a very interesting collection of Asian statues. Everything indicates that it is a good request for those who enjoy Asian art.
Asian Art Museum (official site)
Address: 200 Larkin St
Opening hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm;
Thursday (January to September): 10am to 9pm;
Youth 13-17: $20
Under 12 years old: free
Free day: 1st Sunday of each month
ARCHITECTURAL COMBO: ASIAN ART MUSEUM + CIVIC CENTER
Enjoy your trip to the Asian Art Museum to visit the San Francisco City Hall (Civic Center) building. Imposing on the outside and beautiful on the inside. With luck, you will see half a dozen brides getting married and taking their pictures there.
A sensational architectural project and a first class collection define the MOMA SF, a museum of modern brown art with well designed rooms and beautiful works of art. It has colorful Matisses and interesting works by Paul Klee, Frida Kahlo, Picasso and Andy Warhol. If you have more than two days in SF, MOMA deserves to be part of your itinerary.
MOMA SF + YERBA BUENA GARDENS
One of the highlights of San Francisco’s MOMA is its location. Close to Yerba Buena, an interesting complex with a square adored by the San Franciscans and a shopping center in an area full of cool bars and restaurants. One of my favorite places in the area is Samovar, a teahouse that serves delicious delicacies; the Japanese Sanraku is also a great order. Yerba Buena is near Union Square and the financial center of SF.
SF MOMA (official website)
Address: 151 Third Street;
Tickets: $25; under 18 years old has free admission;
Hours of operation: open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, Thursday from 10am to 9pm, closed Wednesdays;
MUSEUMS FOR THE CURIOUS ON DUTY: NATURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Exploratorium and California Academy of Science are two museums that delight both adults and children. An interesting and, no doubt, fun tour. For small children (0-6), Randall – free of charge – is an excellent choice.
The Exploratorium is a giant pavilion full of diverse experiences and hyper interactive attractions. Each attraction explains in a fun way a concept of science, physics, chemistry or biology. And, without realizing it, you learn by playing.
The Exploratorium is one of those places to go in a hurry and watch the hours go by playing with strange pieces, photograph colorful lights, observe crazy experiences and get your hands dirty. My husband loves with passion and has fun as a child.
Exploratorium (official website)
Address: Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street)
Tickets: $ 30; children under 3 years have free admission;
Hours of operation: open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm;
Tip: the Exploratorium museum is one of the options of SF City Pass Museum
SENSATIONAL COMBO: EXPLORATORIUM + FERRY BUILDING
Do you want a fun and enjoyable ride idea? Spend the morning at the Exploratorium and have lunch at the Ferry Building, one of San Francisco’s best gastronomic markets with incredible views of the Bay Bridge.
CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCE
The California Academy of Science is one of San Francisco’s most modern and interesting buildings. Its dome full of solar energy plates generates much of the energy in the museum and also helps to measure and control the temperatures of greenhouses and plants and animals.
Speaking of greenhouse, get ready to visit a little piece of the Amazon Forest with fish, butterflies and loose birds, a hyper-colored Philippine coral barrier and several other different and interesting animals like the Albino Alligator. The museum also has a super planetarium, an earthquake simulator and exhibits that change from time to time. Good fun for all ages
Cal Academy of Science (official website)
Address: Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Drive
Tickets: from $ 32;
Free day: 3rd Wednesday of the month
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tip: Cal Academy of Science is included in the SF City Pass;
GOLDEN GATE PARK & JAPANESE TEA HOUSE
The California Academy of Science is located inside Golden Gate Park, a beautiful park full of fun attractions and museums. One of my favorite corners of the Golden Gate Park is the Japanese Tea Garden, a nice place to enjoy the late afternoon (or early morning), take beautiful photos and try an authentic green tea (Macha).
Free entrance: Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday before 10am
MUSEUMS FOR CHILDREN
You can’t talk about museums in San Francisco without mentioning the museums dedicated to the little ones. Besides the Exploratorium and Cal Academy of Science (so many cool experiences for kids), the city has two other museums that are well focused on children and can be fun options to entertain the little ones.
