The Best Museums in San Francisco 2019

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Are you looking for the best museums in San Francisco in 2019? Here’s our San Francisco Museum guide with more information about each museum as well as the exhibitions, opening hours and admission fee.

San Francisco is a beautiful city. Famous for its restaurants and food trends, this city is full of life in all the other aspects as well with plenty of amusement parks and avenues to have a fun day out. Additionally, there are also several museums in San Francisco that are definitely worth a visit. 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

With a collection size of over 33,000, SFMOMA is the most comprehensive art museum you will find in San Francisco. Dedicated to modern art and spanning over seven floors, this is the mega art exhibition of your lifetime.

The exhibits present works of art ranging from painting and sculpture to photography and design among the many other genres covered. With plenty of opportunities for photographs, this museum will take a large chunk of your day but you are guaranteed memories for ages.

Address: 151 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Opening hours: Thursdays to Tuesdays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (open till 9:00 PM on Wednesdays).
Admission Fee: Free for Members ($100 per year) and Children under 18; $25 for Adults

* Included as one of the five venues in the San Francisco City Pass ($74 for children and $94 for adults)

museums in san francisco

Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Walt Disney Family Museum

From timeless classics to epic modern tales, Walt Disney was the pioneer of the stories that defined uncountable childhoods. This family museum is dedicated to the legacy of the great man and that’s not all.

With newest and cutting-edge technology updates, this is a place to experience the house of Disney at its best. You can experience Disney through the ages in the interactive galleries and also see the 240 awards that Disney won during his distinguished career. Be sure to check out the Fantasia themed theatre which screens several Disney classics every day the museum is open for business.

It’s also one of the best museums to celebrate Christmas in San Francisco

Address: 104 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94129
Opening hours: Wednesdays to Mondays from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (open till 4:00 PM on Fridays)
Admission Fee: Free for Children under 5, $15 for ages 6-17, and $25 for adults

Walt Disney Family Museum

Photo: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

Musée Mécanique

Musée Mécanique is one museum that you’re guaranteed to want to revisit once you’re done with it. Featuring the largest collection of mechanical machine games and toys will have you hooked and you would be compelled to empty your pockets just to try these rare and often antique gems.

The toys and games here are one of their kind and some have even under major restorations. Almost all the games here accessible to the general public and we recommend that you plan your budget for this trip as, despite the free admission, we got too addicted and ended up spending almost triple what we originally planned. We loved every bit of the experience though so no complaints!

Address: Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133
Opening hours: Seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Admission Fee: Free for all. Games range from 1 cent to $1. Most games cost 25c or 50c though

Musée Mécanique

Photo: Pack-Shot / Shutterstock.com

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is the most visited museum in San Francisco. It is one of the largest natural history museums in the world housing well over an incredible 46 million specimens.

Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118
Opening hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Sundays 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Admission Fee: Free for Children Under 3, $24-$31 for Students, $32-$36 for Adults

* Included as one of the five venues in the San Francisco City Pass ($74 for children and $94 for adults)

museums in san francisco

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California Historical Society

California Historical Society stands for the preservation and advancement of the social, cultural, environmental, political and economic heritage of the State of California.

A visit to this wonderful place will bring you face to face with a vast collection of the state’s historical treasures. The collections are separated in Fine Art, Manuscript, Ephemera and Photography so you can plan your visit in advance.

The ticket price is one of the lowest among the city museums and this is a welcome change for visitors. We also recommend that you check out the website for special announcements granting free admission on selected days throughout the year.

Address: 78 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Admission Fee: Free for Children under 18 and Members (starting at $45 per year), $5 for Seniors over 65 and students with ID, $10 for General Admission

Museum of Craft & Design

The Museum of Craft and Design (MCD) is the only museum in San Francisco devoted solely to craft and design. The exhibitions in MCD are not permanent and keep changing to keep it fresh.

The museum is well known for actively collaborating with artists and designers to create stimulating and inspiring experiences in craft and design for visitors of all ages.

