San Francisco Modern Art Museum: Everything You Need to Know

March 20, 2018

To make the most of your visit to the museum, there are a few things you need to know before you go.

The San Francisco modern art scene is thriving and you can experience it all at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). This 7-floor museum is filled with contemporary, classic, and intriguing works of art across a broad spectrum of mediums. With such a wide variety of art to enjoy, it’s easy to see why visiting the San Francisco modern art museum is one of the top things to do in the Bay Area.

people standing around the gallery at the san francisco museum of modern art

What to Expect at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

On top of curating fascinating artwork from around the world, the SFMOMA is dedicated to inspiring creativity, curiosity, and an appreciation of the arts. With more than 30,000 masterpieces under one roof, here’s what you can expect to encounter at this must-see San Francisco modern art museum.

A Kid-Friendly Modern Art Museum

Traveling to San Francisco, CA with kids? No worries! The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is completely kid-friendly. While visiting museums with kids can have parents on edge, you’ll find yourself at ease while strolling through the exhibits at the SFMOMA.

In addition to impressive artwork, the museum also boasts exhibits and pieces that captivate children of all ages. Some of the exhibits that capture the attention of kids include:

  • Richard Serra’s Sequence sculpture (Floor 1, Atrium)
  • Alexander Calder: Scaling Up (Floor 3)
  • The largest living wall in the United States (Floor 3)
  • Pop Art from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection (Floor 5)
  • The SFMOMA’s exterior architectural design

Plus, to make the experience even easier for parents, strollers are allowed throughout the museum unless explicitly noted. And, to help you stay within your travel budget, children under the age of 18 are always free!

Art to Please Every Visitor

Have you ever visited a museum only to be bored out of your mind? It’s okay, you can admit it. I have!

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That won’t happen at the San Francisco modern art museum, though. The museum is jam-packed with artwork and exhibits ranging from painting to sculptures, contemporary media art to photography. At the SFMOMA, it’s impossible not to be intrigued by the endless amount of art lining the walls of seven full floors. With so much artwork, I guarantee you’ll find several exhibits that peak your interest.

And, the building itself is a work of art. Before entering the museum, take the time to marvel at the museum’s unique architecture and design.

Free Public Art Exhibits

Not sure if you want to commit to buying SFMOMA tickets just yet? No problem. The first two floors of the building are home to public art exhibits for visitors to enjoy free of charge. You don’t need a ticket to explore the 45,000 square feet of public artwork.

Also, be sure to take advantage of the Welcome to SFMOMA! Tour. This free tour brings guests around the museum’s first two floors to learn about works of art by artists such as Richard Serra, Julie Mehretu, and Sol LeWitt. This tour also does not require SFMOMA tickets.

Take time to appreciate the artistry of the San Francisco modern art building itself!

Quick Tips for Visiting the SFMOMA

Now that you know what you’ll experience while browsing the museum, it’s time to prepare for your visit. Before you go, keep these helpful tips in mind.

Know the Hours of Operation

First tip: Don’t visit the museum on a Wednesday. Why? It’s closed!

The SFMOMA operates on the following schedule:

  • Friday–Tuesday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Thursday: 10 am - 9:00 pm
  • Closed on Wednesdays

In addition, the museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas day.

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Due to the museum’s specific hours of operation, the crowds tend to be heavy on the weekends. If possible, try to visit during the week to avoid the crowds and enjoy the museum at your leisure.

Everyone Needs SFMOMA Tickets

Although visitors ages 18 and under can visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for free, all visitors must have a ticket. Otherwise, they will be limited to viewing the art in the free public areas of the museum.

Leave the Selfie Stick at Home

While it may be tempting to snap a selfie with the plethora of San Francisco modern art, you’ll have to leave your selfie stick back at the hotel. The museum prohibits guests from bringing tripods, selfie sticks, or flashes.

In addition, photography and videography are allowed for personal use only (except where indicated.) Please follow the museum’s posted rules regarding photography throughout the exhibits.

Take Advantage of the On-Site Dining

Since eating and drinking (along with smoking of any kind) is prohibited inside the museum, guests can dine at the on-site restaurants and cafe. The museum offers the following dining options:

Sightglass
Relax with a cup of handcrafted coffee and a delectable pastry next to the Photography Interpretive Gallery on the third floor.

Cafe 5
Cafe 5 is a family-friendly restaurant serving California-fusion fare. The restaurant boasts seasonal, local ingredients and a wide selection of carefully curated wines. Located on the fifth floor.

In Situ
For fine dining, visit In Situ on the first floor. Operated by Chef Corey Lee, the restaurant serves a menu of dishes from over 90 chefs located across the globe. As this is a Michelin-star restaurant, reservations are accepted.

If you would like to bring your own food to the museum, only sealed food and drinks are allowed inside if packed in a bag.

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Be Ready to Pay for Parking

Since the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art does not have a parking lot or garage, you must pay for parking nearby. As a result, the SFMOMA is not responsible for any damage or loss that occurs at such facilities. Parking is also not validated. Remember to have extra cash on hand if you plan to park near the museum.

Accessibility at SFMOMA

Ensuring that everyone gets to experience the array of modern art, SFMOMA is dedicated to providing accessible museum experiences for all. Included in the museum’s accessibility features are:

  • Free admission for support persons.
  • Level museum entrances and push-button doors.
  • Service animals on a leash are permitted.
  • Wheelchair rentals and gallery stools.
  • Free audio tours and braille museum maps/exhibit details.
  • Assisted listening devices.

For more information on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s accessibility, click here.

Download the SFMOMA App

To enhance your experience at the iconic San Francisco modern art museum, I recommend downloading the SFMOMA App. The app includes exclusive audio content, interactive technology, and much more. You’ll find yourself exploring the museum, San Francisco, and the artwork in a whole new way.

Do note the app is only available for iOS.

Photo Credit: SFMOMA / Facebook

Purchase San Francisco Modern Art Museum Tickets in Advance

Since the SFMOMA is such a popular Bay Area attraction, the ticket lines can get quite long. To skip the line and head right into the museum, purchase your SFMOMA tickets in advance. Instead of waiting in long lines, you’ll already be enjoying all the museum has to offer.

With our San Francisco Museum of Modern Art tips in mind, you’re ready for a memorable day at the museum.

Have you visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art before? What tips would you give first-time visitors? Share your travel experiences in the comments below.

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