The Best Museums in San Francisco
San Francisco has a diversity of museums that include art, science, history, and technology. There are also a large number of kid's museums in the city. Below are some of the city's most notable museums.
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
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 Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art houses an impressive collection of contemporary art. There are over 33,000 works including paintings, sculptures, photography, architecture, and more.
151 3rd Street, South of Market, SF, California, 94103
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 Academy of Sciences & Morrison Planetarium
The California Academy of Sciences is both a natural history museum and a research institute. It has more than 26 million specimens, making it one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. It's also California's oldest museum, dating back to 1853.
The adjoining Morrison Planetarium hosts a variety of shows and events centering around astronomy and the stars. The 75-foot dome and large theatre make for an engaging and enjoyable experience for kids and adults alike.
55 Music Concourse Drive, Inner Sunset, SF, California, 94118
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
The Asian Art Museum has one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world. There are over 18,000 works of art, with some works over 6,000 years old.
200 Larkin Street, Civic Center, SF, California, 94102
Lawrence Hall of Science
This science center is a fun place to explore with hands on exhibits and a great science curriculum that's suitable for all ages.
Centennial Drive, Berkeley, California, 94708
The Marine Mammal Center
Created in 1975, the Marine Mammal Center, focuses on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured marine mammals. It's also a research and educational center.
2000 Bunker Road, San Francisco, California, 94965
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology is a natural history museum that is part of the University of California, Berkeley. It was founded in 1908 and is a major center for vertebrate studies on the West Coast.
Campanile Way, Northside, Berkeley, California, 94720
Cartoon Art Museum
This unique museum is the only museum in the Western US that is dedicated exclusively to cartoon art. There are about 7,000 pieces of work here.
650 Mission Street, Union Square, SF, California, 94105
Legion of Honor
From it's beautiful Beaux-Arts building to its impressive collection of ancient and European art, this museum is a must-see in San Francisco. The limestone, marble, and chevron wood building is a beautiful work of art and inside there is a collection of more than 800 European paintings (with 250 available to view).
Lincoln Park | 100 34th Avenue (at Clement Street), Lincoln Park, San Francisco, CA, 94121
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
This venue offers contemporary visual art, performances, films, and community programs that highlight and educate the public on local, national, and international artists that are creating works in modern times.
701 Mission St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103
This museum was created by local celebrity Edward Galland Zelinsky in 1933. It features his unique collection of antique mechanical creations including coin-operated musical instruments, antique arcade machines, and other unusual contraptions. If you bring your own coins, you can try out many of the machines as they still work.
Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA, 94133
This family-friendly museum offers a number of interesting exhibits including a STEM lab, science and ceramics studios, and several exhibit spaces. This museum is all about the kids, and there's plenty of space for the young ones to play. There's a toddler treehouse and a large electric model railroad that even has replicas of Bay Aria trains. Animal lovers will enjoy the animal exhibit which features live coyotes, foxes, reptiles and sea creatures.
199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA, 94114
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
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
Located in the California Academy of Sciences, this domed rainforest climbs 90 feet high. It's home to more than 1,600 different plants and animals and offers a unique experience for visitors of all ages. Nature lovers will love this unique perspective on a rainforest.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design
This museum features the work of painters, textile artists, and sculptors. It's a small museum with a number of rotating exhibits.
2569 Third Street, San Francisco, CA, 94107
The Exploratorium will entertain and engage kids and adults of all ages. It has a wide variety of kid-friendly, hands on exhibits that include science experiments, as well as interactive zones that incorporate touch, sight, memory, and perception. The museum is found at Pier 15 and it features exhibits that serve to educate and inform on all types of science including physics, biology, engineering and sound.
Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street), San Francisco, CA, 94111
Oakland Aviation Museum
This large aircraft museums offers plenty to see and do for aviation lovers. Featuring a huge hangar full of historic and modern aircraft, visitors can see items from the early days of flight (Wright Brothers models), to World War II aircraft to Vietnam and modern era aircraft. Also on display are exhibits about women in aviation, Black Americans in aviation, aircraft engines, historic airlines, and more.
8252 Earhart Rd, Oakland, California, 94621
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
de Young Museum
This art museum is located in Golden Gate Park and features work from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. This museum is more than 125 years old and it's popular for its unique fashion exhibits that include everything from costumes to contemporary Muslim fashions. There's also a beautiful observation tower on the 9th floor that looks out over Golden Gate Park, downtown San Francisco, the Bay, and the Marin headlands.
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, 94118
Kimball Natural History Museum
The Kimball Natural History Museum is a fun and educational museum for kids and adults alike. It's located in the California Academy of Sciences, and it has exhibits on fossils, natural history, and our planet.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Chabot Space & Science Center
Located in Oakland, this science museum and planetarium focuses on space exploration, astronomy, rocketry, and other space-related sciences. After undergoing a large renovation in 2021, the museum has a number of hands-on science exhibits which are great for children and adults. They also have an engaging planetarium, an outdoor deck space with more exhibits, and large telescope observatories.
10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, California, 94619
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
Children's Creativity Museum
This kid's museum is all about using your imagination and creativity. There's a play space where kids can just be kids. There are also labs, workshops, and studios where kids can experiment, explore, and learn. The Animation Lab lets kids create their own characters who then come to life through stop-motion filming. The Tech Lab teaches kids to program robots, and the Music Studio lets kids dress up and create their own music videos.
221 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA, 94103
How much does it cost to visit the museums in San Francisco?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $20 to $127. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $54. A few of the best options are below.
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