Between the fog and the abundance of tech startups, San Francisco is a city filled with rich history, culture, and something new around every corner. Contributing to the individuality of the Bay Area are the best museums in San Francisco, which offer endless learning opportunities and entertainment.
From hands-on science exhibits to captivating artwork by legendary artists, San Francisco’s wealth of museums have it all. For the ultimate Bay Area adventure, stop by any of the five top museums in San Francisco.
1. California Academy of Sciences
Instead of asking “What is there to do at California Academy of Sciences?”, a better question would be “What isn’t there to do at California Academy of Sciences?”
It’s no wonder this massive learning facility is considered among the best museums in San Francisco. The museum houses an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum—all under one living roof. Yes, you read that right. A living roof! (You’ll see.)
Inside, visitors can explore the myriad of interactive exhibits on topics including animals, science, history, and so much more. Plus, for adults, the museum hosts events every Thursday night after hours featuring cocktails, hands-on learning, and shows!
From butterflies and aquatic animals to discovering more about the evolution of our planet, there’s much to learn at California Academy of Sciences!
2. deYoung Museum
Art enthusiasts from around the globe flock to San Francisco to visit the deYoung Museum. The deYoung Museum features fine and contemporary art across a variety of global collections including textiles, pottery, painting, historic pieces, and more. The museum also boasts traveling exhibits on a rotating schedule.
To get the full experience, take advantage of the public docent tours offered to guests free of charge. A knowledgeable tour guide will take you around the museum and provide in-depth information about the iconic and rare works of art. In addition, guests can opt for a self-guided audio tour for an additional fee.
Don’t miss the chance to experience the de Young Cafe while you’re at the museum. Featuring a wide assortment of dishes, espresso beverages, and European fare from a top chef, a meal in the museum cafe is the perfect addition to your day.
3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA)
The creative and artistic scene in San Francisco is unparalleled! The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, also known as the SFMoMA, features works of art from iconic, local Bay Area, and upcoming artists from around the world.
Similar to most museums, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art also offers complimentary docent-led public tours. Ask the front desk for a tour schedule upon arrival to plan your visit accordingly.
On top of the incredible artwork, there is one main reason why the SFMoMA is considered one of the best museums in San Francisco. Visitors ages 18 and under are free! Whether you’re traveling with your kids or grandkids, they’ll get into the museum free of charge.
When on the hunt for the best museums in San Francisco, look no further than Exploratorium. With the word explore in its name, it’s easy to see why this museum ranks highly with visitors. In fact, with over 650 hands-on exhibits, Exploratorium is far more than a museum—it’s an experience.
While here, you can step into a tornado, walk on a fog bridge, and peak your curiosity with mind-bending attractions. The museum focuses on science, human learning, art, and perception through hundreds of interactive opportunities. Kids and adults alike love visiting this one-of-a-kind museum due to the never-ending fun and discoveries!
The museum also houses the Seaglass Restaurant which features locally sourced culinary creations with a focus on family-friendly meals. With a full day’s worth of exploring ahead of you, you’ll want to plan a pit stop at the restaurant to fuel up for more fun.
5. Walt Disney Family Museum
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of Walt Disney, his family, his move to Hollywood, and his rise to stardom at the Walt Disney Family Museum. This heartwarming and captivating museum features exhibits about animation, the success of the Walt Disney Company, and Walt’s life before, during, and after the creation of Mickey Mouse.
Plus, the museum boasts engaging galleries narrated by Walt Disney himself! As you walk through the galleries, you’ll be transported to the magical world of Disney through hands-on experiences, animations, artifacts, and more.
In addition to the abundance of exhibits and information, guests can also take animation and art classes, attend workshops, and watch a classic Disney movie at the museum. Keep in mind, certain museum experiences require advance registration and additional fees.
How to Visit the Best Museums in San Francisco
Depending on your travel budget and plans, it may not seem feasible to fit all five museums into one vacation. But it’s possible! The San Francisco CityPASS and San Francisco Multi-Attraction Explorer Pass both offer access to San Francisco’s top museums and other area attractions for one low price.
Choose the pass that best suits your interests and travel plans and start exploring the best museums in San Francisco, CA!
Which museums do you plan to visit during your San Francisco vacation? Let us know in the comments below.