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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

January 11, 2022

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

The California Academy of Sciences is an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum in one, in the heart of Golden Gate Park. Not only is this one of the best museums in San Francisco, but it’s also one of the largest natural history museums in the world—it houses over 46 million specimens.  

2. de Young Museum

Location: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose is where Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearms magnate William Wirt Winchester, once used to live. An architectural marvel, historic landmark, and presumed haunted house in San Jose, this Bay Area museum is a bucket list destination for those intrigued by the paranormal.

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

The Exploratorium is a public learning laboratory encouraging visitors to explore the world through science, art, and human 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

Lindsay Wildlife Experience is a family museum and wildlife rehabilitation center in Walnut Creek. As the first wildlife hospital established in the United States, Lindsay has pioneered a track of change and is still among the largest rehab centers in the country. Visit this museum in the Bay Area at any given time and you’ll meet around 5,000 injured, sick, or orphaned wild animals getting treatment at the center.

12. Redwood Valley Railway

Location: 2481 Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Orinda

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

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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