A to Z Guide to San Francisco Bay Area Museums

The San Francisco Bay Area has a lot of museums, so here's an alphabetical directory of museums to help you find the ones that pique your interest.

  • 01 of 24
    Exterior of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco with banners advertising current exhibitions
     Emily Allen / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Location: Civic Center

    200 Larkin Street (at Civic Center Plaza)
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    Telephone: (415) 581-3500

    Housed in the former public library building, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum is devoted exclusively to Asian art and has more than 16,000 works covering a time span of 6,000 years. The museum offers classes and special events, such as tea ceremonies and artist talks. From May 29 until September 29, 2016, the museum keeps its doors open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays for their late-night series, which includes cocktails, musical performances, and lectures from visiting artists.

    FREE on the first Sunday of the month.

  • 02 of 24
    Street view of the Beat Museum in San Francisco
    Dianne Patrizzi / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

    Location: North Beach

    540 Broadway (at Columbus)
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Telephone: (800) KER-OUAC

    This is a small, one-room museum with artifacts from the Beat era. The Beat Museum's collection includes photos, letters, a signed copy of Ginsberg's Howl, and Neal Cassady's striped referee-style shirt.

  • 03 of 24
    Exterior and entrance of the University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
    Garin Fons / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

    Location: Berkeley, CA

    2155 Center Street
    Berkeley, CA 
    Telephone: (510) 642-0808

    Not only is the museum just mere blocks from a Bart station (meaning easy access to and from the city), it also has room to showcase its nearly 19,000 works. The Pacific Film Archive, which is home to one of the largest collections of Japanese cinema outside Japan, has a beautiful theater and Meyer Sound System on which to display their collection. Check the calendar for rotating exhibitions as well as film series and festivals. 

    FREE first Thursday of the month

  • 04 of 24

    Cable Car Museum

    Visitors viewing the cable car motors inside the San Francisco Cable Car Museum
    Sabrina Dalbesio / Getty Images

    Location: Nob Hill

    1201 Mason Street (at Washington)
    San Francisco, CA 94108
    Telephone: (415) 474-1887

    See the actual working cables and sheaves of the San Francisco cable car system. The museum also has historic displays, information about the operation of cable cars, informational video, and gift shop. Exhibits are free.

    Continue to 5 of 24 below.
  • 05 of 24
    The California Academy of Sciences Building with the living roof in the backgound
    ART on FILE, Inc. / Getty Images

    Location: Golden Gate Park

    55 Music Concourse Drive
    San Francisco, CA 94118
    Telephone: (415) 379-8000

    A penguin colony, a 90-foot tall rainforest dome, an albino alligator, and one of the country's most advanced planetariums—what's not to love about this oasis of science and learning? Don't miss their Thursday night Nightlife program, where the age is 21+, a DJ spins beats, and you can sip a cocktail while communing with the fish in the Steinhart Aquarium. For the younger crowd, there's also sleepovers where you can roll out your sleeping bag next to Claude's tank—that's the albino alligator.

  • 06 of 24

    Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University (South Bay)

    The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
    Marisa Benjamin

    Location: Palo Alto, CA

    328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
    Stanford, CA 94305
    Tel: (650) 723-4177

    Collections at this free museum include 4,000 years of art history and span a variety of cultures. The Center has the largest gathering of Rodin bronzes outside of Paris, with its stunning Rodin Sculpture Garden poised just outside Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford campus. The Center's cafe has an outdoor view to the sculpture garden.

    The Center hosts special exhibitions throughout the year and also offers free public docent-guided tours.

  • 07 of 24
    The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco
     Allan Ferguson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Location: South of Market (SoMa)

    736 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Telephone: (415) 665-7800

    This Daniel Libeskind-designed building is located across from Yerba Buena Gardens and has since hosted an array of retrospectives on important Jewish figures both local and international (from Amy Winehouse to Allen Ginsberg). 

    FREE on the first Tuesday of every month. 

