Top Museums in San Francisco to Visit During Your Trip

Planning a vacation to San Francisco? Our local experts put together a list of our top San Francisco museums that you should consider adding to your itinerary.

San Francisco museums offer unique focuses on diverse subject matter.

Visitors will enjoy exploring pretty much everything! Learn about science and technology. Explore vibrant marine life. Study World War II and American history. And of course, explore the history and cultural significance of San Francisco itself.

We put together a list of some popular San Francisco museums that you should consider visiting during your trip.

Want Passes to Top San Francisco Museums?

Admission to a number of these attractions are included on the Go San Francisco® Card.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 60% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Browse all available San Francisco Multi-Attraction Passes.

A few of the museums available on the Go San Francisco Card include…

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Madame Tussauds
  • Exploratorium
  • de Young Museum
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Legion of Honor
  • and more!

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

SFMOMA-5Re-opened in spring of 2016 after a multi-year renovation effort, the SFMOMA is a must-visit destination for art lovers traveling to San Francisco and is among the most innovative modern art museums in the world.

Featuring primarily contemporary and modern art, the SFMOMA is renowned for its fine collections and iconic works of art.

Expect to see pieces from great artists from Alexander Calder to Paul Klee and beyond. Several delightful special exhibits are also on display at any given time, featuring everything from photography and film to performance art.

Of particular interest is the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, on display for the very first time in 2016. This new collection features an astonishing range of media and artists, and is not to be missed.

Getting in: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

California Academy of Sciences

Recently named one of the “New Wonders of the World” by Conde Nast Traveler, the California Academy of Sciences located in Golden Gate Park is a must-see San Francisco experience.

Explore the world’s largest all-digital planetarium, a natural history museum, an aquarium, and a four story rainforest to experience the whole universe under one (living!) roof.

The Osher Rainforest in particular is very popular with visitors of all ages, with vivid butterflies fluttering all around amongst the exotic flora.

The Steinhart Aquarium is a must-see, too, featuring the world’s largest indoor coral reef.

Getting in: California Academy of Sciences tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Madame Tussauds San Francisco

Madame-Tussauds-San-Francisco-3Strike a pose with all of your favorite celebs at Madame Tussauds San Francisco, located right in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf.

You’ll get to explore the museum’s various themed areas, including sports, cinema, music, and television. There’s also an area unique to the San Francisco location of this popular chain that highlights some of the city’s most iconic leaders and entrepreneurs, like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

With iconic sets and scenes recreated with their famously detailed wax figures, you (and your friends) will have a hard time deciphering real from unreal in your photos.

Getting in: Madame Tussauds San Francisco tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.


Visit the most experimental museum in the world and interact with over 600 fun, hands-on exhibits, experiences, tools, and projects that examine the intersection of science and art.

Visitors will explore science, art, and human perception and gain a new understanding of how the world around them works.

There are way too many exhibits, activities, games, and demonstrations to list here, but some of the current popular options include Robot Sumo, Web Science Workshop, Color Fest, and tons more.

Getting in: Exploratorium tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

de Young Museum

Founded in 1895 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum is an integral part of San Francisco culture with a fantastic collection of fine art from across the globe.

This state-of-the-art facility, designed by the renowned Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and Fong and Chan Architects, is a San Francisco architectural landmark itself.

Explore a wonderful blend of of the arts, architecture, and the natural landscape of Golden Gate Park.

The de Young Museum has an exciting calendar of events that keep the museum fresh, inspiring, and anything but stuffy.

Getting in: de Young Museum tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art.

The museum explores the influence of Asian art in the United States and showcases more than 17,000 works including sculpture, paintings, textiles, furniture, and more spanning 6,000 years of history.

It’s not all ancient statues and scrolls, either — as fun as those are. You’ll also find contemporary exhibitions and installations, including massive modern sculpture, light displays, and more.

Getting in: Asian Art Museum tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honor neoclassical building was built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I.

It’s a three-quarter scale adaptation of the 18th century Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Bridge, and all of San Francisco. The sweeping views and spacious building add to the beauty of the fine art inside.

Browse over 4,000 years of ancient and European art including works by El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Auguste Rodin, Rembrandt, Claude Monet, and Fra Angelico.

Getting in: Legion of Honor tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

U.S.S. HORNET Museum


By Sanfranman59 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Explore exhibits on board the U.S.S. HORNET, a World War II aircraft carrier and national historic landmark and its role in naval aviation, the defense of our country, and the Apollo program and space exploration.

Exhibits aboard the ship include a TBM Avenger, an F14 Tomcat, and the West Coast’s most extensive display of Apollo artifacts.

Getting in: U.S.S. HORNET Tour tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

California Historical Society

The California Historical Society galleries explore history, art, and culture of the Golden State through exciting rotating exhibits.

Its permanent photography collection with over 500,000 images, includes famous works by Eadweard Muybridge and Ansel Adams. Check the museums website for up-to-date information on temporary exhibits.

Getting in: California Historical Society tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s building itself is one of San Francisco’s most iconic structures.

Designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the CJM opened in June 2008 and has established itself as a destination to explore contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and more.

Here, you can explore a wide range of topics, all revolving around Jewish heritage, culture, history, and more through dialogue and shared experiences with the arts. The museum features a constantly rotating and evolving collection of contemporary and timely arts, and there are exhibits and activities geared towards all ages, from 9 to 99.

Getting in: Contemporary Jewish Museum tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

The Beat Museum

Dedicated to preserving and spreading the spirit of The Beat Generation, The Beat Museum focuses on tolerance, compassion, and having the courage to live your individual truth through a lens focusing on The Beats.

Explore an extensive collection of memorabilia including original manuscripts and first editions, letters, personal effects, and other cultural ephemera from The Beats, a collective of writers, artists, and thinkers that congregated in 1950s San Francisco.

Getting in: The Beat Museum tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

“I have traveled 201 countries and the strangest thing I’ve seen… is man” – Robert Ripley.

Robert Ripley’s sentiment rings true at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – home to over 400 odd and unusual exhibits in 18 themed galleries.

Explore unusual art, weird natural phenomena, and genuine artifacts from around the globe for a memorable San Francisco experience.

Getting in: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! San Francisco tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Children’s Creativity Museum

Did you know that San Francisco has an art museum just for kids?

Designed to inspire the artist, craftsman, and dreamer in every child, this museum combines art and technology for the ultimate creative experience.

The Children’s Creativity Museum’s mission is to inspire the next generation to think creatively and act as global citizens through fun, interactive exhibits such as the animator’s studio, music production lab, digital workshop, studio z, and more.

Getting in: The Children’s Creativity Museum tickets are separately ticketed and not part of the Go San Francisco Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Remember to Save on Museum Admission

Our list of some of the most popular museums in San Francisco.

San Francisco is a city with a long history of attracting creative people. Artists and musicians have long been inspired not only by the vibrant community of San Francisco, but also by the iconic architecture of the Bay Area.

Remember, many (if not all) of these options are included on the Go San Francisco Card, where you can save up to 60% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Go San Francisco Explorer Pass

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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