The Best History Museums in San Francisco

The Best History Museums in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city filled with history. There are culturally rich neighborhoods and a local history that has come to define the city. Within San Francisco you'll find a handful of interesting history museums that talk about local, regional, and national history. These are a few of the history museums in San Francisco.
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island, located in the San Francisco Bay, once served as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. Today it is a National Historic Landmark that offers tours that cover the island's history, the former prison, and the many famous prisoners that were held here. To get here, you need to take a scenic ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf, and it's best to book ahead, especially on weekends.
West Road, SF, California, 94133-1312
Balclutha
Balclutha
This steel-hulled full rigged ship was built in 1886. It's a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is located at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
Russian Hill, SF, California, 94133-1312
San Francisco has plenty more to offer, so see also our other articles: The Best Hiking Trails Near San Francisco and The Best Local Museums in San Francisco.
Cable Car Museum
This free museum is all about the history of the cable car system in San Francisco, and is also home to the actual machinery that powers the cable cars themselves! Visitors can see historical exhibits about how the cable cars were once used much more frequently in the city, what they looked like, and how they work. It's also possible to go down under the street level to see the gear machinery, and gaze upon the large engines and wheels that move the cables.
1201 Mason Street, Nob Hill, SF, California, 94133
California Historical Society
The California Historical Society offers a variety of interesting exhibits at their downtown location. They also provide exhibits to a number of exhibits to other museums in the area.
678 Mission St., San Francisco, CA, 94105
Contemporary Jewish Museum
This three story museum is an impressive sight. It is made with more than 3,000 color-changing blue steel panels that form the Hebrew letters chet and yud, which come together to spell the Hebrew word for life. The museum hosts a series of rotating exhibits as well as cultural shows.
736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, 94103
Museum of the African Diaspora
This contemporary art museum features work that highlights Black culture. The museum educates and informs visitors on the history of African culture, following through to modern times. The space is 20,000 square feet and it was created through the efforts of the former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.
685 Mission St (at 3rd), San Francisco, CA, 94105
Walt Disney Family Museum
This museum is dedicated to the life and work of Walt Disney. It was founded by the Walt Disney Family Foundation and is overseen by Diane Disney Miller. The museum features historic photographs and other paraphernalia from Walt Disney's life as well as rotating exhibits on various animators and stylists who have worked on the Disney movies.
104 Montgomery Street, Presidio, San Francisco, CA, 94129
How much does it cost?

Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $5 to $149. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $54. A few of the best options are below.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

Budget Your Trip

Budget Your Trip has average travel costs for thousands of cities around the world, all provided by other travelers. You can also register to organize your spending by category and location with graphs, maps, charts, and tables.

Search for Travel Costs

Read More
If you're looking for more information about San Francisco, read Where to Relax with a Book in San Francisco and Hidden Finds in San Francisco.
Share This Page

Some of the links on this website are sponsored or affiliate links which help to financially support this site. By clicking the link and making a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but this does not affect the price of your purchase.