The Best Museum Nights in San Francisco

Create your own 'Night at the Museum'

Urban Park
Marvin Manabat / Getty Images

Where in San Francisco can you enjoy an evening of sake tasting, fashion shows, avant-garde cabaret, cooking demos, Ayurvedic head massages, jewelry making, and learning about sex in the animal kingdom? At a museum or three.

Some of the liveliest, most inexpensive nightlife in the San Francisco Bay Area is at museums. Several years ago, a couple of savvy museums extended their hours on Thursday, with reduced admission. They gradually added music, special programs, drinks, DJs, and even dancing. These day, most SF museums are a proud part of the nightlife bandwagon. Here's a guide to spending your nights at the museums.

01 of 07

Thursday Night at the Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum in SF's Civic Center neighborhood was one of the city's first to launch museum nights, and their series lets artists do whatever strikes their fancy for programming. Listen to artists talk about how they create their works, embark on docent-led tours, and participate in art-making activities. DJ spins and a cash bar are also on-hand. 

02 of 07

California Academy of Sciences - NightLife

Tucked away in Golden Gate Park, Cal Academy set out on a campaign to convince adults that science is, in fact, fun--or at least that fun can be had at the academy. Each weekly event features cocktails, a live band or DJ, and a theme more or less science-related. Any Nightlife involving sex—e.g, presentations about animal mating or the hormones of falling in love—tends to sell out fast. Other installments have had tie-ins to local art, mixology and the park's Outside Lands music festival. With the aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and rainforest to visit, too, NightLife makes for quite an evening. 

03 of 07

Exploratorium After Dark

Usually over-run with children, the Exploratorium goes 'kid-free' for its After Dark Thursday nights, turning this stretch of the Embarcadero into the perfect spot for first (and second) dates and get-togethers with friends. Live performances, films, cutting-edge technology, and all of the Exploratorium's please-touch exhibits are part of the allure, plus the bevy of cocktails that are available to wash everything down.

04 of 07

Friday Nights at the de Young

Live music and dance, artist demonstrations, art-making projects, films and talks are presented free in the lobby of this Golden Gate Park venue, and its café offers a special evening menu each week. There's also a weekly theme related to the de Young's special exhibits or permanent collections, such as a concert of African string music, halal food options, and creative 'mocktails' to pair with the recent Contemporary Muslim Fashions. 

Looking for a new season of Friday Nights at the de Young to take place in the fall. 

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Friday Nights at OMCA

The East Bay's weekly Friday Nights at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) moves the museum outside with a bevy of related activities, including DJs and dance workshops, an artisan marketplace, and everything from Afro-Peruvian music to Pride pin making. Bring cash for the plethora of food trucks, and enjoy last night gallery access for a discounted fee. 

06 of 07

Thursday Night at the SFMOMA

Sometimes you need a post-work art fix, and that's just where San Francisco's SFMOMA comes in. This beloved modern art museum stays open until 9pm each Thursday, meaning you can spend ample time exploring works, or even enjoy more of the museum's expanded collection on a private guided tour. SFMOMA's Michelin-starred Situ restaurant is the perfect way to cap off your day. 

07 of 07

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

While Berkeley's recently updated BAMPFA doesn't have specific programming around its late hours, it does keep its doors open until 9PM on Friday and Saturday nights. This means more time to peruse the museum's changing exhibits on everything from The Nature of Abstraction to Art for Human Rights, and catch limited engagement films from around the world, including France and the former USSR. 

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