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Top Museums In San Francisco

By San Francisco Bucket List

A day of art is a day well spent.


SF is a beautiful place wherever you look, filled with Victorian-style houses, natural wonders like Land’s End, Mission murals, the Golden Gate Bridge, and so much more. It’s unsurprising then, that its lineup of museums can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. 

But with world-renowned collections like that of the SFMOMA, immersive and interactive scientific centers, and fine art palaces like the Legion of Honor and De Young to choose from, you don’t want to miss this city’s magnificent art scene. Let’s start your tour, below: 

SF Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

 
 
 
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In the heart of the Financial District, the 17,000 sq. foot SFMOMA houses over 33,000 works of contemporary art, making the museum one of the largest in the world of its kind. The extremely creative exhibit themes range widely, including Subway Art, Rene Magritte masterpieces, and soundtracks of film. For the most immersive experience, download the SFMOMA’S mobile app, which guides you through the art in a way that's imaginative and state-of-the-art. 

Free museum days: Every Friday at 5:30–9:00 p.m. 
Where: Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) at 151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

For more information.

M. H. de Young Memorial Museum

 
 
 
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Commonly referred to as “The de Young,” this gorgeous fine arts museum is located in Golden Gate Park. It contains an impressive collection of American art from the 17th to 21st centuries, international textile arts and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific, and Africa. Plus, visitors can enjoy a stunning 360° view of downtown SF, Golden Gate Park and the Marin Headlands from the famed, glass-walled Hamon Observation Tower.

Free museum days: Free Saturdays for Bay Area Residents; Free the first Tuesdays of each month for all. 
Days Closed: Mondays
Where: De Young Museum at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

For more information.

Legion of Honor

 
 
 
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Inside the Lincoln Park lies the iconic Legion of Honor (even the name gives us chills). Its collection spans 4,000 years of human history, including European paintings and sculptures, ancient art form the Mediterranean basin; and one of the largest repositories of works of art on paper in the U.S.  Together, The De Young and Legion of Honor comprise the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, meaning a ticket here also allows you free same day entry to the De Young.   

Free museum days: Free Saturdays for Bay Area Residents; Free the first Tuesdays of each month for all. 
Days Closed: Mondays
Where: Legion of Honor at 100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

For more information.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

 
 
 
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The MOIC provides rooms full of imaginative, multi-sensory installations that awaken the child in all of us—including an actual swimmable sprinkle pool. You can also enjoy their Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor, with exclusive in-house flavors. Despite the MOIC receiving well-deserved insta-fame, the sweetest part of the museum might be their original inspiration: to create “beautiful and shareable environments that foster IRL interaction.” 

Free museum days: None, reservations required.
Where: Museum of Ice Cream at 1 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

For more information.

California Academy of Science

 
 
 
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The California Academy of Science is the only place in the world to contain a Planetarium, Rainforest, Aquarium, and Natural History Museum all under one (“living”) roof. They also offer a popular Thursday evening 21+ ticket option, complete with DJ’s and cocktails matching each exhibit. We recommend going these nights and grabbing a drink, a Planetarium ticket, and walking the ascending staircase in the Rainforest Biome to reinvigorate your belief in the beauty of life. 

Free museum days: SF residents receive free admission on select weekends every year. Find your zip code to plan your visit.
Where: California Academy of Science at 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

For more information.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco – Chong-Moon Lee Center

 
 
 
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This museum contains one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world, with over 18,000 pieces—some as much as 6,000 years old—from all major Asian countries and traditions. It even includes a full Japanese Tea Garden displayed on the second exhibition floor of the museum. This tea house was built in Kyoto, disassembled, and shipped to SF to be reconstructed in the museum.

Free museum days: First Sunday of each month.
Where: Asian Art Museum at 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

For more information.

Exploratorium

 
 
 
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Located on the waterfront of Pier 15, the fanciful Exploratorium uses science, technology, and art to create interactive experiences and multi-sensory installations for its guests. It includes over 650 one-of-a-king activities to try out, and a lower ticket price for their Thursday night “After Dark” 18+ evenings.   

Free museum days: Mother's Day (Sunday, May 10, 2020)
Where: Exploratorium at Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

For more information.

Walt Disney Family Museum

 
 
 
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Southern California might hold the crown jewel of the Disney parks—but there’s another charming pillar of the Disney properties right inside the Presidio of SF. The 19,000 sq foot Walt Disney Family Museum features the life and legacy of Walt Disney, and shows how he created the empire we know today. Stroll through the colorful halls to find touching stories, films and photos from his past—including original character sketches and miniature replicas of Disney parks.

Free museum days offered: Walt Disney’s birthday (December 5th)
Where: Walt Disney Family Museum at 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129

For more information.

Museum of Craft and Design

 
 
 
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Right at home in the lively Dogpatch, the MCD showcases designers, makers and artists through an exciting series of contemporary craft and design-focused exhibitions. Engaging exhibitions, with designers utilizing traditional tools as well as cutting-edge innovation, are the focus. The space is small, but deeply intriguing. 

Free museum days offered: First Tuesday of every Monday
Days closed: Mondays
Where: Museum of Craft and Design at  2569 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

For more information.

Museum of the African Diaspora

 
 
 
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This Smithsonian affiliate tells the story of the African Diaspora through art. The MoAD highlights the universal connection of all humankind through their origin with Africa, and expands to include artists from various diasporas, whether they be Afro-Cuban, Afro-Asian, Afro-Caribbean, or African-American. It all creates a collaborative celebration of life atmosphere that you don’t want to miss.

Free museum days: Saturday, February 29, 2020, honoring the legacy of Black History Month
Where: Museum of the African Diaspora 685 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

For more information.

(Cover Photo Courtesy of SFMOMA)

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