Address: 2569 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Sundays 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
Admission Fee: Free for Children Under 12 and Members (starting at $45 per year), $6 for Seniors over 65 and Students with ID, $8 for General Admission

Museum of African Diaspora

One of its kinds, this museum documents the history, art and culture of the African diaspora. With a large and ever-growing community, this museum was originally focused on the truly original African diaspora which basically led us to the beginning of civilization near the time of the home sapiens.

After a recent revision of its mission to focus mainly on contemporary art related to the current African diaspora, it is now home to a relatively small but very unique collection.

Address: 685 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Opening hours: Wednesdays to Saturdays from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Sundays from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Admission Fee: Free for Children Under 12, Members and Active Duty Military, $5 for Seniors over 65, Students and Educators with ID, $10 for General Admission

Cable Car Museum

The Cable Car Museum is interesting for a lot of reasons. As one of the most unique modes of public transport, cable cars are the true icon of San Francisco.

This museum houses several old cable cars and many other explanatory exhibits for the visitors. The visitors also have the option to visit the complex that houses the cable car powerhouse, the current base of the active cable car system.

Address: 1201 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
Opening hours: Seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Admission Fee: Free for all

Cable Car Museum

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Museum of Ice Cream

The Museum of Ice Cream is a delightful place. It is one of the places where you can actually live some of your dreams and fantasies for real.

While the ticket price may appear very high, please be reminded that it includes several treats included in it as a package deal so you’re in for a fantastic time.

P.S. Do not forget to take a mandatory dive in the sprinkle pool. Be part of the tradition! It’s super fun.

Address: 1 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94108
Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 12:30 PM – 6:00 PM, Friday: 12:30 pm – 6:30 pm, Saturday: 9:30 am – 8:45 pm, Sunday: 9:30 am – 8:00 pm, Tuesdays: Closed
Admission Fee: Free for Children Under 2, $38 for Adults (10% discount for students with ID). Group rate of $29 for groups of 10 or more

museum of ice cream

Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Exploratorium

We will start by declaring that this place is worth your time. Make sure you have at least half a day or else it won’t be worth the full experience. With that cleared, let us introduce you to the place where science is anything but boring.

You will find yourself immersed in science with many hands-on and immersive interactive experiences. Prepare to be amazed by specially designed inquiry-based experiences that will bring the how and the why in your mind to the forefront. After all, that is what science is all about; exploring, discovering and building upon the knowledge.

Address: Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Additional Hours on Thursdays from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM)
Admission Fee: Free for Children under 3 and Members, $20 for children under 12, $25 for Seniors over 65, Students & Teachers with ID and Children under 17, $30 for General Admission

* Included as one of the five venues in the San Francisco City Pass ($74 for children and $94 for adults)

Exploratorium

Photo: Worayoot Pechsuwanrungsee / Shutterstock.com

Children’s Creativity Museum

The Children’s Creativity Museum is a must-visit for you and your children. This place gives hand-on experience a whole new meaning. With carefully themed and specially designed “Labs” for children to experiment, explore and test their creativity.

The six labs are Animation (storytelling using clay characters), Innovation (design an original invention), Tech (write code and programming), Community (explore Sketch town), Imagination and Make Music Studio.

Address: 221 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Admission Fee: Free for Children Under 2, $15 for General Admission

museums in san francisco

Photo: 1000Photography / Shutterstock.com

Legion of Honour

A magnificent building for a fantastic fine arts museum. The Legion of Honour Museum is home to over 6 millenniums of prehistoric and European art. As you walk through this elegant collection, we invite you to just look up to the sparkling gilded Spanish ceiling from circa 1500.

There’s just so many antique and unique exhibits that we will need a separate article listing each of them to our satisfaction. For now, we can offer another excellent reason to visit though: the tickets to Legion of Honour also give you free entry to the de Young Museum which is another excellent museum to check out.

