San Francisco may be small, but there’s no shortage of culture here—food, shopping, entertainment, and of course, museums.

Whether you’re just visiting for a few days or a local looking for a new way to explore the city this weekend, be sure to add one (or more!) of these world-class museums to your itinerary.

Image Source: The Architects Newspaper
Image Source: Architects Newspaper

1. San Francisco Modern Museum of Art (SFMOMA)

Although the SFMOMA has been around since the 1930s (it was the West Coast’s first museum entirely dedicated to modern art), it didn’t become a top-tier cultural sight until 2016, when it completed a massive renovation. It now ranks as one of the largest museums in the country.

Pro Tip: Many of the museum’s artworks are free to visitors—if you’re on a budget, check out the first and second floors, as well as a few exhibitions outside.

Go here for:An extensive modern art gallery (think Pollock, Matisse, Warhol)
Location:151 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 (SOMA/Yerba Buena area)
Hours:Open Friday–Tuesday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm, and Thursday, 10:00 am–9:00 pm. Closed Wednesday.
Admission:Member: Free
Adult: $25
Senior (65 years and older): $22
Age 19–24 with ID: $19
Age 18 and under: Free
Free family days announced throughout the year
San Francisco CityPASS?Yes

2. Exploratorium

Disneyland for nerds. There are hundreds of exhibits spread throughout this expansive complex, and almost all are at least somewhat interactive. You can conduct science experiments, play mind-bending games, and fully explore the depth of your senses. If you think of yourself as someone who “just can’t get into museums”, this place might change your mind!

Pro Tip: Don’t miss Scott Weaver’s toothpick sculpture!

Go here for:Geeky, interactive fun (like creating your very own tornado)
Location:Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111 (North Beach Area)
Hours:Tuesday–Sunday (All Ages): 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Thursday Evenings (Ages 18+): 6:00–10:00 p.m.
Monday: Closed except select Monday holidays
Admission:Adults (18–64): $29.95
Youth (13–17)/Teachers/Students/Seniors (65+)/People with disabilities: $24.95
Child (4–12): $19.95
Children 3 & under: Free
Free on community days: February 2, March 14, May 12, September 21 and October 20. More info on community days here.
San Francisco CityPASS?Yes
Image Source: Blooloop

3. Walt Disney Family Museum

SoCal might get a lot of the Disney hype in California, but did you know that San Francisco has its very own Disney-themed museum?

The museum is overseen by Walt’s very own daughter, and exhibits an impressive collection of both records of his early life and behind-the-scenes animation work from feature films.

Pro Tip: Check out the events calendar to see which screenings and workshops will happen during your visit.

Go here for:Interactive galleries featuring original Disney work (videos, models, and early renderings)
Location:104 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94129 (Presidio Area)
Hours:Monday and Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00 am–6:00 pm with last entry at 4:45 pm. Closed New Years Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Admission:Adults: $25
Seniors (ages 65+): $20
Students (with valid ID): $20
Youth (ages 6-17): $15
Children (ages 5 & under)/Military Personnel/Members: Free
San Francisco CityPASS?No
Image Source: WCSJ
Image Source: WCSJ

4. California Academy of Sciences

A local favorite! The California Academy of Sciences boasts a hefty 150-year lifespan, making it one of the oldest museums in the state. Here you’ll find an incredible range of nature-themed exhibits, including a butterfly garden, an aquarium, and a showcase of taxidermied animals.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a more “adult” experience, be sure to check out the NightLife events on Thursday evenings. Admission is restricted to 21+, and you can look forward to visiting the exhibits with a beer in hand.

Go here for:A planetarium, aquarium, rainforest, and natural history museum, all bundled into one stop
Location:55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Golden Gate Park Area)
Hours:Monday–Saturday 9:30 am–5:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am–5:00 pm. Members Only on Tuesday 8:30 am-9:30 am & Sunday 10:00 am-11:00 am.
Admission:Adult: $39.95
Child (ages 4-11): $29.95
Youth (ages 12-17): $34.95
Student (ages 18+ with ID): $34.95
Senior (ages 65+ with ID): $34.95
Children 3 and under and Academy members: Free
*Save $3 when you book online
Free for local residents during certain weekends of the year
San Francisco CityPASS?Yes
Image Source: TripSavvy
Image Source: TripSavvy

5. de Young Museum

Smack dab in the middle of Golden Gate Park, this museum showcases a unique range of exhibits, including fine art, costume displays, and local photography. Here you’ll find everything from Monet’s water lillies to African sculptures.

