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13 Bay Area Museums To Keep On Your Radar

13 Bay Area Museums To Keep On Your Radar

Here are 13 Bay Area museums to check out now including the California Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium.


5 min read

July 01, 2024

World-class history museums, interactive space exhibits, and some of the best art in California are a few reasons why the Bay Area museums are a must-visit. But it’s not just the displays that are incredible; the Bay Area’s museums also boast critically acclaimed architecture and breathtaking vistas of their surroundings, giving you more reasons to check them out. Building an itinerary? These Bay Area museums should be on your radar.

The Best Museums in the Bay Area To Check Out Now

The California Academy of Sciences began in 1853 as a learned society and still carries out a large amount of original research.

1. California Academy of Sciences

Location: 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco
Hours: 9:30 AM - 5 PM (11 AM - 5 PM on Sundays)

Located in the center of Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences combines an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum into one. With approximately 46 million specimens, this museum is not only one of the greatest in San Francisco but also among the biggest in the world of natural history museums.  

2. de Young Museum

Location: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco
Hours: 9:30 AM - 5:15 PM

The de Young Museum is, if not the best, then definitely the most popular Bay Area art museum. An integral part of the cultural fabric of the city and a cherished destination for over 100 years, de Young is the place to go to enrich your local and global art knowledge.

The mission of the Oakland Museum of California is to inspire all Californians to create a more vibrant future for themselves and their communities.

3. Oakland Museum of California

Location: 1000 Oak Street, Oakland
Hours: 11 AM - 5 PM (11 AM - 9 PM on Fridays)

The Oakland Museum of California houses artifacts and interactive displays focusing on art, history, and science in a modern building. Visit this Bay Area museum and you’ll find collections animated by innovative tools and interactive features, gathering spaces, and program areas. Visitors are also exposed to multiple ways to engage with the displays and share their own perspectives, questions, and stories.

Located in Lincoln Park, the Legion of Honor is a component of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

4. Legion of Honor

Location:  100 34th Avenue, San Francisco
Hours: 9:30 AM - 5:15 PM

The Legion of Honor building has an undeniably striking exterior. But the fine art decorating the walls inside is where the real beauty lies. Touring this Bay Area museum is a quintessential experience when visiting San Francisco, and if you’re in town, you shouldn’t miss out!

5. Blackhawk Museum

Location: 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville
Hours: 10 AM - 5 PM (Friday-Sunday)

Are you a classic car fanatic? Pay a visit to the Blackhawk Museum in Danville. Nestled in an upscale suburb of San Francisco, this Bay Area museum has a classic car collection unlike any other. The Blackhawk Museum displays historically significant automobiles from the earliest gas-powered auto to a contemporary 2017 Lamborghini Centenario. The Bay Area museum also has a rotating selection of more than 40 historically significant automobiles, so each visit is unique.

6. Lawrence Hall of Science

Location: 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley
Hours: 10 AM - 5 PM

The Lawrence Hall of Science is one of the nation’s few science centers that’s part of a top-tier research university. Located in the U.C. Berkeley campus, this super cool Bay Area museum offers hands-on science exhibits, designs curriculums, aids professional development, and offers science resources to students of all ages.

The Hiller Aviation Museum specializes in Northern California aircraft history and helicopter history with more than 50 aerospace vehicles on display.

7. Hiller Aviation Museum

Location: 601 Skyway Road, San Carlos
Hours: 10 AM - 5 PM

The importance of having an innovative and adventurous spirit is evident at the Hiller Aviation Museum. Founded by helicopter pioneer Stanley Hiller Jr, this Bay Area museum introduces you to the history of aviation and provides a glimpse into the future of air transportation. In other words, you’ll see both cool vintage planes and even cooler futuristic prototypes.

8. Musee Mecanique

Location: Pier 45, Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco
Hours: 10 AM - 58PM

Ready for a trip down memory lane? Musee Mecanique is the best museum in the Bay Area to do so. Housing the largest ever collection of antique, coin-operated arcades, this kitschy museum showcases over 300 pieces of nostalgic machinery you’ll love.

The Winchester Mystery House is a designated California historical landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

9. Winchester Mystery House

Location: 25 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose
Hours: 10 AM - 5 PM (10 AM - 7 PM on Saturdays)

Sarah Winchester, widow of gun mogul William Wirt Winchester, once resided at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. This Bay Area museum is a must-visit location for anybody with an interest in the paranormal. It is an architectural wonder, a historic monument, and a rumored haunted home in San Jose.

Since the Exploratorium was opened, over 1,000 participatory exhibits have been created, around 600 of which are on the floor at any given time.

10. Exploratorium

Location: Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco
Hours: 10 AM - 5 PM (12-5 PM on Sundays)

The Exploratorium is a free educational facility that invites people to learn about the world via the lenses of science, art, and perception. Great for people of all ages, this Bay Area museum offers a number of clever and interactive exhibits and teaches you about everything from how sound waves travel to even how fog works.

11. Lindsay Wildlife Experience

Location: 1931 1st Avenue, Walnut Creek
Hours: 10 AM - 5 PM

In Walnut Creek, Lindsay Wildlife Experience is a family-friendly museum and animal rehabilitation facility. Lindsay was the first wildlife hospital to be founded in the United States, setting a precedent for change and continuing to rank among the biggest rehab facilities in the nation. Approximately five thousand ill, wounded, or abandoned wild creatures are receiving care at this Bay Area museum at any one time.

12. Redwood Valley Railway

Location: 2481 Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Orinda
Hours: 11 AM - 5 PM (11 AM - 6 PM on weekends) 

Your ultimate California train trip won’t be complete without a stop at the Redwood Valley Railway. Operating year-round on weekends and holidays, this historic train allows you to experience what it’s like touring an outdoor museum in the Bay Area. If you’re thinking of bringing kids along, definitely do—the Redwood Valley Railway is a hit with the little ones.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum is located inside the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is right at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

13. Bay Area Discovery Museum

Location: 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito
Hours: 10 AM - 4 PM (closed on Tuesdays)

Speaking of child-friendly museums, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito is the best! A place where imagination runs wild and curiosity is encouraged, this incredible museum at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge invites kids of all ages to enjoy its outdoor and indoor exhibition spaces with hands-on activities and displays.

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