Address: 100 34th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM
Admission Fee: Free for Children under 17 and Members, $6 for Students with ID, $12 for Seniors over 65, $15 for General Admission

Legion of Honour

Photo: Shutterstock

De Young Museum

De Young Museum is another fabulous fine art along with the Legion of Honour Museum. The same ticket grants you entry to the de Young museum as well.

Showcasing American Art from the 17th century to the 21st century, the museum is home to over a thousand paintings, over eight hundred sculptures, and nearly three thousand decorative subjects.

The museum is now open in its current building which is notable for its unique architecture with a twisting tower as a famous distinctive feature.

Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM
Admission Fee: Free for Children under 17 and Members, $6 for Students with ID, $12 for Seniors over 65, $15 for General Admission

De Young Museum

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National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. As such the entire establishment can be considered a museum but it’s so vast that your individual entry pass is for a whole week!

The actual Maritime Museum is housed on the foot of Polk Street and can also be accessed by the Beach Street. With dazzling murals adorning the walls, the building is home to notable artwork and exhibits from the 1930s and items related to the history of San Francisco and also National Maritime.

Address: Foot of Polk Street/900 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
Opening hours: Seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Admission Fee: $15 for up to 7 days for the entire park

National Maritime Museum in san francisco

Photo: ben bryant / Shutterstock.com

Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian Art in the whole world. With more than eighteen thousand items in its permanent collection, this is another place where you will find yourself completely immersed in the past.

With some pieces dating back to nearly six thousand years, the museum is home to pieces from such a vast geographical expanse that its collection can rival any other similar museum’s collection in the whole world.

Address: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Admission Fee: Free for Children under 12 and Members, $10 for Children 13-17, Seniors over 65 and Students with ID, $15 for General Admission

Asian Art Museum

Photo: Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

More about the Museums in San Francisco

San Francisco is an amazing city with a charm of its own. The museums of San Francisco are huge and visitors often require a whole day in each museum. Most of the museums on our list are actually world-renowned and model museums of their genres.

With this guide, we hope that your trip to this wonderful city will be worth the time and you will enjoy the amazing artifacts housed safely in these museums around the city.

Museums in San Francisco for Kids

Musee Mecanique

A fantastic place to experience the largest collection of mechanical toys and games under one roof. Your kids will be amazed by the ingenious creations and would love the hands-on experience with the toys and games here. Be sure to plan and not break the bank.

Exploratorium

A fantastic place to pique your child’s curiosity. Bring them here and watch their inner scientist jump out.

Walt Disney Family Museum

A place where you can relive your childhood is also the same place where your kids can experience theirs. Make sure to bring them to this amazing theatre of dreams.

Museum of Ice Cream

The name says it all. Do we need to go any further? Your kids are going to love the Museum of Ice Cream.

California Academy of Sciences

This is another museum that is built for all ages. Kids will love the interactive displays and galleries on natural history. Very popular among locals and visitors from outside the city alike, this is the most visited museum in the city.

museums in san francisco for kids

Photo: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

Frequently Asked Questions about San Francisco Museums

Which museums are free in San Francisco?

San Francisco lives up to its name as an expensive city even when it comes to museums. Compared to the rest of the expenses, the ticket prices for museums are actually quite reasonable and, in some cases, nominal.

However, from our list specifically, the following museums have free entry for all.

  1. Musee Mecanique
  2. Cable Car Museum

How many museums are there in San Francisco?

There are more than nearly 50 publicly and privately managed museums in San Francisco to the best of our knowledge

What is the best way to plan visits to San Francisco Museums?

The San Francisco City Pass is a fantastic way to kickstart your plan. It allows entry to major museums and allows you unlimited cable car access to move around with ease. You can split the museums according to the areas of the city. The city tour map may come in handy for this.

Is it possible to volunteer in a San Francisco Museum?

It is definitely possible and we recommend you get in touch with the museum you’re interested to volunteer for and inquire about the openings. Museums in San Francisco require and welcome volunteers during special exhibitions and events.

san francisco museums

Photo: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com


Want more suggestions on museums in San Francisco? Leave a comment below!

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