  • 08 of 24
    Leah Telescope Dome at Chabot Space Center
    Don DeBold / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

    Location: Oakland, CA

    10000 Skyline Boulevard
    Oakland, CA
    Telephone: (510) 336-7300

    For anyone interested in looking into galaxies beyond our, visit the Chabot Space and Science Center. Their three telescopes are the largest on the west coast that are continuously available to the general public on a weekly basis. Come for the day to view the digital planetarium, but stay once the sun goes down to check out the observatory.

    Continue to 9 of 24 below.
  • 09 of 24
    The de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    Location: Golden Gate Park 

    50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
    San Francisco, CA 94118
    Telehone: (415) 750-6300

    Home to an extensive American art collection, as well as permanent installations from Andy Goldsworthy and James Turrell, the de Young is a San Francisco museum through and through. Make sure to check the roster for visiting exhibitions (past ones have included a Keith Haring retrospective and a showcase of the work of Jean Paul Gaultier), and don't forget to stop by the observation deck for 360-degree views of the park and its surroundings. 

    FREE on the first Tuesday of the month.

  • 10 of 24
    The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    Location: Embarcadero

    Pier 15
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    Telephone: (415) 528-4444

    The Exploratorium is a hands-on, interactive museum of science and arts. The diverse installations have broad appeal for both children and adults, with more than 650 permanent exhibits as well as rotating exhibits, activities, lectures, films and other special events The Exploratorium's Tactile Dome is an interactive tour through the darkness—an education in using only touch as a sensory guide.

    FREE on September 18, 2016 for Fall Free Day. Check website for details

  • 11 of 24
    Aerial view of the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco
    DavidSweetPhotography / Getty Images

    Location: Castro 

    4127 18th Street
    San Francisco, CA 
    Telephone: (415) 621-1107

    The words "historical society" may sound boring, but this museum is anything but. With rotating exhibits that showcase their archive collection, this museum has showcased bathhouse murals, Harvey Milk memorabilia, and costumes of drags queens from the 80s. 

  • 12 of 24
    DNA Sculpture at the Lawrence Hall of Science
     Sharon Hahn Darlin / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Location: Berkeley, CA

    On Centennial Drive in the Berkeley hills
    East of main UC Berkeley campus and above the UC Botanical Gardens
    Berkeley, CA
    Tel: 510-642-5132

    The exhibitions at Lawrence Hall of Science are geared toward students, from pre-school to high school age. The museum has ongoing exhibits and hosts a rotation exhibitions, workshops and special events. There's a planetarium, museum store, and bay view Cafe.

    Continue to 13 of 24 below.
  • 13 of 24
    Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    Location: Outer Richmond

    34th Avenue & Clement Street
    San Francisco, CA 94121
    Telephone: (415) 750-3600

    The Legion of Honor is a fine arts museum in the gorgeous location of Lands End. Renovated in the 90s, the Legion added square footage, skylights and environmental upgrades, and houses an art collection spanning the centuries—including Near East antiquities, European painting, and a Rodin sculptures (including the prominent cast of Rodin's Thinker in the Legion's courtyard). The Legion has rotating exhibits, ongoing tours and special events, and also a café.

    FREE on the first Tuesday of the month.

  • 14 of 24
    A child plays at the Musée Mécanique
    Kim Kulish / Corbis / Getty Images

    Location: Pier 45/Fisherman's Wharf

    Pier 45 at the end of Taylor Street
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Telephone: (415) 346-2000

    The always-free-to-enter Musée Mécanique is a unique arcade at Pier 45, filled with antique musical instruments, arcade games and posted stories covering some of San Francisco's history.

     

  • 15 of 24
    Street view of the entrance of the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco
    Erik (HASH) Hersman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

    Location: SoMa

    685 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Telephone: (415) 358-7200

    MoAD is a beautiful and modern museum with multi-media installations and traditional exhibit spaces. Visitors learn about the African Diaspora: "The scattering of people from Africa and the sowing of their cultures globally." Since the remodel, the museum has also made an effort to support more local artists in their exhibition space as well. 

  • 16 of 24
    Terraced garden with koi pond and sculpture at the Oakland Museum
    Mark Hogan / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Location: Downtown Oakland

    1000 Oak Street (at 10th)
    Oakland, CA 94607
    Telephone: (510) 238-2022

    The Oakland museum is devoted to the history, art and natural landscape of California. The Cowell Hall houses an extensive collection of materials relating to California history, and the Natural Sciences Gallery covers the diverse ecosystems that comprise our beautiful state. The space itself is a combination of indoor exhibit space, and outdoor gardens, terraces and ponds, as well as a cafe. The museum hosts special events, films, and lectures.

