Top Museums In San Francisco – World-class aquariums, interactive science exhibits and diverse art collections make San Francisco’s museums a must-see for any visitor.
It’s not just the collections that are spectacular; Critically acclaimed architecture and some of the city’s most breathtaking views also make San Francisco’s museums worth a visit. Now that the arts are open in San Francisco, be sure to check out some of the following extraordinary museums.
Top Museums In San Francisco
Save 44% on three days of unlimited cable car rides and admission to San Francisco’s top attractions with the San Francisco CityPass®. This includes the California Academy of Sciences and the Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, plus your choice of two other attractions: Aquarium of the Bay, The Walt Disney Family Museum, The Exploratorium, or the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens.
Free Museum Days In San Francisco (2023/2024)
Perfectly convenient to Pier 39, the Aquarium of the Bay offers an unforgettable encounter with marine life. Stroll through 300-foot-long clear acrylic tunnels that hold 700,000 gallons of bay water, touch tidepool animals and enjoy a close-up look at the river’s playful otters. Available with San Francisco CityPass®.
Located in the Civic Center neighborhood, this luxurious museum houses one of the world’s most diverse collections of art and objects from the Asian continent. Spanning 6,000 years of human history, visitors to the Asian Art Museum can enjoy beautiful paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles and armor originating from Turkey, China, India, Japan, the Philippines and other Asian cultures.
Home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and world-class research and educational programs, the California Academy of Sciences is one of San Francisco’s must-see sites. From the frolicking penguins in the African Hall to the wild flowers on the rooftop, the building is full of life. The four-story rainforest and awe-inspiring coral reef ecosystem delight visitors of all ages, while the expansive planetarium takes you through space and time for a new perspective on our planet. The Academy also has a 2.5-acre residential rooftop terrace, which is a key part of its eco-friendly design and operation in Golden Gate Park. Available with San Francisco CityPass®.
The California Historical Society has been preserving California’s rich and fascinating history for more than 140 years. Enjoy the informative exhibits at the Contemporary Jewish Museum and their downtown location near MOAD, or check out one of their citywide exhibits at one of San Francisco’s many museums and libraries.
Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
For families visiting San Francisco with children, the Children’s Creativity Museum is a fun way to spend a day. At Yerba Buena Gardens, the Children’s Creativity Museum is filled with interactive exhibits that teach kids about animation, music, digital media, and other creative activities. Don’t miss a ride on the historic, hand-carved Leroy King Carousel which is a perfect companion to a day at the museum.
Located in downtown San Francisco near the Museum of the African Diaspora and the California Historical Society, the Contemporary Jewish Museum presents dynamic exhibitions and educational programs exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, and ideas. Drop-in Art Studio and Textile Lab Gatherings are offered year-round, free with museum admission, and are events that are fun for the whole family!
Located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the de Young’s collection exceeds 27,000 works and is renowned for 17th to 21st century American art, modern and contemporary art, photography, international textiles and costumes, and the art of Africa, Oceania. Is. And America. Be sure to visit the ninth-floor observation level of the de Young’s Hammon Tower and enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean.
Located on the Embarcadero’s Pier 15, the Exploratorium is an interactive museum that inspires creativity in people of all ages. Explore more than 600 hands-on exhibits and enjoy breathtaking views of the city and the bay in the spectacular glass-and-steel Bay Observatory. Available with San Francisco CityPass®.
What To See At San Francisco’s Splendid Palace Of Fine Arts
Built to commemorate Californian soldiers killed in World War I, the Legion of Honor is a beautiful Neoclassic building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. The museum’s collection includes over 4,000 years of ancient and European art and also houses the Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, one of the largest collections of works on paper in the country. Don’t miss a performance on the Skinner Pipe Organ and enjoy the impressive sound of 4,500 pipes playing everything from Bach and Gershwin to the finest film scores. Public concerts are presented every weekend on Saturday and Sunday at 4 pm.
MoAD showcases the history, art and cultural richness that resulted from the dispersion of Africans throughout the African diaspora. MoAD connects all people through shared African heritage and wide-ranging immersive performances. Throughout the year, they offer special events that bring people of all ages together through dance, music, art talks and more.
A non-collection institution, the Museum of Craft and Design is one of the few institutions in North America dedicated to contemporary practices in craft and design. The museum’s mission is to explore the active roles of craft and design in everyday life through original and traveling exhibitions, collaborations with museums around the world, and practical opportunities to learn how to make your own crafts.
Established in 1935 as the first West Coast museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, the transformed San Francisco Museum of Modern Art reopened in 2016. The Snøhetta-designed expansion includes 170,000 square feet of new and renovated galleries, enabling SFMOMA. Displays its more than 33,000 modern and contemporary artworks, with an entire floor dedicated entirely to photography. Free access to the 45,000-square-foot ground-floor galleries for visitors 18 and under makes SFMOMA more welcoming and connected to the city than ever. Available with San Francisco CityPass®.
Best Museums In San Francisco
Dedicated to the life and work of Walt Disney, creator of some of America’s most beloved animation, including Mickey Mouse, this museum is housed in a historic building in the Presidio. The contemporary interactive gallery and state-of-the-art exhibits are narrated in Walt’s own voice and include early drawings, cartoons, films, music, listening stations, over 200 video screens, and a spectacular model of Disneyland. While you’re there, enjoy daily screenings of Disney movie classics.
Located in the heart of Yerba Buena Gardens, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents cutting-edge, contemporary visual arts, performance, film/video and community engagement programs that celebrate innovation and experimentation by local, national and international artists working today. Are. Distinguished by its support for contemporary artists around the world, YBCA is also recognized for the important role the organization plays in the San Francisco Bay Area arts ecology and the community at large. Artistically, YBCA is certainly a leader in presenting and exhibiting the work of artists who are pushing the boundaries of their art in form and/or content.
Brenda Tucker is the Director of Arts Marketing at San Francisco Travel. She has lived in San Francisco since 1998, after driving cross-country to a house where she disappeared. Inspired by the city’s incredible art scene and living in the best place on Earth, Brenda loves to swim outside year-round.
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The De Young Museum is a work of art inside and out. Credit: Photo by Gary Sexton. Image provided by the Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco.
Best Museums In San Francisco (in 2023)
Creativity in San Francisco energizes every neighborhood in the City by the Bay. In our galleries and museums, you will find photography, craft, typography, sculpture, mixed media, film, design, textiles, books, ceramics, spoken word, sound and good old painting. The artists performing at any given time range from world-renowned and priceless to ultra-local and emerging.
The Museum of the African Diaspora is a contemporary art museum that celebrates black cultures, ignites challenging conversations, and inspires learning through the global lens of the African diaspora.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum showcases the diversity of Judaism through visiting and permanent exhibitions, educational seminars, and innovative programming.
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