Pro Tip: Don’t miss the observation deck on the 9th floor! (it’s free)

Go here for:One of SF’s best fine art collections
Location:50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Golden Gate Park Area)
Hours:Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 am–5:15 pm
Admission:Adults: $15
Seniors (65+): $12
Students (w/ valid ID): $6
Youth (17 and under)/Members: Free
Free on the first Tuesday of the month for general admission. Starting April 6th, 2019, admission is free every Saturday for all SF residents.
San Francisco CityPASS?No
Image Source: ArtMag by Deutsche Bank

6. Legion of Honor

Whoa, did we just step onto the streets of Paris?

Perched on the sloping hills at Lands End, this ancient, marbled building appropriately houses over 800 works of European art (including some of the great masters, like Monet).

Pro Tip: Legion of Honor also happens to be the sister museum of de Young, so entrance to one will grant you same-day admission to the other.

Go here for:European fine art, ranging from Roman to Greek
Location:100 34th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121 (Outer Richmond Area)
Hours:Tuesdays–Sundays, 9:30 am–5:15 pm
Admission:Adults: $15
Seniors (65+): $12
Students (w/ valid ID): $6
Youth (17 and under)/Members: Free
Free on the first Tuesday of the month for general admission. Starting April 6th, 2019, admission is free every Saturday for all SF residents.
San Francisco CityPASS?No
Image Source: Twitter @museemecsf

7. Musée Mécanique

Part museum, part playground, this family-owned hotspot is home to a breadth of vintage coin-operated games and mechanical instruments. While it’s certainly a very niche experience, it’s also one that’s classically SF, and a perfect way to spend an afternoon if you happen to find yourself in Fisherman’s Warf.

Pro Tip: All of the games are available to play! Prices range from 1¢ to $1, with most ranging in the neighborhood of 25¢ to 50¢. There are change machines located throughout the building.

Go here for:An afternoon of unique and interactive entertainment
Location:Pier 45 at the end of Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Fisherman’s Wharf area)
Hours:Monday-Sunday, 365 days a year, 10:00 am-8:00 pm (as per their website: “We will stay open later if the crowds demand it, Fun Doesn’t Sleep!”)
San Francisco CityPASS?No
Image Source: Trinity
Image Source: Trinity SF

8. Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum in SF has one of the most substantial collections of Asian Art in the world—over 18,000 pieces. Come for the Indonesian shadow puppets, stay for the jade sculptures and Japanese tea house.

Pro-Tip: Make sure to plan a visit for late 2019 or early 2020, after their newest expansion is completed.

Go here for:What’s considered to be the best collection of Chinese artwork outside of China
Location:200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Civic Center area)
Hours:Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Thursday 10:00 am-9:00 pm. Closed Mondays, New Years Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Admission:Free on the first Sunday of the month.
San Francisco CityPASS?No
Image Source: ABC7 News

Honorable Mentions

Looking for more options? Check out these lesser-known stops!

Cable Car Museum: Learn about the history of SF cable cars

SS Jeremiah O’Brien: Explore an authentic WWII ship

Wells Fargo Museum: Discover the history behind one of the world’s biggest banks

Madam Tussauds: Pose with wax figures of celebrities

Contemporary Jewish Museum: Exhibits based around modern Jewish culture

Cartoon Art Museum: You guessed it—a museum for cartoons and comics

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD): Works based around African mass-emigration

Children’s Creativity Museum: An interactive museum for children to learn and explore

Museum of Ice Cream: A place for Instagram enthusiasts (if you must)

San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design: A museum dedicated to (surprise!) craft and design

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: Cultural exhibits and events aimed at social change

Tenderloin Museum: Celebrates the history of SF’s Tenderloin neighborhood

What’s your favorite museum in San Francisco? Comment below!

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