CHILDREN’S CREATIVITY MUSEUM
More than a giant toy library, the Children’s Creativity Museum at the Yerba Buena complex (near Union Square and San Francisco’s financial center) is a successful project that aims to inspire children. Using simple materials – paper, pen, scrap metal – the little ones are instigated to build inventions, manufacture musical instruments and even transform their drawings into a city that really moves.
The museum can be combined with the vintage carousel that stays on the side (tickets bought at the museum’s box office) and that made a great success with my little ones. The ticket is for two consecutive turns and costs $3 for those who enter the museum or $5 for those who just want to go on the merry-go-round.
I think the museum is very nice for children from 3 years old and up (for minors, Randall and the children’s museum in Sausalito are better ordered), but children from 5 to 8 will really enjoy it.
Children’s Creativity Museum (official website)
Address: 221 Fourth Street
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday: 10:00 – 16:00
Children from 3 years and adults: 15,00
Free for children up to 2 years.
MORE FUN IN YERBA BUENA
In addition to the Museum + Carousel combo that is a delight for the little ones, Yerba Buena has a sensational playground called Play Circle – the giant slides are a spectacle – an ice skating and bowling alley.
RANDALL MUSEUM OF SCIENCE
If you have very young children, Randall is for you! The Randall Science Museum (official website) combines playrooms (it has an exclusive for babies that is very cool and a space with a wooden train that my children have always loved), a miniature electric train that is super cool, and a special program – the extra activities are paid for, but very cheap. The museum cafe has a delicious natureba footprint and a nice patio with beautiful views of the city.
Speaking of views, it is worth seriously considering a climb to the top of Corona Heights (it is sloping but worth it) that has super beautiful views of San Francisco.
Address: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco;
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm;
MUSEUMS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO LEARN SOMETHING
If you are the type who enjoys learning something while traveling, San Francisco reserves several interesting museum options for you.
WALT DISNEY FAMILY MUSEUM
For those who like Disney and want to understand a little more of the story behind his creation and know a little of Walt Disney’s personality, this is a must-see stop that I love. You’ll get to know and see up close details behind the creation of some of the most famous cartoon characters of all time like Mickey (the beginning of it all), the musical cartoons that brought the stadium to life, Snow White (the first animated feature film) and many other recent cartoons.
It’s worth remembering that this is a much more fun experience for adults than for children and that an intermediate knowledge of English helps a lot.
Walt Disney Family Museum (official website)
Address: 104 Montgomery St – Parque Presidio;
Opening hours: open every day from 10am to 6pm (closed on Tuesdays);
Adults: U$ 25
Young people between 6-17 years: U$15
Under 5 years old: free
CABLE CAR MUSEUM
The famous Cable Car or San Francisco cable car is part of the city’s history. In this museum – which is actually a giant machine house and really works – you will learn how the cable cars work (it’s impressive) and you will know how the city prevented the cable cars from being extinct. A quick and very interesting visit
Cable Car Museum (site oficial)
- Endereço: 1201 Mason Street;
- Horários de funcionamento: aberto todos os dias das 10h às 17h (entre abril e outubro até às 18h)
- Entrada grátis
Museu + Cable Car
Andar de bondinho é uma experiência divertida e super san franciscana, assim recomendo que você use o próprio bondinho para chegar ao museu. O Museu do Cable Car fica em uma intersecção entre as três linhas: Powell x Mason e Powell x Hide (que saem da Union Square e tem pontos finais próximos ao Fisherman’s Wharf) e a linha da Califórnia Street. Para quem não tem paciência de esperar na fila, a linha da Califórnia Street é bem menos disputada que as outras duas e a experiência é bem interessante e muito mais intimista (especialmente em julho e agosto).
WELLS FARGO MUSEUM
Se você curte história e quer saber mais detalhes sobre a corrida do ouro – um dos motivos que fez com que a cidade de San Francisco explodisse e prosperasse do dia para a noite – e como era feito o transporte de valores na antiga Califórnia, essa é uma experiência interessante e de certa forma interativa.
