Free Museums and Free Museum Days in San Francisco

Go to Dozens of Bay Area Museums for Free

Alexander Calder at SFMOMA
Shelly Prevost / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

San Francisco has a big and broad collection of top-notch museums, and nearly all of them can be visited for free--and here’s how (and when and for whom). Below are some general guidelines and free admission programs to know about; a list, in alphabetical order, of San Francisco Bay Area museums, their free-admission days; and lastly, a list of museums that are always free.

What to Know About Visiting Museums for Free

  • Most major San Francisco Bay Area museums are free for everyone at least one day each month, and several are always free for children ages 12 and under.
  • Various local museums provide free admission under two nationwide programs:
    Bank of America’s Museums on Us -- Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders get free general admission to certain museums during the first full weekend of every month. The museums in the Bay Area are San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora, de Young, Legion of Honor, Contemporary Jewish Museum and Zeum; Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland; and San Jose’s Museum of Art and Tech Museum of Innovation.

    Blue Star Museums -- Launched in the summer of 2010, this program provides free admission to designated museums for active duty military personnel and their families from Memoria Day through Labor Day. Included are the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Children’s Creativity Museum, CuriOdyssey (formerly Coyote Point Museum) in San Mateo, de Young and Legion of Honor, Filoli, Lawrence Hall of Science, Museum of Craft and Design, Oakland Museum of California, San Jose Museum of Art, Walt Disney Family Museum and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  
  • Before you go on a free day: Be prepared for crowds. Because of capacity limitations, admission is not guaranteed, so it’s best to arrive early. If you’re planning a group visit, check with the museum first; some museums limit or prohibit group visits on their free days.
  • Reduced admission: Most museums give discounts to seniors, youths, children and students. Check for other possible discounts--for instance, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts also gives price breaks to visitors who ride public transportation and to teachers.
    On certain nights, many major museums stay open and host special programs, entertainment and cash bars, all at a discount; see our guide to museum nightlife for alternatives to your standard happy hour.

    Free Admission Offers at San Francisco Bay Area Museums

    • Contemporary Jewish Museum
      736 Mission Street
      San Francisco, CA 94103
      (415) 655-7800
      Free for ages 18 and under.
    • de Young Museum
      50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.
      San Francisco, CA 94118
      (415) 750-3600
      Free on first Tuesday of the month. Also free for ages 12 and under.
    • Exploratorium
      Pier 15
      San Francisco, CA 94111
      (415) 528-4444
      Free on Groundhog Day; Pi Day (March 14); Mother’s Day; Engineering Day (Sept. 28, 2014); Founder’s Day (Oct. 12, 2014)
    • Legion of Honor
      Lincoln Park
      100 34th Avenue
      San Francisco, CA 94121
      (415) 750-3600
      Free on first Tuesday of the month. Also free for ages 12 and under.
    • Museum of the African Diaspora
      685 Mission St.
      San Francisco, CA 94105
      (415) 358-7200
      Free for ages 12 and under.
    • Museum of Craft and Design
      2569 Third Street 
      San Francisco, CA 94107
      (415) 773-0303  
      Free on first Tuesday of the month. Also free for ages 12 and under.
    • Oakland Museum of California
      1000 Oak Street
      Oakland, CA 94607
      (510) 238-2200
      Free on first Sunday of the month. Also free for ages 8 and under, and City of Oakland employees (with ID).
    • San Francisco Botanical Garden 
      9th Ave. & Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park
      San Francisco, CA 94122
      Free always for San Francisco residents (with proof of residency). Free for non-residents on second Tuesday of the month, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Jan. 1.
    • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
      499 Jefferson St.
      San Francisco, CA 94109
      (415) 447-5000
      Hyde Street Pier (Hyde & Jefferson streets) - Boarding the ships: Free for ages 17 and under; $5 for ages 18 and up.
      Maritime Museum (Polk & Beach streets): Free.
    • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
      * Closed for expansion until early 2016 *

      151 Third St.
      San Francisco, CA 94103
      (415) 357-4000
      Free on first Tuesday of the month. Also free for ages 12 and under and for active U.S. military.
    • Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 
      701 Mission Street
      San Francisco, CA 94103-3138
      (415) 978-ARTS (2787)
      Free on first Tuesday of the month. Also free admission to gallery if check in on Foursquare.
    • San Francisco Zoo 
      Sloat Blvd. & Great Highway
      San Francisco, CA. 94132
      (415) 753-7080
      Free on first Wednesday of the month for San Francisco residents.
    • Cable Car Museum
      1201 Mason St.
      San Francisco, CA 94108
      (415) 474-1887
    • Cantor Arts Center
      Lomita Drive at Museum Way
      Stanford, CA 94305
      (650) 723-4177
    • Hearst Museum of Anthropology 
      103 Kroeber Hall
      Berkeley, CA 94720-3712
      (510) 642-3682
    • The Junior Museum & Zoo
      1451 Middlefield Road
      Palo Alto CA 94301
      (650) 329-2111
      Free admission, but $3 donation per person is appreciated.
    • Marin History Museum
      1125 B Street
      San Rafael, CA 94901
      (415) 454-8538
    • Museo Italo Americano
      Fort Mason Center, Building C
      San Francisco, CA 94123
      (415) 673-2200
    • San Francisco Fire Department Museum
      655 Presidio Ave.
      San Francisco, CA 94115-2424
      (415) 563-4630, 558-3546
    • San Francisco Railway Museum
      77 Steuart St.
      San Francisco, CA 94105
      (415) 974-1948
    • SFO Museum
      San Francisco International Airport
      P.O. Box 8097
      San Francisco, CA 94128
      (650) 821-6700
    • Takara Sake Museum
      708 Addison St.
      Berkeley, CA 94710
      (510) 540-8250
      Free admission. Sake tasting $5.
    • Wells Fargo History Museum
      420 Montgomery St.
      San Francisco, CA 94163
      (415) 396-2619