Visiting museums is one of the most popular activities to do in San Francisco, especially for families. But with so many museums in this iconic city, how do you choose which ones to visit on your trip? Allow us to help! We’ve put together our picks for the best museums in San Francisco to round out your next trip to this fabulous city.
Pro Tip: It’s easier to organize your trip when you have all your resources in one place. Bookmark this post along with our San Francisco Guide for more planning resources, our best San Francisco tours for a memorable trip, and how to spend 3 days in San Fran (with itinerary).
Top 11 Museums In San Francisco
For a city that’s only 7 miles by 7 miles, San Francisco sure has a lot of museums. As of early 2022, there are 44 museums in the city of San Francisco. Some are classic art museums and others are unique, interactive science museums. Although the museums vary in ticket price, many of them also have discount days so you can pop in for free.
Whether you’d rather visit a traditional art museum or a science museum is more your thing, San Francisco’s museum scene has something for everyone. Continue reading to discover the best museums you should consider for your next San Francisco vacation.
Not ready to book a tour? Find out if San Francisco tours are worth it.
11. Cartoon Art Museum
Comic book fans will love this small museum by the famous Pier 39! With around 7,000 pieces of original artwork from well-known comics and cartoons, this museum attracts more than 30,000 visitors each year. It was endowed by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, so you know it’s a great place to learn about cartoon artwork.
Located a block from Aquatic Park and Ghirardelli Square, the Cartoon Art Museum is a fun museum for adults and children alike.
Address: 781 Beach St, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: $10 for adults; $4 for kids; $6 for Students, teachers, seniors, and active military can with a valid ID
10. Walt Disney Museum
Located in the beautiful Presidio area, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a must-visit for all die-hard Disney fans. Not only does the museum feature interactive galleries and 248 of Walt Disney’s film awards, but there is also a theatre that plays classic Disney films every day. Exhibits throughout the museum tell the story of Walt Disney’s life.
There’s also a special exhibit highlighting Walt Disney Studios’ connection with WWII efforts. You can also see a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge outside of the museum!
Address: 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: $25 for adults; $20 for seniors and students with ID; $15 for kids ages 6-17
9. Legion of Honor
The Legion of Honor contains more than 24,000 works of art and is located next to the beautiful Lands End nature trails. Patrons to the Legion of Honor museum can see a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and even take a little hike down to the ocean. (You don’t need to visit the museum to visit Lands End!)
One of the two fine arts museums in San Francisco, the Legion of Honor has one of the largest ancient art collections in the United States. Best of all—it’s free to the public on the first Tuesday of every month.
Address: 100 34th Ave, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors; $6 for students with student ID
8. Museum of the African Diaspora
One of the few existing museums that is focused entirely on the African Diaspora, the Museum of the African Diaspora is a contemporary art museum that documents the art and history of several African countries. It’s conveniently located in San Francisco’s South of Market district. The museum showcases a variety of artwork and hosts poetry readings, talks, and film screenings. It’s a wonderful way to experience culture from a continent not often visited.
Address: 685 Mission St, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: $12 for adults; $6 for students, seniors, teachers, and kids ages 5-12
Not ready to book a tour? Read more in our San Francisco Guide.
7. Asian Art Museum
The Asian Art Museum is home to more than 18,000 different pieces of artwork from all across Asia. Some of the art on display is even 6,000 years old! Patrons can view pieces from South and Central Asia, Iran, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, China, Japan, and Korea. The Asian Art Museum is also right next to the San Francisco Public Library, so you can easily visit both in one afternoon!
Like the Exploratorium and the California Academy of Sciences, the Asian Art Museum has a Thursday night event for adults that costs $10. Active-duty military and essential workers can always check out the museum for free. And it’s free to the public on the first Sunday of every month!
Address: 200 Larkin St, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: $15 for adults; $10 for seniors, students, and teens
Heading to San Francisco? Don’t miss our Top Things To Do in San Francisco, plus our top picks for Best Hotels!
6. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Located in Yerba Buena Gardens in the SoMa neighborhood (South of Market), the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts displays many visual artworks such as sculpture, photography, and ceramics. The work on display is from all over the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as many different parts of the world. The museum also features video masterpieces and hosts frequent performances, art shows, and special exhibits.
Address: 701 Mission St, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: varies by event/exhibit
5. de Young Museum
Want to visit two museums in one day? After you visit the California Academy of Sciences, you can walk a short three minutes over to the iconic de Young Museum! Also located in Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum was built in 1895. Along with the Legion of Honor museum, it is considered one of the two fine arts museums in San Francisco.
The de Young Museum contains textiles, sculptures, paintings, and artifacts from multiple countries all over the world. The de Young is free to Bay Area residents every Saturday, as a cool perk for locals. Ant the museum is also free to the general public on the first Tuesday of every month.
Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors; $6 for students with student ID
4. California Academy of Sciences
Located inside Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest natural history museums in the whole world. The entire Academy is home to more than 46 million different species of plants and animals! It’s a huge museum that includes the Steinhart Aquarium (home to 40,000 animals), the 75-foot-tall Morrison Planetarium, and the famous Osher Rainforest exhibit. Every Thursday night, visitors aged 21 and up are invited to explore the Academy after dark with special events, exhibits, and a bar.
Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: Between between $33 and $37 for adults; free for children under 3
3. Alcatraz Island
Technically, Alcatraz Island isn’t a museum in the traditional sense. However, it’s one of the top museum-like attractions you can visit in San Francisco, so we couldn’t leave it off our list. Hop on a ferry to get to this infamous island where you can explore the original guardhouses, barracks, and cells of some of the most notorious inmates of the 1900s.
You can even see what’s left of the hole in the wall from the infamous Morris-Anglin escape of 1962. Be sure to head to the former playground to see where the children of the guards played in the afternoons. It’s a beautiful island filled with juxtaposition.
Address: Alcatraz Island
Not ready to book a tour? Find out more about how to visit Alcatraz.
A hit among kids and adults alike, the Exploratorium combines science and technology to create a one-of-a-kind interactive museum experience. This cool museum is located on Pier 15 right next to the Embarcadero waterfront. The Exploratorium features a whopping 600 hands-on exhibits with magnets, lights, optical illusions, and other cool phenomenon.
Every Thursday night, this unique museum also hosts an 18+ themed event called After Dark where adult visitors can explore the museum at night, mingle, and enjoy food and drinks at their on-site restaurant and bar.
Address: The Embarcadero, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: Between $19.95 to $29.95 for adults; free for children under 3
1. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (or MoMa) is home to creative sculptures, beautiful paintings, and the largest “Living Wall” in the United States. If you’re wondering what a “Living Wall” is, it’s basically a vertical garden on an outdoor wall. This one incorporates more than 30 different species of plants. Pretty cool, right? This museum also hosts events, special exhibits, and has frequent educational speakers. The museum also has regular family day discounts where four adults get free admission if they accompany one or more children (18 or younger).
Address: 151 3rd St, San Francisco | Ticket Prices: Between $19 and $25 for adults; free for children under 18
Not ready to book a tour? Find out if San Francisco tours are worth it.