What you will find there:
A well preserved and beautiful SUPER red carriage.
A chariot ride simulator, with video and motion effects that are the ultimate.
Interesting stories of the transport of gold and how the masked thieves acted at that time: those who like western movies will like this piece
Old posters, weapons, photos and uniforms
A telegraph that still works
For the little ones, a little horse with a chariot that is a cutie.
And of course: real Californian gold!
The museum visit takes less than an hour, is very interesting and is FREE!
Wells Fargo Museum | Wells Fargo History Museum (official website)
Address: 420 Montgomery St, San Francisco
Working hours: open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm;
MUSEUM + WELLS FARGO + RED WOODS PARK
Near the museum is the Transamerica Building, a pyramid-shaped building that stands out from the rest of the city skyline. What few people know is that the Transamerica has a small park with trees like Sequoia Red Wood. The trees are still small for a sequoia, but a real gem in the city center.
SAN FRANCISCO NATIONAL MARITIME PARK
Do you enjoy ships and war stories? Want to visit an old World War II submarine inside? If you’re excited about some of these questions, you need to visit San Francisco National Marine Park at Fisherman’s Wharf and have a collection of very interesting ships like the Balchutha Ship and the USS Pampanito submarine, a chance to get in, see and learn about the ships.
San Francisco Maritime National Park (official website)
Address: 499 Jefferson Street (at Hyde) – Visitors Center. The ships are at the pier in front of the visitor center;
Opening hours: open every day from 10am to 4pm;
Entrance: $15 | the entrance to “America the Beauty” national parks is valid here.
FISH & BBB CHIPS AT FISHERMAN’S WHARF
Do you want a very local and delicious food tip in the Fisherman’s Wharf region? Meet Cod Mother, a food truck (with tables!) that has one of the best Fish & Chips in San Francisco!
THE BEAT MUSEUM – THE BEATNIK MUSEUM
The Beat Movement”, or Beatnik movement, was a movement of the 1950s that brought together artists, thinkers and writers preaching a new way of thinking and seeing the world. The Beatinik invaded the streets of North Beach and took over City Book Lights (still one of the best in San Francisco) and Café Vesuvio (a bar/coffeehouse that is still very active). In this museum you will find details about the history of the movement, historical memorabilia and much more.
The Beat Museum (official website)
Address: 540 Broadway Street
Working hours: open every day from 10am to 7pm;
A TOUR OF NORTH BEACH
North Beach is one of San Francisco’s busiest neighborhoods – the junction of Little Italy, China Town and the financial district. Here are some of San Francisco’s best restaurants. For those who want to explore the region, my tip is this gastronomic tour.
CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSEUM
The contemporary Jewish Museum combines a classic building with a hyper-modern and very different pyramid building in a very interesting way. The museum receives several temporary exhibitions that change from time to time. It is worth keeping an eye on the schedule and see if there is anything good going on. And there always is, you see?!
Contemporary Jewish Museum (official website)
Address: 540 Broadway Street
Working hours: open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed every Wednesday);
Admission: $16 | free for young people up to 18 years old
Free day: 1st Tuesday of every month
MUSEUM OF AFRICA DIASPORA
This is a museum I don’t know and I can’t wait to visit. I’ve heard mega good! The African Diaspora Museum aims to connect visitors with the diaspora through art, music, culture, history and has a very beautiful set of paintings and sculptures. The Museum is located in the financial center of San Francisco, near Yerba Buena.
Museum of the African Diaspora (official site)
Address: 685 Mission St, San Francisco;
Hours of operation: open from Wednesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm;
Admission: $10.00 | free for children up to 12 years old
CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Want to learn all the details about California history? This is a museum that documents everything from the Spanish occupation and mission formation, the gold rush, the periods of great immigration, California industrialization and much more. I don’t know the museum yet, but it’s at the top of my wish list.
California Historical Society (official website)
Address: 678 Mission Street
Opening hours: open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 5pm;
Admission: $10.00 | free for young people up to 18 years old