San Francisco Museums: 7 Spots to Experience Great History and Culture

San Francisco Museums: 7 Spots to Experience Great History and Culture

Here are our picks of the seven of the best San Fransisco museums. For a great cultural experience, we recommend you check out at least a few.

There is so much to see and do in San Francisco that it can be difficult to choose exactly which things to prioritize during your visit. You can visit a high security prison, a tranquil garden, a hands-on museum experience, see great art, or learn about Walt Disney. There really is something for everyone to enjoy in San Francisco.

Here we make our suggestions of the top museums that you should try and see when you are in this fabulous city.

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences should be high on your list of places to visit when you are in San Francisco. This museum is huge. If you possibly can, set aside most of the day to explore all of the attractions in this museum. There is something to appeal to all ages, including young children.

The exterior design of the California Academy of Sciences is unique. The Living Roof has green hills, weather stations, solar panels and plants. It has to be seen to be believed. Visitors can take a separate tour which explains more about this innovative feature.

The museum houses the Steinhart Aquarium which is one of the finest museums of it's kind. Visitors explore the aquarium's many exhibits which house almost 40,000 different creatures. Exhibits include Rainforests of the World, The Swamp, Animal Exploring, the Philippine Coral Reef and the California Coast. One of the most popular is The Shark Lagoon.

You really could spend a day exploring just the Aquarium, but there are many other features of the Academy to see.

The Morrison Planetarium is another must see part of the museum. There are several shows every day and they are included in the price of your admission. You do need to pick up a ticket for the show as space is limited.

You can experience a Rainforest in the heart of San Francisco. The Osher Rainforest is the lush, tropical home to a huge variety of plant life and more than 1,600 animals.

The Kimball Natural History Museum is one of the best of it's kind, with interesting exhibits for all the family. This is California, so one of the most popular exhibits is about earthquakes! The huge T. Rex in the lobby is also a very popular exhibit.

Admission to the Academy is $34.95 for adults, $29.95 for Seniors, Students and Youth. Children aged 4 to 11 years inclusive are charged $24.95. Although charges are on the high side this really is a place where you can easily spend a whole day. If you are going to visit more than once it is worth looking into a Membership.

California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive,
Golden Gate Park,
San Francisco,
CA 94118

California Academy of Sciences is a San Francisco science museum, a scientific and educational institution made to explore and sustain life on Earth.

Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney Family Museum is a must see for all Disney fans. The museum celebrates the life and achievements of Walt Disney. It includes permanent and seasonal exhibits, as well as hosting talks and special screenings of Disney movies.

There are ten permanent galleries which explore the life of Walt Disney. The exhibits start with Walt's early life in Marceline, Missouri and take us right through to the building of Disneyland. It shows the incredible legacy that Walt left behind.

The museum is interesting even if you are not familiar with the Walt Disney story, and have never been to Disneyland. Walt Disney's creations have touched most people's lives in some way, and this is a very well presented museum dedicated to a fascinating man.

Tickets are $20 for Adults and $15 for Seniors and Students. Children aged 6 to 17 are $12. The Walt Disney Family Museum is open every day except Tuesday from 10 am until 6 pm.

Walt Disney Family Museum
Presidio of San Francisco
104 Montgomery St
San Francisco,
CA 94129
Phone number (415) 345-6800

Children’s Creativity Museum

If you have young kids the Children’s Creativity Museum should definitely be on your list of places to visit in San Francisco. The museum is very much a hands-on experience, with plenty to keep the children occupied.

The Children’s Creativity Museum museum is divided into Studios and Labs. In the Animation Studio children can experiment with stop motion animation. In the Music Studio they can learn the basics of GarageBand or even take to the stage to perform! The Tech Lab introduces kids to the concept of coding. This museum will keep the little ones happy for hours.

Tickets are $12 for adults and children. The under 2s are free. The carousel costs $4 for 2 rides, or $3 with museum admission.

Children’s Creativity Museum
221 4th St
San Francisco,
CA 94103
Phone number (415) 820-3320

The Children’s Creativity Museum is a hands-on, multimedia arts and technology experience for kids of all ages located in San Francisco.

Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum is another excellent place to visit in San Francisco. It houses one of the finest Asian art collections in the world. There are many things to see, and you need to set aside at least three hours for a visit.

There are a number of permanent exhibits, but the ground floor is used for displaying traveling exhibits, so there is always something new to see. There is a lot to take in, but the exhibitions are all laid out in chronological order by region, so you can make sense of the history of the continent.

General admission is $15 for adults and $10 for seniors, students and youths. Children under 12 are free.

Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin St
San Francisco,
CA 94102
Phone number (415) 581-3500

Alcatraz Island

No visit to San Francisco is complete without a trip to Alcatraz Island. The history of Alcatraz is fascinating. It is most famous as a high security prison, but this is only part of it's rich history. It is one of those very memorable places to visit. It is difficult to imagine how harsh life must have been for those who were incarcerated there.

The only way to get to Alcatraz is by ferry from Pier 33. Once you get to the Island you are free to explore by yourself, although there is an audio tour which is included in your ticket.

You do need to plan your visit as reservations are essential. This is popular tourist destination, so at busy times, make sure you plan well ahead of time. Tickets are usually available up to 90 days ahead of time.

Tickets include the ferry and the island tour. An audio tour is also included in the price. Tours depart every 30 minutes. The first ferry leaves at 8.45 am. and the last ferry back is at 4:25 pm. There is also one Night Tour which departs for the island at 3:50 pm and returns to Pier 33 at 6.40 pm.

The price of the tour is $31. There are reduced rates for concessions, and family tickets are also available.

You should plan to spend at least two or three hours touring the Island. Visitors should also be aware that the weather can change very quickly. The fog can come down very suddenly, and the temperature drops. We remember one experience we had when we left Pier 33 in bright sunshine but before we even reached the Island we were freezing, and very much wishing we had brought a sweater!

Alcatraz Island
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Fort Mason, B201
San Francisco, CA 94123
Phone number (415) 561-4900

San Francisco Botanical Garden

It may be difficult to think of the San Francisco Botanical Garden as a museum, but it really should be experienced if you are visiting the city. It covers 55 acres of land, and contains more than 8,000 plant species.

The unusual micro climate in San Francisco enables a huge variety of plant species to grow and thrive in the Botanical Gardens. There Gardens are divided into distinct areas including The Magnolia Collection, Cloud Forest Collections, Redwood Grove and California Natives, Mediterranean Climate Habitats, and High Elevation Palms

The Botanical Gardens are located in Golden Gate Park, but whilst the Park is free, there is a charge to visit this area. Admission is free for residents of San Francisco. All others are charged $8 for entry.

San Francisco Botanical Garden
9th Ave & Lincoln Way
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco,
CA 94122
Phone number (415) 661-1316

Exploratorium

The Exploratorium is well worth a visit if you are in San Francisco. This is very much a hands on museum, with a lot to see and do. This makes it the ideal museum for children. You can easily spend the whole day in the Exploratorium, as there is so much to explore.

There are six main Galleries: Tinkering, Living Systems, Seeing and Listening, Human Phenomena, Observing Landscapes and Outdoor Exhibits.

One of the most popular exhibits is the Tactile Dome. Guests experience total darkness and have to find their way through the dome. There is a separate charge for this exhibit.

General admission is $29 for adults, $24 for concessions and $19 for those aged between 4 and 12. Under 4s are free.

Exploratorium
Pier 15
San Francisco,
CA 94111
Phone number (415) 528-4444

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