San Francisco Museum Exhibits

See Modern Masterpieces

See modern masterpieces, explore Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, get inspired by Walt Disney, learn how to survive on a deserted island, make your own marble run at the museums of San Francisco. Some museums can take hours to explore, while others can provide visitors with a brief dose of cultural pick-me-up.

Most museums have free days monthly, often on the first Tuesday of the month, although the schedule varies at each museum. Some museums are always free, and several have a late-night opening on Thursdays or Fridays.

Visitors will typically find a restaurant or café, some with outdoor seating, inside the larger museums, as well as a museum gift shop.

Appreciating All Kinds of Fine Art

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 357-4000

After being closed for three years of expansion, the thoroughly transformed SFMOMA reopened in May 2016 as the largest modern and contemporary art museum in America. The newly expanded museum is now large enough to house the Fisher Collection, one of the greatest private contemporary art collections in the world. The partnership between SFMOMA and the Fisher Family, founders of San Francisco-based Gap, Inc., creates a cultural crown jewel for the City. In addition to the Fisher Collection, works by Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Diane Arbus and Robert Rauschenberg were also recently added to the museum's impressive core collection. Open daily 10 am–5 pm and Thursdays until 9pm. Free admission for visitors age 18 and younger.

Two world-class museums fall under the heading of FAMSF: the de Young and the Legion of Honor. Both have permanent and visiting exhibitions of the highest caliber covering a span of centuries and representing diverse collections.

Legion of Honor 
100 34th St.
Lincoln Park
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 750-3600

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin greets visitors at the courtyard entrance of the palatial structure modeled in three-quarter scale after Paris’ Palais de la Légion d’Honneur. A large Rodin collection is gracefully displayed inside, as well as a permanent collection featuring European painting and sculpture. In the galleries, the 1924 Skinner organ provides free concerts on Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m. In a setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, the fine art museum’s gift shop and café are free of entrance admission. Docent tours are conducted regularly for both the permanent collection and visiting exhibitions, closed Mondays.

De Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-3600

San Francisco's oldest public museum is housed in a contemporary structure in Golden Gate Park. The permanent collection features American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international textiles and costumes and more from the Americas, the Pacific, and Africa. Access to the Hamon Observation Tower for panoramic city views, the café with picture windows and outdoor seating on the sculpture garden, a large bookstore and gift shop are free of admission charges. Docent tours are conducted regularly for both the permanent collection and visiting exhibitions, closed Mondays, late-night Fridays except in winter.

Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 581-3701

The Beaux-Arts building just a block from City Hall has one of the world’s largest collections of art from 40 Asian cultures spanning six thousand years. Open late on Thursday nights, closed on Mondays, the museum offers docent tours daily, a gift shop and an Asian themed-restaurant, accessible without museum admission.

The Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery St.
The Presidio
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 345-6800

The museum opened by Walt’s family is dedicated to the life and inspirations of the genius who mastered animation in a pre-computer era. Located in a historic former barracks in the beautiful Presidio park, the museum hosts curator talks, cinema screenings, art classes, story times and an animation studio.

Exploring Our Planet and Beyond

Learn about coral and creatures from the depths of the sea and stars from the galaxies above. Explore the ages from dinosaurs to our digital world and just about everything in between. It's all on view in the extraordinary exhibits and permanent collections of San Francisco museums. 

California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-8000

San Francisco’s natural sciences museum includes an aquarium, a planetarium and a living roof. Ideal for families, kids can explore a rainforest complete with butterflies, watch the penguin feedings and a coral reef dive, feel the simulated shake of an earthquake, learn about pollinator power and take a tour behind the scenes. See The Color of Life, a new permanent exhibition exploring the role of color in the natural kingdom from glowworms to mushrooms to reed frogs and brilliant birds.

Pier 15
The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 528-4444

Are you curious? This hands-on discovery space dedicated to changing the way we learn offers a multi-generational experience of eye-opening wonderment. Delve into a colorless world, the tactile dome, an underwater world of plankton, a maker’s dream at the tinkering studio, the science of sharing. Explainers roam and interpret as you explore. Closed Mondays.

Special Events: Thursday evenings are late night until 10pm for adults (18-plus) only and After Dark events (for adults 21-plus) are held on the first Thursday evening of each month.

Alcatraz Island
Depart from Pier 33
The Embarcadero 
San Francisco, CA
(415) 981-7625

The Rock is more than a museum. It’s a real place, although one to which nobody wants a one-way ticket. About a mile out into the water of San Francisco Bay, the former federal maximum security prison was considered inescapable. Operated by the National Park Service, a quota of daily visitors can reach Alcatraz Island via the official ferry service departing from Pier 33 near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Special Exhibitions: The award-winning Cellhouse Audio Tour, narrated by inmates and wardens who actually lived on the island, is included in the price of your ticket. See the prison cafeteria, the exercise yard, step inside a cell, find out about the jailhouse escape, hear about the Birdman of Alcatraz, the Native American occupation, the historic lighthouse and the gardens. Combine a visit with Angel Island or come to Alcatraz at night, if you dare.

Conservatory of Flowers
100 John F. Kennedy Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 831-2090

A Victorian glass house more than 150 years old is home to a collection of showy and rare aquatic, lowland, highland and potted plants that astonish. Whether you’ve got a green thumb or marvel at those who do, you’ll warm up to what’s in bloom in the galleries open daily except Mondays.

Heritage Gallery
Officer’s Club
The Presidio
50 Moraga Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 561-4400

The free permanent exhibit is a multimedia one, exploring American history in this part of the west coast, from the Ohlone people through the 21st century, when the former military officer’s club was restored as a public space as part of our national parks.

More to Explore

The Children’s Creativity MuseumContemporary Jewish MuseumMuseum of the African Diaspora and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are located within one block of one another around Yerba Buena Gardens, a downtown waterfall, public park and performance space.

Museums that are always free include the Randall Children’s Museum in Corona Heights and at Fisherman’s Wharf, the Musée Mecanique for vintage arcade games. On the transportation front, enjoy free admission to the Cable Car Museum, a working barn that demonstrates real in-use underground mechanisms and the San Francisco Railway Museum near the Ferry Building.

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