    FREE on the second Sunday of each month

    Continue to 17 of 24 below.
  • 17 of 24
    A horse-drawn fire engine among the ruins of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake and fire
     Bettmann / Getty Images

    Location: Pacific Heights

    655 Presidio Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94115
    Telephone: (415) 563-4630

    Through a collection of documents and other memorabilia, the museum records and preserves the history of the San Francisco Fire Department. The free exhibits include fire-fighting equipment and artifacts from the 1800s and the 1906 earthquake.

  • 18 of 24
    Visitors tour the historical ships at the Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco
    National Park Service

    Location: Fisherman's Wharf

    Hyde Street Pier at Aquatic Park
    2905 Hyde Street (at the foot of Hyde)
    Telephone: (415) 447-5000

    Check out the historical ships at Hyde Pier, special events, and guided tours through the Maritime museum. The Visitors Center (free) also offers informative exhibits on maritime history in San Francisco.

    Free entrance to Hyde Pier, with fees for boarding various ships at the pier.

  • 19 of 24
    Felt items used in piano construction from an exhibit at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco
     PunkToad / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Location: Dogpatch

    2569 Third Street
    San Francisco, CA
    Telephone: (415) 773-0303

    In 2013, the Museum of Craft and Design moved out of their Union Square digs and into a state-of-the-art Dogpatch building in a neighborhood that's now flourishing with the arts. With a focus on crafts and objects of design, and their integration in our lives, the museum features artists whose work is highly technical (like a hobby on steroids).

    FREE first Thursday of the month

  • 20 of 24
    Works by Alexander Calder at the SFMOMA
    Shelly Prevost / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Location: SoMa

    151 Third Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Telephone: (415) 357-4000

    Seven stories tall and brimming with works from the Fisher Collection, the museum focuses on modern works in photography, painting, sculpture, design and media arts. SFMOMA also hosts special events, screenings and lectures. 

    FREE first Tuesday of each month

    Continue to 21 of 24 below.
  • 21 of 24
    Muni Placards at the San Francisco Railway Museum
     Tom Bridge / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

    Location: SoMa / Embarcadero

    77 Steuart Street (near Ferry Building)
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Telephone: (415) 974-1948

    The Railway Museum features artifacts related to San Francisco's history of rail transit. The small museum space houses a photographic collection and audio-visual displays. You can also purchase interesting railway-related memorabilia and gifts, including books, DVDs and posters.

  • 22 of 24
    Front patio and entrance of the San Mateo County History Museum
    Sharon Hahn Darlin / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

    Location: Redwood City, CA

    2200 Broadway
    Redwood City, CA
    Tel: (650) 299-0104

    San Mateo County History Museum is in the 1910 Old County Courthouse—which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The exhibits focus on the historical legacy of San Mateo County and include items from the permanent collection as well as changing exhibitions.

     

  • 23 of 24
    Street view of the Wells Fargo Museum in San Francisco
    Elizabeth K. Joseph / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

    Location: Financial District

    420 Montgomery Street
    San Francisco, CA 94163
    Tel: (415) 396-2619

    The San Francisco branch of the Wells Fargo History Museum is one of several free museums located throughout the U.S. that relate to the history of Wells Fargo, to Gold Rush finances, and stage coaches and robbers.

    You'll find an 1860s Concord Coach (visible through the window from Montgomery Street). Exhibits are accompanied by descriptions and other visual artifacts. If you're interested in the early express companies and Gold Rush era correspondence, the museum has a selection of items from this period in history.

     

  • 24 of 24
    A woman walks up the ramp to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco
    FHKE / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Location: SoMa

    Yerba Buena Gardens
    Between 3rd & 4th/Mission & Howard
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Telephone: (415) 978-2787

    The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is a multi-disciplinary venue offering exhibits, art galleries, performance space, film and video presentations, as well as public programs.

    Galleries FREE on first Tuesday of the month