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Top San Francisco Museums To Visit Now

Top San Francisco Museums To Visit Now

When it comes to the City by the Bay's ties to capital-A art, the famed San Francisco museums do much more than just deliver. Team


6 min read

June 09, 2023

History and art are everywhere you look in San Francisco, from storied neighborhoods like Castro to Ghiradelli Square and other Instagrammable places in the Bay Area. And when it comes to the art, history, and culture in the City by the Bay, there are plenty of museums for any inspired aficionado. These institutions don’t need a strict guide map, whether it houses unusual collections or traditional art pieces. There truly is a museum for every topic imaginable in this amazing city, and below we have some of the best of them. Without further ado, here are the eight coolest San Francisco museums that are 100% worth checking out next time you’re in town. 

These Are The Coolest San Francisco Museums To Check Out

Located in Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum is a component of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco along with the Legion of Honor.

de Young Museum 

Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

Located in the middle of Golden Gate Park, the 125-year-old deYoung Museum is one of the top public fine arts museums of San Francisco. This San Francisco museum’s permanent collection comprises American, African, Oceanic, Native American, Maori, and Filipino art with notable pieces by the incomparable Frida Kahlo. The museum has recently become well known for its amazing costume exhibits, including Vivienne Westwood’s latest fashion and contemporary Muslim fashion. 

No visit to this fine arts museum in San Francisco would be complete without a stopover at the Hamon observation tower. Located on the ninth floor, this glass-encased space provides sprawling views of Golden Gate Park and downtown San Francisco that simply can’t be beaten. This museum in San Francisco, CA also provides a great retinue of cool public events designed to stimulate your inner artist. Events include art film screenings, family art-making days, organ concerts, family tours, and much more

Completely rebuilt in 2008, the California Academy of Sciences' primary building in Golden Gate Park covers 400,000 square feet/

California Academy of Sciences 

Address: 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

San Francisco museum lovers would be remiss not to check out the California Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1853, Cal Academy is San Francisco’s oldest museum and is currently housed in a 400,000-square-foot facility. This imaginatively designed facility nestled in Golden Gate Park features a range of scientific exhibits that allow you to experience the wonders of nature and the great beyond. As the top San Francisco science museum, Cal Academy is a veritable bonanza of edutainment.  

What makes Cal Academy stand out are its famous living exhibits, including a planetarium, indoor rainforest, aquarium, a flight to Mars simulator, and a virtual Safari, just to name a few. In total, this San Francisco museum houses an amazing 26 million different species, so there’s always something new to see. Altogether these innovative attractions make this science museum in San Francisco a top destination for many newcomers to the City by the Bay.  

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco houses one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world, with more than 18,000 pieces.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Address: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Also known as the Chong-Mong Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture, this is the premiere San Francisco museum for all kinds of Asian art. Founded in 1966 by a wealthy San Franciscan and art collector, the museum has grown to amass a huge collection, with more than 18,000 pieces of art, some of which are 6,000 years old. In recent decades, this San Francisco museum has undergone significant changes to confront the controversial legacy of its founder, and further its mission of building bridges between cultures.

Simply put, this is a San Francisco art museum you don’t want to miss because it is bursting at the seams with amazing artwork representing a multitude of rich cultures from across the world. This fine arts museum in San Francisco features everything from the colorful history of Southeast Asian dance tradition to the wondrously imaginative art pieces from local contemporary Asian artists.

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The Cable Car Museum is part of the complex that also houses the cable car power house, which drives the cables and the car depot.

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Address: 1201 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

San Francisco's cable car system started operation in 1878 and is the last surviving of its kind in the world. As the name suggests, San Francisco’s cable cars move thanks to cables they are attached to, which are drawn by large electric-powered wheels installed in a winding station. San Francisco’s cable cars are powered by one large winding station, where the San Francisco Cable Car Museum is located.

This is, therefore, a working museum complete with operational winding wheels for each of San Francisco’s cable car lines and a depot filled with historic cable cars from the nineteenth century. The museum is just a short walk from vibrant Union Square and is one of the best museums in San Francisco, particularly if you’re into history and old vehicles.

Madame Tussauds San Francisco features wax figures of famous figures from movies, music, politics, popular culture, and sport.

Madame Tussauds 

Address: 145 Jefferson Street Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94133

Marie Tussauds was a 19th-century expert French wax sculptor who became globally famous for her amazing lifelike depictions of famous people. She founded her first wax museum in 1835 in London, England, and the franchise has since expanded around the globe. Now you don’t have to catch a plane to London to see some amazingly true-to-life statues of your favorite celebrities. 

Enjoy two stories of wax statue fun at Madame Tussauds San Francisco, one of the most unusual museums in the City by the Bay. Notable features at this San Francisco museum include Harvey Milk, ET, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Abraham Lincoln. All of these statues are installed in beautifully vibrant sets and some of the exhibits are even interactive. If you ever wanted a picture of yourself riding the flying bicycle from ET, this is the San Francisco museum for you.

Franklin Oppenheimer established the Exploratorium, which debuted in the Palace of Fine Arts in 1969 and remained there until 2013.

S.F. Exploratorium

Address: Pier 15, Embarcadero at Green Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

The Exploratorium is a San Francisco museum of science, technology, and art unlike any other. It’s a unique experience because it’s an interactive monument to scientific achievement and education. The Exploratorium gives you and your family the one-of-a-kind experience that comes with learning principles of quantum physics through fun interactive exhibits that are a world apart from a dreary science lesson. 

You’ll want to set aside a day to explore everything this unique museum in San Francisco has to offer. The exhibits are endless in this museum, so you can easily spend a day and not see everything. That also means this museum in San Francisco is a great place for return visitors as well, so remember this place next time you’re in town.

Visit SFMOMA, a gigantic facility that is one of the best fine arts museums in San Francisco.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Address: 151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Also known as SFMOMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is filled with twentieth-century artwork in a giant 170,000-square-foot facility. This makes visiting SFMOMA—one of the biggest modern art museums in America—one of the best art museums in San Francisco

You can spend hours in the place and not see even a fraction of what’s inside. Tickets to SFMOMA start at $25, and admission is free for those 18 and under, making this top art gallery in San Francisco a good family destination. For solo travelers, we recommend going to this San Francisco museum early because there’s nothing quite like having a giant art museum to yourself and being able to contemplate beauty in solitude. 

USS Pampanito 

Address: 45 Pier, San Francisco, CA 94133

War buffs will love this San Francisco museum as the USS Pampanito is replete with living history. This former United States Navy submarine served extensively in the Pacific theater of the Second World War and saw multiple successful engagements. In 1975 the submarine was saved from the scrap heap and transformed into a San Francisco museum and memorial to those who served. 

Today it is one of the best-preserved submarines from the World War Two period and some of its components, including one torpedo tube and the onboard ice cream maker, are still operational. The museum runs several educational programs offering children and adults the chance to experience everyday life on a WWII submarine. If a history field trip sounds like your thing, check out this San Francisco museum at 45 Pier. 

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